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Monday, June 24, 2024

Project Europa provides political, thought provoking art

The once-white walls of a 3,000-square-foot room at The Samuel P. Harn Museum of Art are now covered in black marker scrawl.

Project Europa: Imagining the (Im)Possible, which opened on Sunday, features 20 artists, including Romanian artist Dan Perjovschi, who drew cartoons in black marker on the walls of the museum’s rotunda. The cartoons include subjects ranging from religious issues to Perjovschi’s life. Gainesville staples like UF, alligators and Tim Tebow also appear on the walls.

Perjovschi is the only artist of Project Europa who was asked to include the United States in his work, said Kerry Oilver-Smith, curator and creator of Project Europa.

The 20 artists featured in the exhibition, most of whom are of dual nationalities, use art to question the promise and potential of Europe’s democratic dream, Oliver Smith said.

“The exhibition focuses primarily on democracy and how it has manifested after the fall of the Berlin Wall,” Oliver-Smith said.

Although the works are critical of Europe and show the barriers and impasses of achieving democracy and peace, she said they are full of hope and optimism. The pieces include large-scale wall paintings, photography, and video that deal with issues from war to religion.

The art of Project Europa includes the overlapping themes of Past/Present, Borderlines, Market, War and Future.

One display in the exhibition showcases seven photographs from German artist Eva Leitolf’s collection “Looking for Evidence.”

“At first glance, they each look like attractive locations that are benign,” said Oliver-Smith. “But at each of these locations, a hate crime occurred.”

On the floor next to the display, stacks of papers that chronicle the crimes are available for viewers to read while looking at the photographs.

Project Europa also features a first-time aspect for the Harn: Viewers will be able to take a cell phone tour through the exhibition.

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At each display, a local number will be available for visitors to call for free and hear Oliver-Smith and the artists talk about the works, said Harn spokeswoman Tami Wroath.

Wroath said viewers will also be able to leave comments after listening.

Oliver-Smith, who organized the exhibition from start to finish, said she has been intently working on it for over two years.

For Project Europa, Oliver-Smith wanted art that not only pertained to issues in Europe but that also mirrored those of the United States.

“Through this variety of media, we can look at the democracy in Europe and see how we can renew it ourselves,” she said.

The exhibition is funded by the prestigious  Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, UF institutions and international donors.

Project Europa will last through May 9. Admission is free.

 A symposium will be held April 10. from 9 a.m. to 5:30 p.m, guests will hear from professors, editors and curators from around the world speak on art and democracy.

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