Revisiting the events of 2020 might seem like an act of regression. But what if experiencing them in paint and pencil, metal and celluloid, offered a new path to closure?
“The End/2020,” opening today online and in the UMD Architecture Building’s Linear Gallery, captures the events and feelings of 2020 as interpreted by 15 student and local artists. Comprising sculpture, photography, installations, sketches and paintings, the exhibition evokes the familiar feelings of emptiness, empowerment and exhaustion synonymous with the past 12 months. But it aims to offer both catharsis and connection, says exhibit director Augusto Iglesias ’22.
“Initially I wanted it to represent the year 2020 as a way of concentrating all of its events into one space,” said Iglesias, an architecture major. “But as the exhibition developed, I realized it was more of a space of sharing, gathering and reflecting, particularly after seeing the artists’ experience interpreted through their pieces.”
Showing “The End” in MAPP’s Linear Gallery feels apropos: a long, narrow space tucked into the brutalist interior of the building, Iglesias and his team accentuated the gallery’s architecture with structures to amplify a sense of tension, isolation and confinement.
“Architecture is very expressive, it’s imposing,” he said. “It’s in your face at times even when you don’t realize it. So, I think when you design an exhibit, those principles can be used to shape the user experience in really powerful ways.”
Stitched together across three themes—"Compress,” “Suppress” and “Express”—the pieces depict events from 2020 that resonated with each artist, from the fear surrounding COVID-19 and disinformation to the Black Lives Matter movement and white supremacy. Accompanying each piece is a first-person narrative by the artist that discusses the event that inspired their work. A photo series invokes the surreal feelings of working from home. A painting encapsulates the raw anguish of police violence against black people. Another photo shows a beautifully-dressed Black couple, the man in a formal jacket and mask, the woman in a yellow, flowing dress, walking past a “No Justice, No Peace” mural on a lonely city street.
Studio art major Milan Warner ’22 hopes her piece conveys the loneliness she felt during the statewide lockdown, which confined her for months in her apartment. Ironically, she had completed the sculpture, called “The Child” in February 2020, just weeks before the pandemic shutdown. When she heard about the call for entries last fall, it was serendipity.
“Apparently life does imitate art,” she said. “With most of my work, my goal is to create a feeling, to communicate something that is inexplicable—like a feeling of loneliness—and that was certainly my primary experience for the year.”
“The End,” Iglesias says, is just the beginning. Sharpies and notecards scattered through the exhibit encourage visitors to add their own 2020 experience, a way of crowdsourcing the impact of an unprecedented, volatile year. Online visitors will be able to share their thoughts through Instagram.
Together, he hopes the exhibit offers a collective voice—for the artists, but also for visitors—and possibly, a renewed hope.
“Much of what we endured in 2020 is still ongoing,” says Iglesias. It’s going to continue to be hard and have long-lasting effects on a lot of people. But I hope this gives people a little bit of peace and to let them know they aren’t alone.”
"The End/2020" is on view at the Architecture Building's Linear Gallery (following the university's COVID-19 safety guidelines) and online at go.umd.edu/TheEnd2020.