By Julia Park
I visited Time Capsule, Age 13 to 21: The Contemporary Art Collection of Jason Rubell, with slight reservations. After all, how much could one expect from an exhibition of pieces that was not only originally curated by, but also collected by college student? The closest I have ever gotten to purchasing artwork was buying printed $14.95 posters for my dorm room, so it was difficult to imagine a teenage-Rubell going to the back room of galleries to purchase authentic pieces of contemporary art.
As I looked around the collection, I was not only impressed by the quality and variety of the artwork, but I was also struck by how some of the artists that Rubell had collected in the 1980s had become famous, while some languished in obscurity. It makes one wonder what sets these two categories of artists apart since I could not see a large difference in their aesthetic appeal. I was particularly intrigued by a piece by Michael Jenkins — an artist I had never heard of prior to visiting the collection — Untitled (Gate), a simple piece that quietly assumes the spotlight with its popping yellow hue, is essentially a gate drawn with pencil and painted with flashe. It is one of those pieces that make you think “I could do that!”
In fact, I am confident that given the same materials, I could probably create my very own replica of Jenkins’ piece. However, it is also true that my “Gate” would have no message apart from the fact that I was merely able to copy a piece of contemporary art. The importance and value of art is not limited to the technical execution, but also the art’s message. For example, Michael Jenkins’ deliberate decision to paint the gate in yellow stems from the fact that the color has a dual meaning in its seemingly bright and cheery appearance, while also being a sign of illness or impending danger. While gates are a manmade object, Gate lacks any human presence and is situated without context giving the feeling of isolation that underpins much of Jenkins’ works. He uses these simple forms to explore the impermanence of life while the notion of spirit, represented by a physical support structure such as Gate, can transcend time.
For more suggestions on how to “look” at an artwork, visit How Do You Look? for a detailed list of ways to notice and appreciate different parts of visual art.
Image: Michael Jenkins Untitled (Gate), 1990. Pencil and flashe on paper. 63 1/2 x 39 1/2 in. (161.3 x 100.3 cm). Acquired from Jay Gorney Modern Art, New York. Collection of Jason Rubell, Miami. ©