Thinking outside the ‘art school box’

By Bertha Serrano

As artists continue to experiment with multimedia, some are staying away from the norm that art school taught them.

On Aug. 29, the exhibit “Under the Influence” was opened to the public at Antena, 1765 S. Laflin St. It shows the artwork of contemporary artist Jaime Mendoza, which includes a series of paintings, photographs and mixed media objects.

Two of his pieces, entitled “Flush,” are digital prints that show him sitting on a toilet with a cigarette in his mouth while reading the book Chicano Art History. He said the pieces are about tearing down the preconceived notions that people have about what art should be like and the traditional training that art school provides.

“Flushing all those ideas down the toilet and being your own person and creating your own work-that doesn’t fall into that art school box,” Mendoza said.

His influences come from everywhere, including Guillermo Gomez Pena (who is a performance artist, writer, activist and educator), his personal experiences, immigration, his identity and social criticism. Mendoza said he wants the viewer to come in with an open mind, leave with questions about the work and come back to see similar work and similar spaces.

“The whole point of my work is to create a dialogue with the viewer, and from there it could take off from anywhere,” he said.”It’s open to different interpretations.”

This exhibit focuses on Mendoza’s reactions to social criticism. He said as an artist, the more criticism he receives, the more artwork he creates; therefore, it’s an ongoing cycle.

While many artists struggle to make a living, Mendoza feels that selling his work is not a priority, and he would rather get his message out and experiment with the artwork. He said Antena is an excellent space because artists can exhibit their work without having to worry whether it will sell or not. It’s more about quality versus quantity, he said.

Sharing the exhibit space with Mendoza is Jouse Pellot, a Chicago-based artist who works in various mediums. His three pieces at the exhibit are studies that were made out of colorful paper.

Antena is a good place to exhibit because Pellot said he can experiment and do whatever he wants with the space. He said galleries like these ease a lot of pressure and give artists more freedom to experiment.

“It seems to be more of a personal environment,” Pellot said. “[Galleries] have a way of getting out to the public even though they are not as well-known as other places.”

Antena is a gallery space rented by Miguel Cortez, a former Columbia student and curator of the gallery. Cortez works full-time as a graphic designer and an artist. He hosts a different exhibit every four weeks using submissions he receives through his e-mail or in the mail.

“As long as it’s interesting work and contemporary new media-computer work, animation-as long as it fits into that, I don’t really care about race or where the artists come from,” said Cortez.

Antena’s next show will open on Oct. 10 and feature Patrick Lichty, a full-time faculty member in the Interactive Art and Media Department at Columbia.

“Under the Influence” is free, open to the public and will be exhibited until Sept. 27. Gallery hours are by appointment and Saturdays from noon until 5 p.m