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'VISCOM' brings out the best in UA graphic artists

By Chas B. Speck
Arizona Daily Wildcat,
April 20, 2000
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Student competition runs through May 3

"Visual Communications, 2000" displays art forms, such as poster advertisements, illustrations and logos, that are commonly overlooked by galleries but draw attention to that ever-present and most tangible relationship between art and the general public.

The annual exhibit takes place at the Lionel Rombach Gallery through May 3 and provides a rare opportunity for graphic design and illustration students to gain recognition for their work and to exhibit it to its intended audience - the local community.

The jurors for this year's show were Michael Patrick Cronan and Polly Johnson, both established commercial artists. Along with admitting works for the exhibit, the judges collaborated to select the "Best of Show" award, and each judge individually chose one other work for an award.

This year's "Best of Show" award was given to fine arts senior Starr Merten for her poster that advertises a 1999 event at the Center for Creative Photography, "Nine Pioneers in Graphic Design."

Black and white heads of the honored artists form a number nine on a pale yellow background. The well-crafted poster is clear in concept, easy to read, and the disembodied heads offer the work a nice sense of humor.

The Polly Johnson Judge Award went to fine arts senior Marsha Underwood for her minimalist logo design for "ArcRAIL." The logo itself is a single line, suggestive of motion and the shape of a high-tech train. Along with the logo, the work featured a letterhead with matching envelope and a personal business card.

The Michael Cronan Judge Award was given to Fine Arts student Hillary Blanchard for her logo, letterhead, envelope and business card designs for "Echotech Industries."

In contrast to Underwood's crisp and sleek linear design, Blanchard's design features the rugged quality of a typewriter's lowercase "e." Blanchard chose a literal approach to the company name, opting to have waves echo away from the "e."

Both designs are clear, elegant and give the companies visual personality.

The majority of the show is displayed salon-style, in two and sometimes three horizontal rows that circle the room. Although this is at times chaotic, the setup allows the viewer to recognize the variety of media and approaches used under the broad headings of illustration and design.

At the start of the exhibit, fine arts senior Bikram Saggoo's interactive computer art features three "projects" on an iMac, in which the viewer can access various digital photography and video clips using the mouse. The programs incorporate music set to complement the visual images.

In "Pi," Saggoo remade the introduction sequence to the movie "Pi," using blurry and ambiguous running video. Delicate abstract shapes and shadows create a mysterious space for the opening credits to slip through.

His first project, "Water," is more interactive and invites the viewer to explore various properties of water like a Web site.

Although much of the intrigue this show offers is the interaction between companies or events and the artists, the illustration segment of the show accents the aspect of the visual communications program that is more open to interpretation. The exhibit is strongest where the artists have given the community character.

Chas B. Speck can be reached at catalyst@wildcat.arizona.edu.

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