Work of Van Pelt ’11 and De La Cruz ’11 exhibited at the Hop
By Lauren Sarner, The Dartmouth Staff
Published on Friday, June 29, 2012
To most people, coffee grounds are not something to be hung on a wall and admired. To Max Van Pelt ’11, however, they were the finishing touches to a complex piece of art.
Van Pelt’s mixed media sculptures, along with a series of paintings by Logan De La Cruz ’11, are being displayed in a joint exhibition at the Jaffe-Friede Gallery in the Hopkins Center.
The exhibition is the culminating event for the studio art department’s annual Perspectives On Design Award. Created in 1992 by David and Judith Collins, it awards a cash prize to a handful of graduating seniors.
The POD Award funds the recipients’ work for a year after graduating prior to showing their art at the College, according to Gerald Auten, director of the exhibition.
“For both [De La Cruz and Van Pelt], there is a level of invention and maturity in their work,” Auten said. “They both really had a vision. Students who exhibit that are the kind we tend to give the award to.”
De La Cruz worked on his paintings while living in Germany over the past year. Van Pelt constructed his pieces at the College, where he has been working as an intern in the studio art department.
Although their work is vastly different — even created in different countries — Van Pelt and De La Cruz both said that their exhibitions are complementary in unexpected ways.
“There’s an interesting relationship between our work,” De La Cruz said. “[Van Pelt’s] is more abstract, but both our work has a combination of menacing and seductive qualities.”
De La Cruz’s paintings were inspired by the fashion designer Alexander McQueen and by the sculptures in the Glyptothek, a classical museum in Germany. The paintings feature Greco-Roman figures — faces, torsos and various other body parts, accentuated by bold red paint spatter and a houndstooth background.
“This series presents a kind of elegant goriness,” De La Cruz said.
He cited Andy Warhol and British graffiti artist Banksy as his primary influences.
Van Pelt and De La Cruz were supportive of each other and enthusiastic about displaying their art together.
“I think [De La Cruz’s] work is about a lot of juxtapositions,” Van Pelt said. “He has aggressive elements and tender elements, edgy against soft. It’s a lot of what I’m trying to achieve in my work.”
Van Pelt’s pieces range from sculptures to paintings to combinations of the two. They are complex mixtures of steel and wire, paper and paint — and sometimes, coffee grounds.
“I’m always trying to use new materials, or find new ways of making marks in drawings,” he said. “It keeps me fresh and off balance.”
Both De La Cruz and Van Pelt emphasized the importance of being open to unpredictable occurrences.
“You spill some paint, you break something, you roll with it, you work with it,” De La Cruz said. “I never shy away from that. I call them beautiful mistakes.”
As an example, he pointed out a signature that is scrawled across one of his paintings. It shines through the paint like an incongruous tattoo on the Greco-Roman rear end.
He explained that he usually signs his pieces on the back, but this particular piece was painted on the back of an earlier attempt. Rather than correct the mistake and start over, he simply left it.
“Time and time again I come across something more interesting when I make a mistake than when I do what I was planning,” Van Pelt said. “This year has been great because I’ve become better at following those mistakes, those things that don’t react the way you thought.”
Van Pelt explained that his pieces are comprised of many different facets, enabling the viewer to look at them for a long time and constantly find new elements.
“I want people to learn things about themselves when they look, just like I learn about myself when I’m making it,” he said.
For some of Van Pelt’s larger pieces, Auten had to consider the best way to avoid potential injury during the June 26 exhibition opening.
“There were over a hundred people there,” Auten said. “And with Max’s work, you worry that someone will get impaled on something. We had to hire attendants to stand by the sharp points.”
Van Pelt, who arrived on campus planning to study architecture, said he did not know that he wanted to be an artist until halfway through his college career.
“I kind of came into art late, but I’ve been hooked ever since,” he said.
De La Cruz, on the other hand, knew immediately.
“It’s addicting,” he said. “Making art is what I want to do.”
Working as a studio art intern has allowed him to further explore his artistic drive and creativity, Van Pelt said.
“It was a great test to see if art was something I wanted to continue doing or something that would drive me crazy,” he said.
Both students said they were grateful to all of their Dartmouth professors.
“The POD is an opportunity more than it is an award,” Van Pelt said. “No excuses — this means you really go for it and spend the next year making art.”
The exhibition will run through Sept. 2.