Lauren Lerwick

People and Place at the University of Texas Visual Arts Center

The VAC is an ever-changing gallery in Austin that shows both visiting exhibitions and student work, providing visitors with a vast spectrum of artwork that includes photography, design, expanded media, and more. Throughout September to December, the center is hosting a collection of work that creates a cohesive whole while speaking to humankind’s place in the natural world.

The first exhibition space I entered and was most intrigued by was on the first floor. After going through glass doors, the space opened up into a warmly-lit room with a towering ceiling that hung a massive sculpture titled “Placeholder” by Victor Perez. The large room glowed a soft orange against the blue windows of a cloudy day, encouraging viewers and myself to examine the vastness of the museum-like space. While gazing around the room, I found myself looking through a sculpture made of a thin, wire material, and admiring the conjunctions that made up the colorful structure.

Using the golden ratio, he and the students whom he collaborated with created a pink, orange, and yellow web of interlacing hexagons that was powered by solar energy coming from just outside the gallery. The sculpture formed a tubelike shape that came off the wall. Beneath it sat a collection of pillows that, at first glance, looked accidentally placed. I wasn’t sure whether they could be touched, or were meant to be viewed as a part of the artwork. After glancing through the accompanying brochure, it became more apparent that the textiles were intended to be laid on so that the viewer can gaze up at the sculpture and relax, as if gazing at stars in the night sky.

Although I appreciated the attempt to connect clean energy with his concept, the most disappointing aspect of this piece was that I viewed it on a cloudy day, so it was not charged. The piece was not moving how the artists intended, though the gallery director assured me that the experience was a subtle, ephemeral phenomena. I would have liked to experience the full effect, and the fact that it wasn’t moving also made me not feel the need to take the plunge of laying on the ground to view the work. However, regardless of this flaw, I still made my way beneath the artwork and felt entitled to investigate its intricacies as a standalone, still sculpture.

“Placeholder” by Victor Perez is most successful in its cohesiveness as a collaborative artwork, which is unique for a sculpture. All artists worked together to create not only a mathematically sound work, but a sculpturally sound work that was visually appealing. Its intricacies encouraged me to spend more time with it and investigate both its conceptual and physical makeup.

All-in-all, I felt this work was the most powerful object within the space that acted as a web integral to the interlacing makeup of VAC’s Fall exhibition as a whole.

Lauren Lerwick
WC: 497