UMOCA’s New Exhibitions Are an Abstract Artistic Revolution


Jack Gambassi

A display at the UMOCA in Salt Lake City on June 9, 2021. (Photo by Jack Gambassi | The Daily Utah Chronicle)

By Whit Fuller, Arts Writer


The Utah Museum of Contemporary Art celebrated the opening of three new exhibitions on Friday, June 4. The exhibitions were Jorge Rojas’ “Corn Mandala: Flower of Life,” Annelise Duque’s “Remember Them Alive” and Yujin Kang’s “Mountainous.”

Family and friends came to support these creatives, along with students and casual admirers of the fine arts. 

Abstracts and Atmospheres

Each of the exhibitions embodies a single concept in such a remarkable way. The artists turn abstractions of nature and emotion into concrete expressions that are a unique art form of their own. 

Rojas’ “Corn Mandala: Flower of Life” is the first exhibit that patrons see upon entering the museum. It depicts a mandala made from corn kernels of varying colors and varieties. These corn kernels are carefully displayed to invoke the idea of a sacred geometrical shape and combined with patterns rooted in Mexican tradition. This piece communicates the importance of culture and history, as well as mindfulness and a meditative way of life. 

Duque’s “Remember Them Alive” occupies an intimate gallery space to the right of the museum’s lower level. This space allows the emotional, generational and intimate natures of the piece to be examined and experienced by patrons on another level.  The piece is performative, centering the narrative of the young woman in the series of paintings and the women that came before her. Drawing on garden catalogs and personal history, Duque creates an ethereal blend of fabrication and reality that strikes the viewer.  

Kang’s “Mountainous” can be found in a gallery space toward the back far left of the lower level of the museum. Composed of several paintings featuring mountains of varying abstractions, Kang’s work is both abstract and somehow lucid. Featuring mountain ranges that are painted in various juxtapositions of abstract expression — from mountains made of crepe cake to slabs of meat — her work is sure to be striking and somehow familiar to those who’ve seen the Utah mountain ranges. 

An Ethereal Experience

UMOCA’s latest exhibition was a delight from beginning to end. 

Themes of meditation, culture, heritage, feminism, nature and the abstraction of ordinary objects into ethereal structures made the experience emotional, thought-provoking and intimate. 

I find myself particularly drawn to Rojas’ work and the representation of mindfulness through connecting to one’s culture and celebrating the spiritual connection between food across indigenous cultures that “Corn Mandala: Flower of Life” communicates to the viewer.

Each of the exhibits has stuck with me since viewing them during the exhibition’s opening. I find that each of them served as reminders of things often forgotten in our busy and hectic lives — stillness, connection, and reflection on those who came before us. The artists offer these intimate reflections with grace and masterful form. 

Overall, this exhibition has me excited to see what local Utah artists and creatives from abroad will contribute in the future. I am hopeful to see more art that contributes to a diverse and deeply connective experience within the contemporary genre.


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