Wriston shows bridge ancient and modern

Jessica Vogt

The ancient meets the modern this month in the Wriston Art Gallery in a triple exhibition of ancient pottery, restoration photographs of the Athenian Acropolis, and Antonio Contro’s nature collage.
The show, which opened Nov. 11 and will run until Dec. 18, is a unique blend of nature collage, ancient artifacts, and photography of the ancient coming back to life through restoration.
A quiet perusal of the galleries begins with a look into the past. Artifacts from the permanent collections of Lawrence and Ripon College include ancient pottery from the sixth through fourth centuries B.C. Through the glare of modern glass cases, bowls, plates and vases decorated with etchings and designs echo of the hands that once held them. The room is quiet and as still as the ancient peoples.
The next room of the gallery gives the visitor a very different feel. “The installation and lighting are stunning in the way that the small works are displayed to make them feel large, architectural and enveloping,” said associate art professors John Shimon and Julie Lindemann via e-mail.
The “small works” together constitute the exhibit “A-Z.” Collages of close-up Polaroids and penned sketches of the close-up nature combined on paper comment upon our knowledge of the world and the order of nature. A sign on the wall quotes the artist, Antonia Contro: “I create visual systems that explain the physical and philosophical realms as I see, sense, and imagine them.” In addition to the main exhibit, one can also see and interact with several other works by the artist. Shimon and Lindemann commented that this “conveys a feeling of intimacy between audience and object” and helps us to understand the artist’s work.Upon looking up from the small works of Contro, one sees an enormous, bright image of the Acropolis – the centerpiece of the final exhibit. The show, which documents the ongoing restoration of the site, opened in Athens and is on a world tour, which includes France and London; Wriston is only its second stop in the United States. In addition to the centerpiece photo, the exhibit consists of the restoration photography of Socratis Mavrommatis, Greece’s leading archaeological photographer, and a mock-up of the floor of the Parthenon. After viewing the exhibit, art history professor Carol Lawton remarked, “It is about the closest you can get to being there.”
The three exhibits make a unique artistic trio: pieces of the deep and ancient past, timeless nature captured through modern technology, and the renewal of the ancient through modern invention. Each exhibit is unique, yet connected to the others and to the modern world. Wriston Galleries curator Frank Lewis says, “We seek to represent both historical and contemporary aspects of art and art production.” The exhibits are a rare opportunity to view the ancient and the modern in juxtaposition, and should not be missed.
The art: Photographs of the Athenian Acropolis, Antonia Contro’s “A-Z,” and “Ceramics of the Ancient World.” The opening address was delivered Friday at 6 p.m. by Contro, with a reception afterward.