Sunday, October 24, 2021
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No Need to Explain: “Transmissions/Signals” Exhibit at UMKC Comes out Garbled


The newest exhibit in the UMKC gallery is not only obtuse, but also thoroughly abstract.

It’s the war cry of the fine artist to say the viewer simply “doesn’t get it,” but in the case of Warren Rosser and James Woodfill’s collaborative show “Transmissions/Signals,” the concepts are maybe too big to fully keep above water. Walking into the gallery there is a distinct lack of completion about the show. Not particularly in the arrangement of the works or even in the condition of the gallery itself the works themselves simply do not seem to be fully fleshed out ideas.

Beginning right next to the door, the first piece most visitors will be drawn to is Woodfill’s “Untitled Box Forms with Tables,” which will most likely initiate many shrugs by viewers as it is simply two tables stacked on top of each other with three painted wooden boxes incorporated in as far as they are placed on the table tops. The boxes are gessoed and painted over with pastel colored acrylic paint. Woodfill is an Associate Professor of Painting at the Kansas City Art Institute, KCAI, whose recent work has “attempted to better understand and unravel the complex interactions stemming from our surrounding built environments,” which is all well and good from a conceptual standpoint, but here it seems to not have enough effort put into really making the concept physical.

“Transmissions/Signals” falls short when it comes to the level of risk the works actually take. Even Rosser, who recently stepped down as Chair of the Painting Department and is still the William T. Kemper Distinguished Professor of Painting at KCAI has works in the exhibit which are unexciting and feel as though they are more in transition conceptually rather than full representations of his ideas. Rosser has been, since 1998, “developing an abstract language, exploring architectural forms and constructed space with a particular attention being paid to color and its transitions and sublets,” and it is clear in works like “On the Right,” a large assembly of painted wood pieces that explore balance. The left portion of the work is structural in the sense that the pieces of wood all fit together and create the edge of a conventional rectangle, while the right side is made up of jagged pieces which make the side sharp and like a broken piece of glass. The color also separates the two sides, with the furthest left portion a pinkish white with intense red triangles.

If anything, “Transmissions/Signals” is an exhibition of transition, without works that feel complete.

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