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Into the third dimension

BU Art Gallery exhibition blurs the boundaries between painting and sculpture

Sam Gilliam, Poster Turban, acrylic on cotton, 2001. Image courtesy of Marsha Mateyka Gallery, Washington, D.C.

From afar, Gina Ruggeri’s Rockpile looks like just that — a heap of stones. But close inspection reveals that the work is an incredibly realistic painting.

"What happens when painting departs from the modernist square canvas format and extends into the third dimension, the realm traditionally reserved for sculpture?" That question is posed in the catalog of the BU Art Gallery exhibition Resurfaced, which will run from Friday, September 9 through Saturday, October 30.

For the viewer, the answer is often another question: Is it painting or is it sculpture? Sam Gilliam and Katy Stone, for example, create abstract works that literally project from the wall. "Sam Gilliam considers himself a painter, but his works can also be classified as sculpture," says Joshua Buckno (GRS’05), who along with Stephanie Inagaki (CFA’05) is the exhibition’s curator. "His pieces have depth," Buckno says. "In the 1960s he started to explore the world beyond rectangular framed paintings and moved into the third dimension."

Gilliam, now 72, became part of the Process Art movement, which places emphasis on the process of making an art object — with the inherent properties of the materials used determining the final outcome of the form.

By redefining the painting surface and using such unconventional materials as Mylar, resin, and epoxy, the artists in Resurfaced work outside the box of the traditional framed painting. Although Gilliam began to explore the realm between painting and sculpture some 35 years ago, he wasn’t the first to expand the boundaries of the painting surface. Pablo Picasso, Robert Rauschenberg, Ellsworth Kelly, and other artists created hybrid forms, says Buckno, who earned a master’s degree in art history at BU last May and is codirector of the Nielsen Gallery in Boston.

Resurfaced also includes works by Sam Cady Jennifer Riley, Bill Thompson, and Roger Tibbetts.

The opening reception for Resurfaced will take place on Thursday, September 8, from 6 to 8 p.m. at the gallery at 855 Commonwealth Ave. and is free and open to the public. For more information, visit www.bu.edu/ART or call 617-353-4509.