Frame show transforms space
Security guards, miscellaneous trinkets, and long lines were all a part of sophomore art majors Claire Gustavson and Keith Lafuente’s opening night at The Frame gallery last Friday.
The show was titled I am better than you, and visitors could feel that spirit from the moment they entered the venue on Forbes Avenue. The press release at the front door raved about the two artists, and reminded those attending to bring gifts and offerings.
Gustavson and Lafuente transformed The Frame into a fully immersive exhibit. The show was broken into four different sections — Gustavson’s altar, Lafuente’s altar, a gift shop, and a special room that patrons could only enter one at a time. Fake security guards stood at the entrance to each section, dressed in suits, glasses, and serious attitudes. Certain people were denied access to the mysterious performance section for no apparent reason.
The two altars were separated and were very different from each other, including different music, lighting, and general vibes. Gustavson’s altar was covered in candles and letters, and the room — which was sectioned off by dark curtains — was full of rugs, prayer cards, and shoes.
Patrons entering the room that held Lafuente’s altar were warned by a security guard to keep their distance from the altar, but the room was open so patrons could walk through freely. The altar was adorned with trophies, photos of Lafuente, pins, and a large chain. In the middle of the room were a small rug and piece of wood.
After viewing the altars, patrons waited in line to gain access to the mysterious performance section of the exhibit. Entering one at a time, patrons walked to the back room and found the two artists engaged in a dialogue about colors, gifts, and offerings while a projector shot images onto them in the dark.
At times it was hard to tell whether the artists were in character or not, and it was difficult to gain meaning from the dialogue. The first line I heard upon entering the small room was, “Once you go black, you never go back, right?” The dialogue between the two was meant to get laughs and be a unique memory for those who were lucky enough to get past security and make it inside.
The line to enter this part of the exhibit was long, and as the night progressed, rumblings were heard from the crowd about whether the wait would be worth it. A similar frustration for those in attendance was how hard it was to hear what Lafuente and Gustavson were saying in the small room over all the people talking just outside.
The gift shop included plenty of trinkets related to the exhibition. A personal favorite was a framed essay of Gustavson’s from her first-year Globalization Through History class. There were also American flags with Lafuente’s face glued to them, temporary tattoo hearts with Gustavson’s face attached, and other random objects to remind patrons that the artists are “better than you.”
Those who attended the exhibit had mixed reactions. While the exhibit was an interesting experience, junior industrial design major Maureen Griswold said, “I think if you didn’t know [the artists] and you went to it, it would be a little confusing. But once you met them, you’d be like, ‘Oh okay, it’s a parody.’ ”
Despite the wait and the uneasy feel the security guards gave patrons, the show was well executed and generally enjoyable for those who came out. Lafuente and Gustavson successfully converted The Frame into a more experience-based exhibition space, and while some frustration about being turned away after waiting in line to enter the back room was obvious, it was all in an effort to maintain the theme of the show that the two wanted to present.