Monday, September 3, 2012
Grossmont College's Hyde Art Gallery is currently presenting "Into Abstraction," an exhibit of abstract works by seven local artists. KPBS arts reporter Beth Accomando checked in with one artist as she was installing her piece Tarab Soundings.
"Into Abstraction" features the works of Kathleen Thum, Doris Bittar, Jessica McCambly, Mike Whiting, Mark Sengbusch, Jeremy Gercke and Eva Struble. The Hyde Art Gallery i presents "Into Abstraction," what it describes as "an exhibition that serves both as an introduction to, and an in-depth exploration of contemporary abstract painting in the United States. This show brings together artists from San Diego to Brooklyn, New York, who address themes that include politics, optics, music, pattern, history, ornament, gravity and more. This huge range of approaches to, and degrees of abstraction has been brought together, suggesting that abstraction allows limitless possibilities of form and content to become available to both artists and viewers alike."
"I'm here at the Hyde Gallery at Grossmont College," says Doris Bittar, "I'm part of a group exhibit called Into Abstraction. I was invited to show my piece, Tarab Soundings 4, this is the fourth time I've done it and it changes every time I do it."
Tarab Soundings is an interactive installation piece involving a dulcimoon, a new 87-stringed instrument designed by Bittar. It's played by moving a gliding panel with a plectra that plucks the strings of three hexagons, each tuned to a different culture: Aztec, Chinese and Arab.
"The purpose is really to create a space where we can discuss things of cultural relevance and importance," says curator Larry Kline, "also a way to engage students, there are a number of art students here in different disciplines and this is an opportunity for them to sort of see what's going on in the field and educate them about what they might want to do."
As Bittar installs her piece she explains, "Right now I am doing something a little different in that I am putting the pattern way above and way below, it's kind of spilling out onto the floor. It's something I haven't done when it was shown at the California Center for the Arts, and this was in Berlin last summer and in Stutgard in the fall.... The inside of the sliding decorative panel, which is a pattern from Damascus but it's also been seen in India and China and Japan, anyway there's a plectra here so we are going to try it now to see if it can strike the instrument, it might miss it."
The plectra does miss, by a quarter inch and Bittar says the instrument is still not properly tuned.
"It's a piece that combines or mashes up the dominant cultures of our country here in Southern California. The Aztec-Mexican cultures, the Asian or Chinese, and the Arabic or Indo-European cultures, and it's a music and pattern making piece."
"I think one of the interesting connections between Doris' work and the others is that abstract painting tends to look inwardly," says Kline, "The difference between Doris' which is really interesting to me is that it's actually kind of outward process, especially the fact that she's using music, something that's very universal."
"The other part of this," says Bittar, "is the sliding panel, which not only plays the instrument but also creates patterns when it is moved just a little bit and the two patterns overlap, you get different patterns. Just the littlest movements makes it look like cubist, Bauhaus, lace... and it's interactive so people can play with it and reference various cultures that are represented in California."
Into Abstraction continues through September 13 at the Hyde Art Gallery on the Grossmont College Campus in Building 25. Hyde Art Gallery is located at 8800 Grossmont College Drive in El Cajon. Gallery Hours are Monday and Thursday 10am to 6:30pm, and Tuesday and Wednesday 10am to 8pm.