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?Off the Wall,? NMSU University Art Gallery exhibit, engages community

If you don?t know who Sol LeWitt is and what he means to New Mexico State University, you will after seeing the ?Off the Wall? exhibit at the University Art Gallery.

Marisa Sage is the new director of the NMSU University Art Gallery.

Art student Taylor Reed contributed to Judith Braun?s piece at the ?Off the Wall? exhibit.

Artist Christie Blizard created this installation by gluing colorful tape on a black-painted wall. This is her finished work.

d by LeWitt, the exhibit begins with an opening reception at 5 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 11, at the University Art Gallery at 1390 E. University.

Combining performance and installation art, ?Off the Wall? will feature works by and inspired by LeWitt. It will also showcase the process of installing contemporary art works directly on the gallery walls with the help of the community.

?One of my goals is to make sure the community at NMSU and in Las Cruces becomes part of what we?re doing here at the gallery,? said newly hired University Art Gallery director Marisa Sage. ?There are people who have been in Las Cruces their whole lives but have not been in this gallery. It?s a huge goal for me to make sure those people come in here and see the work that?s on the wall.?

LeWitt, an artist who designed the sculpture between the English and Speech buildings at NMSU in 1982, helped to establish the Conceptualism and Minimalism movements in the 1960s and 1970s. His visit to the NMSU campus when he installed his sculpture so impressed him that he donated 25 of his pieces to the gallery?s print collection.

LeWitt?s deceptively simple geometric designs came down to ideas or instructions and allowed others to participate in the creative process.

?The reason why this became my first exhibit is because I was unbelievably impressed by our collection here. We have a phenomenal contemporary art collection,? Sage said. ?I think one of the most important things that I hope every single person gets from this experience is that they can, in some way, make art a part of their lives.?

Other featured artists are Christie Blizard, Judith Braun, Nathan Green and Allie Rex.

Blizard invited the community to contribute to Glow Paintings, her colorful tape wall art installation. About 70 people showed up to help, including a group of middle school students from J. Paul Taylor Academy.

?I have a few rules: make abstract patterns and keep the lines straight, and not to make anything representational,? Blizard said. ?The tape glows, and it?s kind of like being inside a virtual video game.

?I started doing these in 2012 and the collaborative part has become really helpful. I started using people to help me as a practical way to build the piece quickly, but over time, the collaborative nature has helped the pieces become more interesting; people come in and they interpret the instructions differently. I?ve come to really enjoy the variety and randomness.?

Michelle Lanteri showed up to help Blizard under the impression that she?d be given small tasks, such as fetching supplies, while the artist worked. Instead, she discovered, she was part of the show.

?I didn?t realize I was going to be participating, so that was a fun surprise,? said the art history graduate student. ?It was a lot like tagging ? you make your own mark, but you?re also being influenced by the environment around you. I saw the space change over time, and I thought it was really interesting.?

The gallery held an installation reception Friday, Aug. 29, and artists welcomed others to participate in the process of creating many of the featured work.

?All my work is symmetrical, abstract and using black and white materials. This is just an extension of that,? said Braun, who was working with assistant artists for the first time during the installation reception. ?It?s been great. The energy is terrific. It?s all about the process. They?re getting to know how much goes into it.?

To create her art, Braun applies the material (charcoal) on the wall using her fingers. The results are symmetrical, abstract images that are, at first glance, unimaginable as pieces traditionally thought of as ?finger paintings.?

Braun?s work was featured on a snowboard used by three-time Olympic medalist Kelly Clark. Clark used the snowboard during her bronze medal-win at the Sochi Olympics earlier this year.

?Off the Wall? is Sage?s first exhibition as the new director of the University Art Gallery. Prior to arriving in Las Cruces, the New York native owned and directed an art gallery in Brooklyn, and also curated and managed Salisbury University?s galleries in Salisbury, Maryland.

?I hope people realize how important art is to education,? Sage said. ?Very often, art gets cut from education, but it?s imperative for critical thinking, for self-discovery and for invention. I want that to be thought of when people walk around here.?

The ?Off the Wall? exhibit runs through Dec. 6. Additional events during the exhibit include an artist workshop with Nathan Green at noon Oct. 24, as well as a plaque and restoration reception at 5 p.m. Nov. 6.

For more information visit http://uag.nmsu.edu.