Futuristic artist to take over Stevens Gallery

Daniel Kim

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On Oct. 5, artist John Powers will be coming to Whitman College. Powers will be on campus for one week showcasing an exhibit called “Operational” at the Stevens Gallery for one week. Powers will also be giving a lecture on Wednesday, Oct. 8 about his recent essay, “Star Wars: A New Heap.”

Instead of bringing pre-made art to display in the gallery, Powers will be constructing a three-dimensional sculpture made of plastic textured polyurethane module pieces in the gallery for the whole week. Part of the exhibition is that he will be disassembling and reassembling the modules throughout the week. This is typical of his futuristic style, but the dimension and performative aspect is new for the Stevens Gallery.

“Normally I work with student groups or individual students, and it’s normally two-dimensional work that we hang,” said junior and Gallery Intern Kyra Arnett. “I’ve done another show with a visiting artists but it was two-dimensional work. So this will be the first time we will have an installation in the gallery that will be three-dimensional.”

Powers is an artist with international reputation. His work focuses on the historical transition from modern to postmodern art. With an international reputation, the artist focuses on the movement from modern art to postmodern art. Most of his work is three-dimensional sculptures similar to the one he will be constructing on campus.

Midway through his weeklong exhibition, Powers will give a lecture on his essay “Star Wars: A New Heap.” The essay discusses art history research Powers has been doing for the past few years. The essay specifically comments on aesthetics as seen in scenes of science fiction films from the ‘70s and ‘80s, specifically in “Star Wars.”

The essay, published in online journal Triple Canopy, draws parallels with avant-garde art produced in the 1960s. Powers states that art has made its way into popular culture in science fiction films as artists, designers and directors of such films were influenced by the avant-garde art that was produced a decade prior to them.

Associate Professor of Art History and Visual Culture Studies Matt Reynolds is responsible for bringing Powers to campus. Reynolds assigned the essay as reading to students in his course Art after 1945. Powers will be giving his lecture to the class.

“I think his argument is very important, which is saying that there are a lot of overlap between these two realms –– that there are a lot of connections between high culture and mass culture,” said Reynolds.

Reynolds brought Powers to campus through a mutual friend and local artist David Schulz.  Reynolds was interested in Powers after reading his essay.

“He is making interesting connections between the science fiction films and the phenomena of civilization and liberalism” said Reynolds. “He is trying to argue that there is a political dimension to the way in which science fiction films look in that period.”

This post has been updated to reflect the following correction: previously, the artist John Powers was referred to as “Justin.”

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