At Lehman gallery, time is of the essence

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For some, time may just be a race against the clock. But at the Lehman College Art Gallery, it’s all about embracing time itself.

The gallery, housed on the school’s campus at 250 Bedford Park Blvd., takes an in-depth look at what time means to contemporary artists with pieces ranging from sculptures to photographs. More than 40 artists take part in “Tick-Tock: Time in Contemporary Art,” an exhibition that runs through May 5.

The process putting together the exhibit took more than a year, according to Bartholomew Bland, the gallery’s director. Bland’s interest in historical art, the visual allegory of Father Time, and Salvador Dali’s iconic piece, “The Persistence of Memory” that features melting clocks, led him to put out a call for submissions.

“Time is something that we all deal with, and I’ve always been very interested in the visual personification of time because of course, time can’t really be seen easily,” Bland said. 

Featuring a mix of emerging, mid-career and well-known artists in every exhibition at the Lehman College Art Gallery is a priority for Bland and his team. So he set out to look for a wide range of individuals who had previously worked with the theme of time. 

“It’s tricky when you start with a theme and then try to build work around that,” Bland said. “It’s always sort of a knitting together of a lot of different influences of people we’ve worked with in the past.”

One of the notable pieces in “Tick-Tock” Bland points out is “Foreplay,” a digital video installation of a couple sitting in bed on their phones, not paying attention to each other while “Isn’t It Romantic” by French actor and singer Maurice Chevalier plays in the background.

Slave to time

For Bland, this just goes to show how “days are so governed by the clock” and how it feels as though time flies by faster because people are distracted by their smartphones. 

“I think it’s very telling about how people become enslaved to time, their schedules, into their iPhones, into their calendars on their iPhones, and this idea of ‘you have to be at every single place at every single second,’” Bland said.

The same can be said about people’s relationship with services like Facebook and Twitter.

“Social media’s sort of trying to grab you by the hand and say, ‘come with me,’ and it’s up to you to pull your hand away and say, ‘no, I have to do such and such,’ and to really focus your attention,” he said. “I think it’s an increasingly hard thing to do, to create that focus.”

Since putting together “Tick-Tock,” Bland has seen time as a more common theme in his life, like how he notices the Yorkville Clock on the east side of Manhattan a lot more frequently than he used to. But most importantly, it’s inspired him to cut out multitasking from his daily agenda.

“There’s also these visual cues that you pick up that really do stay with you, and I’m definitely more cognizant of trying to do one thing at a time,” Bland said. “I think that multitasking is basically not possible. I think that people end up doing more things poorly rather than concentrating on one task a time.”

Timely feedback

Since Lehman College Art Gallery gives free tours of its exhibitions to students and the public, Bland and his team at the gallery have received an immediate positive response to the exhibit. It’s also a solid resource for Lehman students studying to get a master’s degree in art.

“I think having a lot of different kinds of material is helpful for the students who are actually at Lehman to see works they might not otherwise see,” Bland said. 

Bland took on the role of gallery director two years ago, and looking ahead to his future at Lehman, he hopes to continue the tradition of group thematic exhibitions that inspires students and the surrounding college community.

“Every time I give a tour, there’s a feeling of new insight that you don’t necessarily get even as the curator,” Bland said. “Even if you’ve been looking at the work for quite a while.

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