Penn State School of Visual Arts (SoVA) is pleased to present Under the Pretense of Unity, on display in the Edwin W. Zoller Gallery, February 13 - 24, with a reception Monday, February 13, 5 p.m. Under the Pretense of Unity is a collaborative effort between artists Ciara Newton (Ph.D. candidate in Art Education) and Torey Akers that synthesizes postmodern visualization, otherness, and social justice through the lens of popular culture. By problematizing material hierarchy within the white cube context, the artists seek to address the ways in which academic validation and social interaction influence the makers navigating institutional settings. Both artists fuse high-brow and low-brow gestures to challenge artistic engagement patterns, simultaneously emulating and deconstructing social bonds in critical space.
Newton and Akers attended Cranbrook Academy of Arts together and “quickly found that their energies and opinions regarding otherness, identity, political art, and social justice aligned,” said Newton. Despite varying socioeconomic, racial, and institutional experiences, their dialogue allowed their individual practices to inclusively explore and encourage their community to validate other perspectives.
Their work approaches the visual dimensions of advocacy from very different vantage points, and that confluence of opinion drives the underlying dialogue between their bodies of work. Their tandem propensities towards world-making, both physical and conceptual, allow for more fluid interpretations of their discrete artistic intentions. Together, they encompass a broad spectrum of concerns, but make clear the impetus—a desire to push back against the status quo.