The Royal Society of American Art (RSOAA) hosted an opening for its new exhibit, Jumping the Shark, on Saturday, September 12th. The RSOAA is an independent, privately funded institution located in Williamsburg that serves not only as a gallery for public exhibits, but also as a studio space for local and emerging artists. Among the artists currently working out of the space is Jason Clay Lewis, co-founder of the RSOAA and curator of Jumping the Shark.
According to Lewis, the title of the exhibit is operative on several levels. Jumping the Shark features four artists, whose work is connected by their visual and/or metaphorical use of water. It is also a reference to the expression begat of the show Happy Days, at the point at which it strayed from its original premise. Says Lewis, “Although the term can be used synonymously with a ‘point in decline’, it can also be an extraordinary feat.”
The exhibit was conceived around the work of Disney Nasa Borg, Lewis’s original inspiration. Borg is known for his complex plasticized sculptures that mimic shapes found in nature – in this case, the ocean. His pieces, which are constructed using disparate manmade materials, are inspired by the notion of an “inevitable conglomeration” of organic materials and technology; his work designs to “instigate” questions around the possibility of such a fusion, and whether it is already a reality.
Lewis was at first unsure how to curate an exhibit wherein the works would “talk to each other”, until he met Dana James, whose work in watercolors triggered the concept for Jumping the Shark. In the pieces on display, James explores how light reflects/refracts off bodies of water, both naturally occurring and manmade. Often in watercolor painting, the paint tends to spread in unpredictable ways; but for James, every action of the paint is treated as an opportunity. The artist allows the medium’s behavior to inform her approach, often reversing the canvas and using the incidental seep-through to motivate her creative process.
The model-based work of David Opdyke is also among the pieces on display. Like Borg, Opdyke explores the fusion of nature and technology, but his perspective is far bleaker. “You can see the plan, the intent to channel complex forces and ideas; you also see the frayed edges, the strain on the system, the hopelessness of control,” Opdyke told Bob in a 2013 article. The intricate sculpture below, which Lewis describes as “apocalyptic”, is hyper-detailed; the element of decay is carefully chronicled, right down to the graffiti tags.
Jumping the Shark also features pieces from Savannah Spirit’s self-portrait series, Shake Sauvage. Spirit is a local forerunner in iPhoneography, a burgeoning art form permitting ease of use and digital manipulation using various apps. In these photographs, Spirit utilizes her iPhone’s photographic capabilities to create work that Lewis calls “ephemeral”. The use of blue tones and soft lines is consistent and inspires a feeling of being underwater.
The work of these four artists is on display through October 2nd at the Royal Society of American Art, located at 400 S 2nd St in Williamsburg.