PULLMAN, Wash. — Artists George Wray and Ken Yuhasz are the first artists featured in the Washington State University Museum of Art’s “Window Project,” a series of changing exhibitions on display in the museum’s large front windows in the Fine Arts Center. The ongoing exhibition series is intended to attract the attention of passersby by illuminating and adding visual interest to the black-curtained wall of windows overlooking the center’s plaza on the Pullman campus.
Conceived by Roger H.D. Rowley, curator of exhibitions and the museum’s collections manager, the Window Project will display works in niches created in the museum to accommodate sculptural installations, much like department-store window displays. The artwork included in the first series, featuring Wray and Yuhasz, will focus on light.
“Initially the series will operate according to its own timetable and logic,” Rowley said. “However, at various times it may directly relate to the exhibitions in the museum. As the series evolves, it will include works by invited artists that have been specifically commissioned for the space and may include artists who use transparency, projection, light boxes or other means of addressing issues of light in their work.”
Yuhasz is a Spokane artist who incorporates neon into his sculptures. His piece “My Father’s Workbench” includes a neon drill press along with utilitarian tools that lead the viewer to ponder the relationship between the work of art and everyday objects.
“From my first piece to the latest, I have been creating ideas that utilize found objects in an effort to re-create, or at least suggest, moments of my life,” Yuhasz said. “As a teenager, I worked with an 80-year-young gentlemen repairing household appliances, and I appreciated the craftsmanship and style of these common things. These everyday tools that I embellish with neon and argon-filled tubing represent pieces of my life viewed through a slightly tweaked lens. The prosaic nature of the object is readily apparent, but the view now includes a new, whimsical component.”
Yuhasz owns and operates Acme Glass Works in Spokane, a design studio where he produces neon signs and art. His work has been featured in a number of exhibitions, including this year’s All Media Juried Show at the Chase Gallery in Spokane, “Luminary Gathering” at the Western Neon Gallery in Seattle and “Northwest Neon” at Spokane’s Cheney-Cowles Museum.
Moscow, Idaho, artist Wray also uses neon light as a major component in his work. His piece “24/7” is a mounted neon sign that simply says “24 Hours.”
“Light has been an integral part of my artwork for as long as I can remember. The illusions of light and shadow were subjects of my early paintings and drawings,” Wray said. “Drawing taught me about the importance of learning to see and visualize subjects and/or ideas, the first step in changing the mental image into a visual image. Painting taught me how color can be used to heighten the illusion of surface texture and three-dimensional space. The desire for more intense colors, beyond the most intense pigments, led to the first use of light in my work. From that point on, light, natural and manmade, has been the focus of my artwork.”
Wray is an art professor at the University of Idaho where he teaches drawing and painting. His exhibitions include “Northwest Neon” at the Cheney-Cowles Museum and a one-person exhibition, “Traces and Origins,” at the Equinox Gallery in Seattle.
The works are expected to remain on display through early June, possibly extending through the summer. The WSU Museum of Art gallery will be closed May 13-June 10, reopening for summer on June 11 with “From the Vault,” featuring works from the museum’s permanent collection.
All museum events are free and open to the public. The gallery is wheelchair accessible. Parking permits for weekday visitors can be purchased at the Cougar Depot in downtown Pullman or at WSU Parking Services on Wilson Road, directly uphill from the Fine Arts Center. On weekday evenings, parking is available for an hourly fee in the Fine Arts parking structure, off Stadium Way at Grimes Way. Weekend parking is free.
Funding for museum exhibitions and programs is provided by WSU, the Friends of the Museum of Art and private donors. Additional support has been provided by Bank of America, IKON Office Solutions, OPSIS Architects, Pullman Community Foundation/Foundation Northwest, Pullman Kiwanis Club, Pullman Transit, Tri-State Distributors, US West Foundation, Washington Mutual Foundation, WSU’s Visual, Performing and Literary Arts Committee, and the Washington State Arts Commission.