Vy Pham kneels on the floor at University Art Gallery, meticulously placing child-sized screwdrivers and wrenches into three pine crates. She painted the more than 100 plaster casts of Fisher-Price toys an identical shade of gray, and the wooden boxes are unadorned. The title of her stark installation: “You’re a Tool: A Salute to Roland Barthes.”
“Barthes was a French literary theorist, philosopher and critic who wrote about how tools turn children into users, instead of creators,” says Pham, a senior literary journalism major. “That’s what this piece is about.”
It’s one of 12 works in the aptly named “Provocations” – the fifth annual undergraduate art exhibition, juried this year by Sarah Bancroft, curator of the Orange County Museum of Art. Running through Friday, April 17, the show includes colorful abstract art, black-and-white watercolors, video installations and photography ranging from men who appear to be levitating to a pile of lint on a carpet.
“This is a little bit different than a show one might do with grad students or post-graduates,” Bancroft says. “I like that the students clearly are working with ideas from things they’ve read or with issues of personal identity. More than one of these pieces pushes a button or two, so that’s why we call it ‘Provocations.’”
Besides Pham, Bancroft chose works by UC Irvine students Mitch Esaki, Pamela-Joy Fong, David Gutierrez, Anita Issagholyan, Mena Kamel, Daniel Kim, Maria Korol, John O’Brien, Conan Thai, Jayson Ward and Elizabeth Watkins.
University Art Gallery is open Tuesdays through Saturdays from noon-5 p.m. Information: 949-824-9854.