Webster professor Tate Foley said his exhibit’s theme is inspired by a french philosopher’s idea of living in a simulation.
French philosopher Jean Baudrillard once wrote, “We live in a world where there is more and more information, and less and less meaning.”
Inspired by Baudrillard’s ideas on living in a simulation, Webster art professor Tate Foley incorporated this theme into his printmaking work “In Shadows.” It’s now exhibited at the Sheldon Art Gallery.
“In Shadows” will be on display at the Sheldon Art Gallery (3648 Washington Blvd.) until Jan. 16, 2022. Admission to the gallery is free and it is open Tuesday 12:00 to 8:00 p.m., Wednesday through Friday 12:00 to 5:00 p.m. and Saturday 10:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m.
“We’ve replaced those real-life experiences with these kind-of-false ones – these shadow experiences,” Foley said. “They have the outline and the map of the real thing, but they hold no weight.”
Foley is referring to things like being “friends” on social media, even if you’ve never met the person, or having class through a screen instead of in person.
“In Shadows” plays with these ideas through the medium of printmaking on Tyvek, large stickers on the floor and wall and some sculptures using these materials. Nothing is hung traditionally in a frame on the wall – they all have some three-dimensional, interactive aspect to them.
Gallery manager Paula Lincoln said Foley pushed printmaking to a new level with this exhibit.
“I think what really represents [this new level] was using the framework that he has. It has that look of old erector set pieces, using bungee cords to attach it to the back base and using Tyvek to print on things,” Lincoln said. “It’s really incredible.”
Foley’s biggest piece stands against the north-facing wall of the gallery. Foley printed two brightly colored images popping through a collection of black on black patterned prints.
Some of the prints depict a crooked smiley face, representing the fleetingness of emotion, crosses and the phrase “Images resembling mortal men.” The colorful images include one of parakeets at Petco and one of bubblegum cigars at the Lake of the Ozarks.
“They have these chains to climb on that are plastic and have been like, oversaturated colorized. If you go on to Petco, the whole environment for the parakeets has been completely simulated,” Foley said. “And chewing bubblegum could not be more opposite from smoking, in my opinion. So you have all these false things kind of happening within this space.”
Other works include stickers of a pixelated newspaper and an alarm clock. One of the newspaper stickers is on the floor, forcing the viewer to interact with it in a different way.
One piece sits on the floor in the shape of a cylinder with digitized flames wrapping around it. Foley said this piece is the epitome of the whole show, in his opinion.
“It’s like a shadow of fire. It represents maybe the image of fire but it’s gone through such a filtration process,” Foley said. “There’s no physical heat you can get from it. It doesn’t carry the same visual enjoyment as just sitting around a fire and watching the flames kind of flicker.”
Some of Foley’s students helped him set up “In Shadows” in the days leading up to the gallery’s opening on Nov. 6. One of these Webster students, Anna Hrbacova, said she enjoyed Foley’s use of stickers in the exhibit.
“Like, how am I supposed to think about it? Is it a sticker? Or is it an illusion of something?” Hrbacova said. “It’s just very playful.”
In letting his students help him set up “In Shadows,” Foley gave them the opportunity to see a professional artist at work in a real-world setting. He also let them have some input on how the works were displayed at the Sheldon.
According to Lincoln, this shows how “humble” Foley is as an artist.
“I think that’s a really unique quality to have to where you’re really willing as an artist to listen to other people and incorporate their ideas with yours and to make it your own,” Lincoln said.