UT Austin Opens Design and Art Exhibitions

The University of Texas, Austin, Visual Arts Center opened four new exhibitions Friday, March 30, as several fine art and design students conclude their degrees. Works on display for those programs—Finale, Make_Matter, and It Depends (see context)—display a culmination of student work. Alongside MFA and BFA exhibitions, Traditional Family Values opens. (Traditional Family Values is not a student exhibition.)

Differences between fine art and design were apparent upon exploring these four exhibitions—two of which belong to design and two which belong to fine art—in juxtaposition to one another. Young artists seemed to take liberty in dealing simply with formal aspects of work, where designers felt compelled to visualize something concrete—like a chair or even statistical, as in data visualizations.

Perhaps a more gross difference between art and design, as demonstrated by these VAC exhibitions, could be said to be that emotionality underpinned art, whereas design aimed to be rational. Traditional Family Values, for instance, recreated an emotional past.

Family Values features “work by Arturo Agüero, Sarah Holman, and Marcella Mendez that reflects their experiences as immigrants and working class folks, queerness, or non-normativity, and the non-nuclear family is the main connective thread between the artists’ bodies of work,” according to the VAC’s website.

Make_Matter, on the other hand, sought, overall, to systematize various societal truths, and display certain necessities in a new, or more immediate, fashion.

Make_Matter, the 2012 MFA Design exhibition, features the work of Carolyn Aler, Ryan Bruner, Lindsey Culpepper, Rowan Ogden, and Yi Xu. The MFA Design students write that their work “illuminates the processes that designers use in transforming elements, both tangible and intangible, into more meaningful and valuable forms.”

Visit the VAC and draw your own conclusions about emerging designers and artists and their similarities and differences as practitioners. The exhibition is open through April 14.

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