Brian Prugh's "Renaissances"
On view in the Harrison Gallery is “Renaissances” by Brian Prugh, a space set up for contemplation through large black tulle pieces accompanied by two foundational questions written across the gallery wall. Serving as a catalyst for inquiry, these questions read, “Are we living in a new dark age?” and “Is this the dawn of a another renaissance?” Prugh’s signature medium, black tulle, is used to create large representations of two art historical references to previous Renaissance eras: the blank stone windows and double columns of Michelangelo's Laurentian Library as well as a "dark age" reference to the Neo-Gothic windows of the gallery.
For Prugh, an art history teacher at Herron High School and art critic in addition to being an artist, contemplating what has come before us is central to life as well as to the show. “Renaissances” asks the viewer to consider past cycles of cultural collapse and revival in order to recognize these signs today. By positioning viewers in a space that includes references to the art history of the past and asking pointed questions for reflection, Prugh hopes to create a place for thoughtful conversation and contemplation about our future.
Black tulle’s distinctive delicacy as a medium speaks to the show’s thesis. Standing in stark contrast with the real objects that Prugh’s pieces represent—the solidity of the original columns and classical windows—black tulle softens them such that these objects appear to be the specters of these ancient objects. They appear to have been brought up out of history, floating as spirit-like symbols of past ages. History is often associated with permanence and distance; this perspective is only confirmed with visions of immovable and formidable marble archways and columns. Prugh overturns the sense in which the past is “over there” by reintroducing these signs from the past in a flexible, approachable material—tulle. As such, these works reintroduce the past as important to both the present and the future, asking for reengagement with history’s lessons for today.