Samuel Rowlett ‘02 Steps Up


PNCA General Fine Arts alumnus Samuel Rowlett '02 carries on his large-scale installations with a solo show as part of STEP UP 2011 in Hartford, Connecticut.

PNCA Alumnus Samuel Rowlett ’02 was awarded a solo show at Real Art Ways as part of STEP UP 2011, a series of up to six solo exhibitions that feature esteemed emerging artists living in New York, New Jersey and New England. The forthcoming solo show will open in June 2012.

“I’ll need all the time to prepare I can get, too, I have 2000 square feet of gallery to fill!” Rowlett writes. “I’m going big with, among other works, a tree fort built into the ceiling and a homemade canoe that I am going to paddle down the Connecticut River from Northampton, MA to Hartford, CT, documenting the journey along the way. The idea is to have my show at Real Art Ways operate like a large 3D walk-in sketchbook. [It will be] a hybrid between sketch and finished piece, exploring potentiality and the tangential nature of thought processes.”

Rowlett’s recent drawings, paintings and large-scale installations are focused around ideas of memory, childhood and peer-induced mythology. He describes his own work as “vaguely autobiographical and partly invented history… they are projections of a kind of childhood of the collective unconscious.”


Samuel Rowlett, Nocturne (perhaps), 2011. Image courtesy the artist.

His 2011 installation, Nocturne (perhaps), combines cut paper, tape, ink, looped video and sound, a projector and fluorescent light and explores “ideas of wilderness, simulacra, memory and the ephemera of twilight. The looped video footage documents seams between civilization and nature: a broken dam, a forested road, a child’s planetarium nightlight… over-dubbed with ‘relaxing nature sounds’ from a white noise machine.” Shadows and silhouettes projected on the wall, which move in response to drafts and to viewer’s movements, form a “dark doppelganger of luminous movements,” a visual incarnation of the “mytho-psychological space” of childhood.


Samuel Rowlett, Nocturne (perhaps) (detail), 2011. Image courtesy the artist.

He recently collaborated with 15 high school students on The Known Universe at “TEENSPACE,” a project of Kidspace at MASS MoCA. Together, Rowlett and the teens took sketches produced over a month’s worth of workshops, blew them up and projected them onto walls, transforming the private nature of a sketchbook into a public conversation.

“I had charged them with the task of mapping their own universes,” Rowlett explains.

Born in Leicester, England, and raised in Vermont, Rowlett earned his BFA in General Fine Arts in 2002 from PNCA. He then went on to earn an MFA in Painting from the Cranbrook Academy of Art. His work has been exhibited at The Yale School of Art Gallery in New Haven, Connecticut, and The Art Gym at Marylhurst University, among others. This past spring he was selected for an artist teaching residency and exhibition at the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art (MASS MoCA) in North Adams, Massachusetts.


Samuel Rowlett, Honor System, 2011. Image courtesy the artist.

Rowlett’s most recent piece is currently installed at Oxbow Gallery in Northampton, Massachusetts. Honor System is collaborative, inviting viewers to sit at the desk and add their touch to Rowlett’s unfinished drawings. Viewers are then invited to put now-finished drawings up for sale on the pedestal at which point patrons are urged to pay what they think the drawing is worth, putting money in the envelope.

Rowlett elaborates, “It’s a bit of a riff off ‘exquisite corpse,’ exploring collaboration, commodification, commerce and trust.”

About Step Up

The STEP UP exhibition series seeks to provide emerging artists in the New York, New Jersey and New England region with an exhibition and publication opportunity at a critical moment in their careers. While artists are permitted to propose the exhibition of existing work, the jury places special emphasis on proposals that call for the creation of new work.

The jury selects work based on the quality of the artist’s work, the innovation evidenced by the submitted work and proposal, the potential impact of the exhibition on the artist’s career and the economic and physical feasibility of the proposed exhibition.

Real Art Ways, one of the leading innovative contemporary arts organizations in the country, hosts the series.

by Kate Van Brocklin and Killeen Hanson '12

— Posted on 08/15 at 01:13 PM

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