"The Bystander Effect" Opening 2/26 at Worth Ryder Art Gallery

Worth Ryder Art Gallery Presents:






Wednesday, February 26 through Saturday, March 15, 2014

Worth Ryder Art Gallery, 116 Kroeber Hall, UC Berkeley Campus

Open Hours: Tuesday through Saturday, 12 – 5 pm

Opening Reception: Wednesday, February 26, 4 – 7 pm

The Worth Ryder Art Gallery is pleased to present “The Bystander Effect”, an exhibition featuring the work of Divya Balakrishnan, Spurthi Bhatt, and Alisha Johnson, three student artists who have chosen to use the medium of painting to create work that serves a social purpose.

The Bystander Effect is a sociological term that refers to a tragic and paradoxical flaw in human’s social nature; in situations where a large group of people witness an emergency where someone needs help, it often happens that nobody offers assistance to those affected. The artists in this exhibition, although varying in their specific interests and approach, each use this metaphor to criticize humanity’s inaction in the face of global poverty, the exploitation of women, the oppression of racial minorities, and cultural misappropriation.

As painters experimenting with different media and techniques to create a surface, the artists also see this metaphor as describing the separation between viewer and artwork, between the object on display and the depth of the subject matter. Is it possible to use this medium to bridge language and land barriers and enable the viewer to grasp the reality of these pressing issues?

Divya Balakrishnan, “KeffiYEAH!”, oil on canvas, 24” x 36”, 2012.

Divya Balakrishnan‘s paintings juxtapose sacred ethnic and cultural tokens against exploitative media imagery in an effort to challenge neocolonialism. In her life she has moved five times across three countries, using her personal experiences to directly inform her works on cultural misappropriation. She also paints to explore her spirituality, allowing her to find redemption in reactivating ancient symbols that we have become desensitized to as a result of media imperialism. Her technique matches her conceptual process; she takes advantage of the versatility of oil paint to create opaque, saturated graphic imagery as well as more subtle, layered, painterly passages.

Divya Balakrishnan was born in Virginia and arrived at UC Berkeley via Roseville, California. A double major in the Practice of Art and Theater Studies, she hopes to broaden global cultural dialogue through visual exploration.

Spurthi Bhatt, “Saṃsāra”, oil on canvas, 48” x 48”, 2013.

Spurthi Bhatt’s work celebrates the beauty of Indian culture, while addressing ugly aspects that are often ignored, including domestic violence, the exploitation of animals, and poverty. She uses a stamping process to create a textured ground on which she paints colorful, romanticized images of the animals used in religious rituals in order to call attention to their suffering. The stamp’s symbolism is integral to the work; it depicts a “rangoli”, an Indian design which depicts concentric circles of chaos, and is often drawn with chalk powder in front of the household every morning and erased every evening to suggest impermanence and the potential to live each day anew.

Spurthi Bhatt was born in and maintains a relationship with Bangalore, India, and moved to the United States when she was two years old. She is a double major in the Practice of Art and Molecular Cell Biology, Neurobiology.

Alisha Johnson, “She”, mixed media and oil on canvas, 72” x 68”, 2013.

Alisha Johnson’s work addresses the overshadowing on African American women in a culture whose ideals of beauty are predicated on western models. Her paintings incorporate bright reds and yellow to signify strength, power, and presence. Her textured layers of oil and acrylic draw the viewer in to examine the skeleton or soul of the piece. These layers are a metaphor for the daily struggles that black women in America have to face. Her depictions of strong, beautiful black women with Godlike agency stand in contrast to centuries of depictions of black women as ugly, inferior, and forbidden objects of lust and derision.

Alisha Johnson was born in Nashville, TN, and raised in Central Los Angeles. Majoring in the Practice of Art, she hopes to combine art and medicine to make a difference in women’s health.

Please join us for an opening reception on Wednesday, February 26, 2014 from 4 to 7 pm!