By Meghan Hendley

As we shed the layers of 2012, stroll into the New Year, and seek out new insights, there are many local gems offering unique visual experiences that deserve a first and second look. In this New Year, Rice Gallery will feature programming that is unusual, daring, and often times otherworldly. From the minuscule to the massive, the gallery transforms their space into a sensory wonderland choosing pieces and installations that involve exquisite detail partnered with intriguing concepts that help make visual art so enticing. Additionally, the gallery features work that was created using common materials or recycled objects. At the end of January, Rice Gallery is displaying a rather noteworthy show that will prove to be the perfect beginning to an art season filled with innovative, stunning, and thought-provoking talent. Not to mention, the gallery features free admission, so you can get your art on without breaking the bank.

Located on the campus of Rice University, Rice Gallery is the only art museum in the university sector that is dedicated to site-specific installation art. These temporary, massive-scale environments go beyond the typical artistic display. These installations offer each visitor a chance to enter and explore the ins and outs of the artist’s creation. Typically, the artists chosen for the installations create the work over a few weeks time while using found objects, recycled items, and overall inexpensive materials to create not just pieces but statements.

Opening January 31, 2013, artist Gunilla Klingberg will be featured with a new installation combining graphic design and sculpture. Klingberg was born in Stockholm, Sweden where she studied sculpture at Konstfack (University College of Arts, Crafts, and Design) at RMI-Berghs. Throughout Europe, her work has been in multiple exhibitions in museums and galleries. Klingberg’s portfolio includes her original three-dimensional graphical environments that cover floors, walls, and windows in intricately ornate patterns repeated over and over again on a massive scale. Her immersive installations are drawn from her concept of weaving in bits and pieces of the mysticism of consumer culture. From scientific facts, to spirituality, to popular culture, Klingberg often melds together corporate logos with Old World patterns to create a dance of ancient and modern.

Her past exhibition, A Sign in Space, was a site-specific installation set beyond gallery walls. For the Art Biennale in Urdaibai, Spain, Klingberg created a graphic star-pattern similar to the cobblestones found in Europe. Her concept was composed of tire marks printed on the sand at Laga Beach during low tide. A manufactured steel cylinder was connected to a beach cleaner tractor that created the pattern over the entire beach during early morning. The pattern then morphed as high tide rolled in, altering the pattern until it disappeared completely–allowing only a fleeting note of her work passing in time.

In Brand New View (installed in Helsingborg, Sweden in 2003), she created an engraved Asian pattern on self-adhesive plastic film that was on display over a glass wall entrance. Upon closer investigation, one could see that the ancient pattern contained the logos of discount stores. For Klingberg’s Rice Gallery installation, Brand New View (2002-present), the piece will include Klingberg’s reworking of fast food, supermarket, and store logos into large-scale patterns that take after sacred Buddhist mandalas and diagrams of the cosmological nature that are typically used for meditation.

The forces of consumerism and Eastern spirituality will collide to reflect Klingberg’s experiences traveling in India compared to her native Sweden. She traveled to India and witnessed how spiritual retreats, centered in yoga and meditation courses, were commercially packaged to the Western traveler. Upon returning to her home in Sweden, she also noticed how local stores were being replaced by 7-Elevens thus advancing the corporate franchise virus we know so well here in the States. The spiritual world of the East versus the growing corporate franchising that spread in her European hometown will meld together to reveal logos repeated and recombined to make something larger-than-life and quite possibly also overwhelming. Everything from McDonald’s logos to Starbucks coffee cup forms will be combined with various spiritual patterns thus redefining their meanings. Klingberg’s work will be something to see, raising questions on how commercial and urban icons play a role in our lives. If you are curious about Klingberg’s process as she brings her ideas to fruition, be sure to stop by during the weeks leading up to the opening event to witness the evolution of her work in progress. The installation will be something to revisit again and again, and thankfully it remains on view through March 17, 2013.

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