Roski Senior launched solo exhibition, ‘Body and Soul’

Brian Xu standing next to a two abstract sculptures of human heads.
Roski multimedia artist Brian Xu amazed viewers with his interesting and thought provoking creations during his recent exhibition, “Body and Soul.” (Photo courtesy of Brian Xu)

Black and white long exposure photographs, various forms of sculptures, garments and a painting lined the walls of Brian Xu’s first solo exhibition, “Body and Soul.” The exhibition had its opening reception at the Helen Lindhurst Gallery at Watt Hall on Feb. 2 and was on view at the gallery until Wednesday. The high-quality archival prints being exhibited can be purchased after the show.

Hailing from an oceanside town Half Moon Bay, Xu, a senior majoring in fine arts, has always had an interest in art. 

“I guess I have always been doing art in some senses, even when I was young. I started getting more serious about it in high school and ended up going to college studying [fine arts],” Xu said. 

Prior to launching his first solo exhibition at USC, Xu had a pop-up exhibition at a small restaurant in his hometown. “Body and Soul” embodies the multimedium concepts which Xu tried to investigate and develop in college. 

Hanging on the gallery walls were Xu’s photographic works, capturing the movement of models in specially designed garments.

The long exposure techniques blurred the distinct outlines of the human bodies, creating a formless yet dynamic visual experience for the audience. Xu said that the special part of the show is the abstraction of the human body. 

“Some of the shapes that you see — these long exposure silhouettes — these are actually the same humans,” Xu said. “[By incorporating] garments and more time and more movements into them, they almost take on a sort of alien form or an alien shape.”

Xu said that he came up with the theme of his exhibition because he sees the soul as the intangible part of each individual. The body, on the other hand, is the pathway through which people see their souls. The human body, in conjunction with time and movement, enables people to see the wisps of part of their identities.

“Every person has a unique way of moving,” Xu said. “Most of the time, these subtle differences go overlooked or unnoticed … To tap into the body as a material of art helps people to tap into the rudimentary essence of humanity.”

Aside from being a skillful photographer, Xu is also an exceptional painter, sculptor and garment designer and incorporated various forms of media to convey his thoughts on “Body and Soul.” These creations, along with the photographic works, brought inspiring and innovative experiences for the audience. 

Isaiah Reyes, a sophomore majoring in applied and computational mathematics, served as a model for the photos. Models wore garments with “black bean bags” sewn onto them, which he quickly realized aided the visual distortions of the figures in the photographs.  

“Looking at the pictures of how they are all distorted represents the separation from body and soul, and how the soul represents the more distorted pictures in the body,” Reyes said. “How the lines are blurred between body and soul was a very interesting concept that I got from it.” 

The collaboration of the garment and long exposure photography also brought an unexpected visual beauty to the audience. Each garment was intricate and necessarily different for Xu. 

“They were sort of inspired by the blobs, like a sort of psychological trauma in a sense,” Xu said. “I wanted to see how the body can be weighed down by these malignant blobs that can plague us.”

Chika Ojukwu, a sophomore majoring in cognitive science, attended the exhibition after seeing flyers on campus. Ojukwu also expressed her fascination with the garments and the painting that Xu created. 

“Something that I have never seen in an exhibition before was how he handled costumes from the ceilings,” Ojukwu said. “It was so cool to see the difference between the lifeless clothes themselves compared to the photographs.” 

Another piece that left a deep impression on Ojukwu was Xu’s flesh and bone painting, with a dark blue backdrop and bright colors. Ojukwu said she enjoyed seeing the colors and contrast between the hardlines of the bone and the flesh and the contrast between the painting and the black and white photos.

The exhibition gave Ojukwu an introspective feeling and drew a connection between what she sees and how she feels about herself. 

“Through going through this exhibition … the white walls, the silence of the bigger room and like everything’s at opposite ends, it just kind of felt like I was in this huge space where I had the kind of space to actually think about my own body and soul,” she said.

Xu’s unique perspective and creation of multimedium arts have drawn appreciation from his audience. Xu attributed his interdisciplinary perspective to his years of study at the Roski School of Art and Design. 

“There is not a specific focus on one medium that you have to master throughout your whole, you know, [throughout] the course of time,” Xu said. “I think that the interdisciplinary approach of Roski has helped develop a unique sense of creativity.”

Xu said he intends to continue creating art and showcasing his work in additional exhibitions in the future.  

“I guess one idea that I have is I want to continue building off of these silhouettes, shapes and forms that are formed from long exposure movements,” Xu said. “Thinking about the different mediums, both physical and digital, that the long exposure infused human captures can take could be interesting as further development.”