“Particulate Matter” opened Sept. 9 at the Mills College Art Museum.
The theme, “particulate matter,” refers to small particles in the air that when combined in large numbers create smog, small things combining to something larger.
“It’s a timely exhibition because of the discussions going on about global warming and the concern people are demonstrating now about those issues,” Assistant Director of the Art Museum Stacie Daniels said. Daniels is also a 2001 Mills MFA graduate.
“It’s interesting artwork that’s dealing with our moment,” curator Glen Helfand said. “There’s some sort of social element to it, as well as aesthetic and sophistication.”
Helfand led an exhibit walk-through at the opening that was followed by a reception.
“It’s really funny how contemporary art is very vague. I don’t know what I would do, personally, if I was asked to do something on particulate matter. It’s a vague and abstract idea. It turned out great though,” attendee sophomore Melanie Lombard said.
The exhibit will be open through Dec. 10 and has a permanent part as well as a rotating section.
“This show has taken me in a different and unexpected direction,” Helfand said. “Usually I like big colorful things, boisterous, but this is elegant and sort of muted.”
The permanent area features six California artists; Andrea Bowers, Chris Finley, Karl Haendel, Florian Maier-Aichen, Danica Phelps and Pamela Wilson-Ryckman.
“There is something in each one that I can find that makes me want to engage with it more,” Daniels said.
The rotating portion of the exhibit will feature three recent Bay area MFA graduates; Daniel Tierney now through Oct. 8, Elise Irving Oct. 14 through Nov. 5 and Lisa K. Blatt Nov. 11 through Dec. 10. An artist talk will be held the first night of each artist’s exhibit from 4:30 to 5 p.m. with a reception following from 5 to 7p.m.; both will be in the art museum.
“It gives the opportunity for a young artist to have their first solo show at a museum. I think every artist wants that,” Helfand said.
There is also a portion of the exhibit highlighting photography Helfand choose from the Mills’ permanent collection.
Helfand, an art critic and a graduate professor at Mills, was asked to curate the exhibit in late May of this year, a relatively short amount of time to produce an exhibit.
“He’s been incredibly busy through the whole thing. He’s been wonderful to work with. He has a sense of humor and doesn’t lose his cool,” Daniels said. “He has a fresh eye. We haven’t had outside curators for a while. He brings a new energy.”
The exhibit fills the whole gallery space.
“I love that it all fits together,” Helfand said. “I strive to make something that the whole is greater then its parts. That’s not to say its parts aren’t strong. I think they compacted to something more.”
The exhibit features contemporary art including watercolor, photography, sculpture and drawing.
“All deal with the artist making things with their own hands,” Helfand said. “There’s an initial subtlety that’s deceptive.”
Museum hours are Tuesday, Thursday through Saturday 11 a.m. to 4 p.m., Wednesday 11 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. and Sunday 12 p.m. to 4 p.m. Admission is free.
“Anyone can come to this exhibit and engage with the work from their own point of view,” Daniels said. “A scientist can come here and find that art relates to the work she may be doing in class. The art can teach, not just other artists. The ideas that they’re interested in are ideas that many people are already engaged in, in their own disciplines. This is another way of having a discussion.”