Material matters: 2019 sculpture symposium focuses on student work

Academics, artists, collectors, and other members of the public who are interested in the topic are encouraged to attend.

By Roberta Gedert / The Blade
Tue, 01 Oct 2019 10:00:00 GMT

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In a sculpture exhibition in downtown Toledo, a compilation of cockatiels whistle a popular television theme song, over and over.

A 6-foot-tall, greasy-brown fast food sack lords over its exhibition space. On the other side of the gallery, a tower sculpture of Mountain Dew cans held together with duct tape is representative of the accessibility to cheap, non-nutritious food.

They are things that remind Columbus artist Brock Oakley Ailes of the financially attainable experiences of his childhood in rural southern Ohio, where the family vacationed to shopping malls, ate fast food, and visited his grandmother in a doublewide trailer — her only companion a cockatiel that could whistle the theme song from the 1960s Andy Griffith Show.

“A lot of my work revolves around class. There’s an element of humor to my work, but it’s also incredibly serious,” he said. “I think art should attempt to change something or create awareness of something; a lot of times I think it’s vapid.”


What: SculptureX: The Material Condition of an Immaterial State, Symposium 2019 

When: Symposium events, Friday and Saturday. Varying days and times for exhibitions. 

Exhibitions and locations: Material / Immaterial and JB Squared, both at River House Arts, Secor building, 425 Jefferson Ave.; SHIPWRECKS and other scenes from Detroit: 1999-2019, Walter Terhune Gallery at Owens Community College, 30335 Oregon Rd., Perrysburg; and Momentum Intersection at University of Toledo’s Center for the Visual Arts, 620 Art Museum Drive. 

To register or for more information on exhibitions and speakers:

His trio of pieces, Pretty Bird, We Gotta Get Out of This Place, and Wizard Staff in Space can be seen in the exhibition Material / Immaterial at River House Arts, 425 Jefferson Ave., through Saturday. The show, which includes the work of 25 bachelor’s and master’s of fine arts students from the Great Lakes region, is part of a bigger artistic movement in Northwest Ohio on Friday and Saturday: SculptureX: The Material Condition of an Immaterial State, Symposium 2019.

The two-day event features more than a dozen speakers, workshops, art dedications, tours and informal network gatherings, as well as Material / Immaterial and three other exhibitions that are scattered across Northwest Ohio.

SculptureX is a decade-old event started by a group of academic institutions in Cleveland and operated under the Sculpture Center there. This is the second of two years the event is being hosted in the Toledo area; it will move to Pittsburgh in 2020. The event is organized and presented by the University of Toledo, Bowling Green State University, Owens Community College, and Contemporary Art Toledo.

The overriding theme of this year’s symposium is the use of materials in sculpture work, with an emphasis on student work, said Brian Carpenter, University of Toledo Professor of Art, who curated Material / Immaterial.

“I think our goal really is to explore how sculpture has progressed to spaces where materials are shifting from your traditional bronze, aluminum or stone carved sculptures,” he said. “I think young students nowadays — and you can really tell by this exhibition here — are exploring sculpture to a diverse set of materials.”

Material / Immaterial explores that diversity with sculpture work created from computer cables, an old newspaper vending machine, computers, and home furnishings.

In his piece, Ice Cold Bud Light, Detroit-area artist Dominic Palarchio uses old shop rags from his family’s 75-year-old car service business to cover an outdoor chaise lounge.

“Using ancillary aspects of vehicles, often found in repair shops, I make certain cultural commentary or critique from the perspective of social margins,” Palarchio writes. “My work considers the physical impact of labor conditions on working class peoples bodies during the workday as well as how it trickles into their time off.”

Other exhibitions include a second show in the Main Gallery at the Secor Building, JB Squared: John Brekke and Jane Bruce, glass artists from New York City, and Momentum Intersection, a compilation of glass work from selected artists who participated in a glass study with the Arts Commission of Greater Toledo and Pilkington Glass, at the UT Center for Visual Arts.

The fourth show at Owens Community College is SHIPWRECKS and other scenes from Detroit: 1999-2019, an ongoing photo series documenting illegally dumped and stranded objects in Detroit by artist Scott Hocking, who also juried the Material / Immaterial show.

In addition to viewing the exhibitions, community members can register to view student work, attend roundtables, and hear speakers, including Bruce, Peter Christian Johnson, an associate professor of art at Kent State who will speak about Embracing Entropy, Catie Newell, an artist, licensed architect, and the Director of the Digital and Material Technologies program at the University of Michigan, and Toledo’s own Diane Wright, the Toledo Museum of Art’s curator of glass and decorative arts.

Speakers and events will show the varying social practices that are important to contemporary sculpture through not only the materials artists use, but their ideas and platforms, said Paula Baldoni, director of River House Arts gallery owner and co-founder of Contemporary Art Toledo.

“To me there is less emphasis on the actual material or medium, and more of a focus on the concept of the artist. What are they trying to express, and now that they have the freedom these days to find a medium, what helps them get their ideas across,” Baldoni said.

Academics, artists, collectors, and other members of the public who are interested in the topic are encouraged to attend. To register or for more information on exhibitions and speakers, go to