Owsley Museum Kicks Off Spring Semester With Global Contemporary Art Exhibition

Jongil Ma, The Shifting: Loving, 2017Jongil Ma, The Shifting: Loving, 2017

By: Gail Werner—

MUNCIE, Ind. — A major exhibition of global contemporary art featuring the work of three international artists opened this month at Ball State’s David Owsley Museum of Art.

“SHIFT: Jongil Ma, Christopher Smith, Corban Walker,” explores how people see and experience space and time as well as physical and emotional realities. The exhibit runs through May 7, with music, lectures, and special events throughout the semester.

Guest curator Lisa Banner, an art historian and visiting professor at the Brooklyn-based Pratt Institute, spent 15 months preparing for the exhibition. That included multiple trips to Muncie and learning about the university’s ties to the Ball family’s glass-manufacturing business.

“I wanted to bring in contemporary sculptures created by artists whose work in mediums like glass and Plexiglas would pay homage to the heritage of this university,” said Banner, who has curated exhibitions for The Frick Collection in New York and assisted with exhibitions at the Museo del Prado, Spain’s national art museum, and Boston’s Museum of Fine Art. She curates a series of exhibitions at the Institute of Fine Arts, also in New York.

The three artists selected for SHIFT —South Korean-born Ma, New York-born Smith and Irish-born Walker — work in color with glass, Plexiglas, video, paint and wood, offering displays of conceptual sculpture that express a mosaic of thoughts, emotions and new perspectives.

Cutting In, 2011 Christopher Smith, video

Cutting In, 2011 Christopher Smith, video

For instance, Walker, who was born with achondroplasia, the major form of dwarfism, works within a scale measurable to his 4-foot-tall frame. “He creates sculptures in relation to his own proportions, challenging the viewer to see the world in relationship to the body and the physical dimension or limitation that imposes upon us,” said the museum’s director, Robert La France.

Walker represented Ireland at the Venice Biennale in 2011, and is showing several unusual works in glass at the Owsley museum. Two large acrylic sculptures in the central exhibition space were assembled with the assistance of Ball State students.

In the days leading up to the exhibition’s opening, Smith, whose style of drip painting evokes Jackson Pollock, created one of his exhibit works, “Pink Panther,” on-site at the museum. “I enjoy the process of making art,” said Smith, who invited members of the Ball State community to help him, “and that includes involving others in what I’m doing.”

Ma, who created two works on-site in the museum from his series “The Shifting,” uses multiple layers of color and structure to create works that he interprets as “paintings in wood.” One of these is on loan to the museum from the Bum Jo Shin collection in New York.

Upcoming events at the museum related to the exhibition include:


  • Music in the Museum, 6 p.m. Feb. 3 — SHIFTing Rhythm, Emerging Sounds: Jazz pianist Jim Rhinehart from the School of Music explores the exhibition with musical improvisations.


  • First Person: Corban Walker, 6 p.m. Feb. 23 — Walker discusses his contributions to the SHIFT exhibition, illustrating his signature installations and drawings that confront common notions of scale and substance.


  • First Person: Jongil Ma and Christopher Smith, 6 p.m. April 20 — In this joint presentation, moderated by SHIFT’s curator, Lisa Banner, Ma and Smith explain their abstract sculpture with images and a short film about their work in locations as diverse as Poland, South Korea and New York.


For more information about the exhibition and the art museum, visit bsu.edu/artmuseum.