Full Speed Ahead for the Fall Semester:

Souvenir by Stacy Howe.

Souvenir by Stacy Howe.

MiMi Yeh

UMass Boston has seen many artists come and go. Whether it’s Ken Hruby and his military commentary-oriented themes or the annual juried-student show, the works displayed remain open for all to see in the Harbor Art Gallery, situated next the entrance of McCormack Hall building.

Most people only focus on their features reflected back in the dark glass of the picture window of the gallery as they pass through on their way to classes. Some walk by and are attracted by the occasional eye-catching pieces glimpsed through the brown double doors. Though it appears to be tucked away, the Gallery has been home to numerous artists over the years. Currently, it is a residence for a variety of different creations whose authors are UMB’s own students, all of whom major in studio art, featured in Damn the Torpedoes: Ben Merris, David Klee, and Stacey Howe.

At the forefront of the gallery are the paintings of Ben Merris and David Klee. Merris’ works are largely abstract and nonrepresentational. To look at them means to search for the feeling behind the piece or listen to just what response it evokes from you. Known for his tongue-in-cheek titles and unique style, Merris’ range of featured work runs the gamut from the fun of Up We Go to the simplicity of Patently Summed Up.

With We All Wait Diligently My Fighting Friend, we see somewhat uniform caged shapes in hues of browns coated in orange net-like coverings all in line. The figures seem to be symbolic of people, all in a row, diligently biding their time until it is their turn, reminiscent of trying to buy texts at the bookstore.

Patently Summed Up follows the same quasi-geometric plan that Diligently does, while managing to appear erratic within the scope of controlled lines and bright colors. It is difficult to understand the odd dichotomy that Merris has managed to create. It is better understood and appreciated upon second glance.

Up We Go is a monoprint whose two focal points are two bulbuous shapes that are made up of strips of the same printing repeated in different shades with thin black ribbons trailing off the side of the canvas. These layered, circular globes appear ready to float away.

David Klee’s body of work is all untitled acrylics on paper featuring extreme moods expressed with either brilliant, bright hues or dark, dramatic colors. The only piece in the show that is representational stands out among a forest of abstract works. It is that of a human figure, hands resting on his thighs, head hung, as if he is out of breath from a sudden spurt of activity. Maybe he is seeking strength from hidden or unknown stores as his exhaustion threatens to overtake him.

In another composition, Klee has an array of fiery reds and oranges interspersed with yellow. This canvas bears witness to the flames as puffy, billowing clouds trail thick black smoke. It is simultaneously thrilling while being harsh, passionate, and dangerous. One other piece features creams, tans, and browns juxtaposed with unintelligible black scribbles on a blackberry-colored background.

Tucked away in the back room is an entire group of Stacey Howe’s works collectively titled Souvenir, a universe unto themselves. With battered industrial windows hanging in space covered with polyurethane coated pictures of old factories that were, themselves, taken from old factories, the area appears surreal.

The subject matter of the works are both amusing and serious. A charcoal-like study of a pair of scissors photo-etched and framed is not the least of a series of interesting prints that make up this unusual collage.

The playful side of this exhibit takes over with the hundreds of shells scattered all over the floor of the exhibit. The polyurethane puddles in the shells glisten under the lights of the gallery and black writing appears on the surfaces. Upon closer inspection one can see the clear transparencies of cards, animals, shapes, and the like. The randomized pictures, words, and numbers are different when one looks inside of each shell.

This exhibition provides the necessary introduction to the variety of styles that inhabit UMass Boston. To get an idea of what’s going on, drop by and visit to enjoy just what the students have to offer.