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‘Material Matters’ series launches with industrial artwork

Pennsylvania’s industrial and manufacturing history will be explored through art and art materials with Pennsylvania College of Technology’s unique series, “Material Matters: Past, Present, Future.” Offering exhibits, artist residencies, workshops and other programming, the series opens with an exhibition of industrial sculptures and paintings by Pittsburgh native Jeff Repko.

Repko’s “In Proximity,” on display Oct. 23 to Dec. 11 in The Gallery at Penn College, includes a public reception Thursday, Nov. 7, from 4:30 to 6:30 p.m. with an artist’s talk at 5:30 p.m. The reception coincides with Repko’s artist residency, featuring four workshops.

A detail of “Endless Waltz: Crescendo” (acrylic, paint and wood, 3 feet by 3 feet by 6 feet), which is among the industrial artwork on display in Jeff Repko’s “In Proximity” exhibit at The Gallery at Penn College through Dec. 11
A detail of “Endless Waltz: Crescendo” (acrylic, paint and wood, 3 feet by 3 feet by 6 feet), which is among the industrial artwork on display in Jeff Repko’s “In Proximity” exhibit at The Gallery at Penn College through Dec. 11

On Wednesday, Nov. 6, Repko will facilitate “Bridging the Gaps for Military Veterans” from 9 to 11 a.m. and “Bridging the Gaps,” for the general public, from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. At both workshops, the artist will discuss Pennsylvania’s changing industries, history of innovation and how they relate to his work. Workshop participants will be invited to engage in conversation and an art activity (no experience necessary) that bridges the past, present and future.

On Thursday, Nov. 7, from noon to 4 p.m., Repko will lead “Digital Doorways for K-12 Art Educators,” followed by “Digital Practices for College Students” on Friday, Nov. 8, from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. The workshops will explore the effect of new digital fabrication tools on contemporary studio practices, with the artist sharing how he integrates various techniques into his practice. Through a live demo, participants will examine the benefits of modern tools like the laser cutter, computer numerical control (CNC) router and software programs.

Registration is required for the workshops and can be made via the gallery website or by calling 570-320-2445.

The exhibit, reception and workshops are free and open to the public.

The “Material Matters” project is the brainchild of Penny Griffin Lutz, director of The Gallery at Penn College.

“Many materials have been important to Pennsylvania’s history,” Lutz said. “This series is meant to feature artwork made from steel, lumber, textiles, glass or, to take it a step further, materials from the present day, like plastics or cement. The public component of ‘Material Matters’ was prompted by outreach efforts the gallery organized in recent years. The positive comments, the connections and the sense of community realized during workshops and events confirmed that  hands-on art experiences are important.”

As the first artist in the “Material Matters” series, Repko will showcase his work, exploring notions of industry and the stories he heard growing up in Pittsburgh. Born after deindustrialization, the artist never truly experienced the industrial era of his home city, so he feels both a distance and a closeness to the topic. His work is a personal attempt to experience and create the physical objects, optimism and a sense of community.

Repko's "Fibonacci" (acrylic, paint and wood, 48 inches by 12 inches)
Repko’s “Fibonacci” (acrylic, paint and wood, 48 inches by 12 inches)

Time, technology and color have become a lens distorting Repko’s work. His practice evokes a sense of serious play as his sculptures and paintings use color to reinvigorate and turn analog tools and machinery into playful, toy-like assemblages. The works exist in digital and physical space, juxtaposing the boundless possibilities of a synthetic world in the limitations of a physical presence. Through the forms’ implied potential and the colors’ inherent optimism, he asks viewers to envision possibilities.

Repko received his Master of Fine Arts in sculpture from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and his Bachelor of Fine Arts from Penn State. He is an assistant professor of sculpture at the University of North Georgia. His work has been shown nationally in gallery and public art environments.

"Megas" (acrylic, paint and wood, 45 inches by 24 inches)
“Megas” (acrylic, paint and wood, 45 inches by 24 inches)

The “Material Matters” series will include two additional short-term artist residencies over the next two years and is supported, in part, by the National Endowment for the Arts.

The Gallery at Penn College serves as an educational resource for Penn College students and a cultural asset to the college and community. Located on the third floor of the Madigan Library, the gallery is dedicated to promoting art appreciation through exhibitions of contemporary art.

The Gallery at Penn College is open Tuesdays and Thursdays, 2 to 7 p.m.; Wednesdays and Fridays, 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.; and Sundays, 1 to 4 p.m. It is closed on Mondays and Saturdays.

For information about exhibits, hours and additional offerings, visit the gallery website.

For more about Penn College, a national leader in applied technology education, email the Admissions Office or call 800-367-9222.

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