'Never Underestimate a Monochrome'

'Never Underestimate a Monochrome'

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UIMA exhibit breaks ground by being online only
A work of art composed of squares, some bright colors, others with photos of men doing workFinal Composition Monochrome. Image courtesy of Mariángeles Soto-Díaz.

Mariángeles Soto-Díaz, a Venezuelan-American abstract artist living in southern California, returns to the University of Iowa campus after her residency as a Grant Wood Fellow in Painting in 2011-12. But she's back in a way that has never been done before.

Her exhibition, “Never Underestimate a Monochrome,” presented by the UI Museum of Art (UIMA), will be available solely online now through Jan. 31.

Inspired by the university’s archive of Fluxus materials, Soto-Diaz created text instructions for making monochrome paintings and invited a wide array of artists to participate in a unique project by submitting photos and videos that document their interpretations. The result, a conceptual project titled “Never Underestimate a Monochrome,” brings together more than 30 artists from across the world, from Argentina to Australia and the United Kingdom to Kenya, in a digital archive of diverse artistic responses all created during the summer of 2012.

Soto-Díaz instructed the artists to contemplate the monochrome and color itself through texts that are in turns poetic, playful, and political. She invited them to explore the “logic of fullness” and the “unbearable emptiness” of monochrome white, while for blue monochromes she referenced the “transnational connections through the vast sea of human suffering,” balanced by a “dose of humor.” Artists creating pink monochromes were urged to reflect on “a post-patriarchal world in which there is no need for feminism” while spreading “pink thoughts.”

"The meaning of color, composition, and process are very much in evidence in this new, creative exhibition, giving the audience time to ponder the meaning of such aspects of art," says Sean O'Harrow, UIMA director.

Soto-Diaz, who says her work “engages the legacies of modernism and their utopian ruins in a critique of abstraction's self-referential position,” fondly credits the local community for inspiration during her year as a Grant Wood Fellow: “Experiencing the distinctive character of Iowa City while having the space to work and reflect on my practice has been generative in ways that will stay with me for years to come,” she says.

"This project is more than just an online exhibition, but rather points to new ways of using Internet and digital technologies to create alternative forms of artistic dialogues across time and space,” she explains.

O'Harrow agrees. “This 24/7 museum offering is important not only because it pushes concepts of art, but also because it pushes concepts of what an art exhibition is. The UI Museum of Art is always interested reaching new audiences and expanding people’s minds, and this show certainly does this.”

For more information and to experience the exhibition, visit: uima.uiowa.edu/monochrome.


Sean O'Harrow, UI Museum of Art, 319-335-1725


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