Howardena Pindell, “Untitled,” 1967. 66 x 71 inches, Framed: 62 3/4 x 60 1/8 inches, Acrylic on canvas. Courtesy of the artist and Garth Greenan Gallery,New York

This spring, the Rose Art Museum is featuring the artwork of renowned modern artist Howardena Pindell. Her artwork is diverse both in media and in message. Most of her work can be described as abstract paintings inspired by personal events or societal moments during her life, though the exhibit does not limit itself to the paintings, including videos and collages. 

   “Untitled,” acrylic on canvas, jumped out at me in the exhibit. Unlike most of her  abstract pieces, it depicts a chillingly familiar image: a skeleton. But unlike most pictures we see of skeletons, it is not hanging or standing upright, nor is it peacefully resting horizontally. The viewer is looking at it from a jarring angle, almost as though from underneath, through the ribcage. The bright purple and orange pigments Pindell chose for this piece reminds me of the color palette of the pop art of the ’60s, from artists like Andy Warhol and Roy Lichtenstein. 

      A fixture of pop art was the depiction of mundane objects in vibrant colors and photorealistic detail. Instead of choosing a soap box or soup can to paint, Pindell depicted a skeleton, perhaps the most basic and mundane of all objects, despite our usual disdain for them — everyone has a skeleton, after all. Skulls and skeletons are typically used in art as “memento mori,” or reminder that we will all die one day. But I think in the context of the themes of racial tension in Pindell’s work, the skeleton is also a reminder that no matter our skin color or status, we all have the same bones underneath the way in which the world see us.

  This exhibit close on May 19, so if you got a chance to see it, consider yourself lucky to have had the chance to see a contemporary art giant’s works for free on our campus. If you are interested in her multimedia art, some of her video performance pieces can be found online.