Smithsonian Institution features original artwork from GVSU professor

GVL / Courtesy - Tim Thayer
Global Cities

Tim Thayer

GVL / Courtesy – Tim Thayer “Global Cities”

Kate Branum

An exhibition currently on display in the Renwick Gallery at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C. features 15 original pieces of art created by Grand Valley State University art and design professor Norwood Viviano.

“Visions and Revisions: Renwick Invitational 2016” recognizes Viviano along with three other distinguished and noteworthy artists: Jennifer Crask, Steven Young Lee and Kristen Morgan.

“When the Renwick Gallery at the Smithsonian invites you to have an exhibition, that is a tremendous honor and that is a significant recognition of where you are as an artist in your career,” said Henry Matthews, GVSU director of galleries and collections.

Along with nine bronze work pieces borrowed from the GVSU gallery’s permanent collection, the Smithsonian has reserved space for Viviano’s main project, “Global Cities,” which was previously shown at the Grand Rapids Art Museum in November 2015. The exhibition opened Friday, Sept. 9.

Spanning 22 feet, “Global Cities” featuring a multitude of curvy, blue hand-blown glass sculptures hanging on transparent strings above vinyl-cut map of the world on two, large wooden plinths. The project focuses on 29 cities around the globe demonstrating dramatic population trends and migration patterns over a period of time. The length of the glass sculptures represent time–when each city was founded, and the changing widths of the sculptures represent the population at the city over the years. All of the sculptures line up at the year 2014, which was when Viviano began creating the project.

When choosing the cities he used for the exhibition, Viviano kept in mind each city’s economic connections and events that tied the cities together. Viviano began by researching one of the most important events in history that caused drastic population migrations– World War II. He also looked at the refugee crisis in America, a more current and contemporary event.

Before “Global Cities,” Viviano completed a project that looked at 24 cities in America, primarily focusing on the Midwest as well as a project that displayed specific cities in Michigan. He began researching population trends and attempted to understand relationships between cities on a regional level, which raised many questions Viviano was interested in exploring on a global level.

“I don’t really see myself as a historian or a statistician, but I think the work has encouraged me to have this kind of dialogue and challenge me to have this kind of dialogue,” Viviano said. “I learn a lot from (the research) and I enjoy the conversations I have with people outside of the field (of art) and those (conversations) have really opened up the way my work continues to grow.”

Viviano hopes “Global Cities” raises more questions than it answers when people first view it. The piece creates a hunt, encouraging viewers to find where they have been or where they are now in the world.

“I think people assume art is this sort of static experience. For me, within the work, I really want people to think about their own stories or to think about the current events that are going on today,” Viviano said.

Viviano’s exhibition will remain open until Sunday, Jan. 8, 2017.