Grunwald Gallery pulls together first-ever alumni show: ‘SoFA Revisited’

Think of it as an exercise in artistic asceticism.

Realizing he’s much more interested in the process he uses to create a sculpture installation than the actual end product, Indiana University Henry Radford Hope School of Fine Arts alumnus Derek Parker often practices what artists refer to as “limiting the palette” by vowing only to use a certain type of material or equipment when creating a work.

One such effort by Parker is on display now at the school’s Grunwald Gallery as part of the “SoFA Revisited” exhibition by alumni. The free exhibition is on display until Feb. 6.

Parker’s installation features myriad office supplies culled from the IU Surplus Store, but Parker admitted his thoughts about careful limitation were nearly ruined by the sheer range of offerings at the surplus store.

Derek Parker

Derek Parker’s installation is on display at the Grunwald Gallery through Feb. 6.

“It very nearly backfired because there was so much cool stuff there,” he said with a chuckle. “And once the guys there understood what I was doing, they were almost too helpful. If I took this installation down and did it again in a month, I have enough to do it completely different.”

The installation — created from dozens of phones, filing cabinets and computers — isn’t meant to be a commentary on technology or recycling, Parker said, or even on today’s overwhelming possibilities for communication. Rather, his idea was simply about using those items to create an eye-pleasing tableau.

The exhibition of alumni work is the first in the gallery’s history, and artists were nominated by faculty in their area based on the quality of their work and accomplishments after graduation. The School of Fine Arts is part of the College of Arts and Sciences.

“The alumni show presents a wonderful opportunity to incorporate the knowledge and experiences of former students into the ongoing conversation about art at IU,” assistant professor of fine arts Rowland Ricketts said. “At the same time, the work of these highly regarded alumni serves as a valuable model for our current students as they look to continue engaging the world through art post-graduation.”

Parker, who graduated from the School of Fine Art’s MFA sculpture program in 2009 and now works as an art fabricator for the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art, agreed with Ricketts’ assessment.

“It was a great experience to be able to come back,” he said. “As a student, to be able to see someone who was just out of school for a few years to come back and talk about their work would’ve been invaluable. And I have a huge sense of pride that my opinion or my advice, however limited, was useful.”

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