Art professor Jonathan Frey’s solo exhibition displayed at Samek Gallery

Caroline Buck, Contributing Writer

The University’s own Assistant Professor of Art and Art History Jonathan Frey is currently displaying his work in an exhibit entitled “Language and Other Games” at the Samek Art Museum’s Downtown Gallery. Frey’s solo exhibition, which includes pieces connected to both written and verbal communication as well as brain-teasers, opened on Feb. 19 and will be shown through May 19. His artwork revolves around his extensive research into the grid. In his artist statement for the show, Frey calls the grid “a literal symbol of order, which came to embody the Modernist ideologies of reason, purity, and perfection.”


“Language and Other Games” is composed of several pieces ranging from oil paint to collage. Each work of art is connected to language or a popular game, such as Minesweeper, Hangman, Trivial Pursuit, and more. Classic board games, like Twister and Parcheesi, fill the fireplace of the gallery and Operation hangs on one of the walls. The artwork is complex as it is, “playing with game and language structure (extensions of the grid) to consider various aspects of cultural and national identity,” Frey said.


“The games represent a system of sociocultural interaction, setting rules that are restrictive yet stabilizing, while language acts as a player within the system, revealing attitudes and ideally opening up dialogues concerning ideology, politics, globalization, prejudice, and apathy,” Frey’s artist statement reads.


While Frey usually works on two or three pieces of art at once, it typically takes him about a year to finish a piece. The first piece in the exhibition he worked on is “Whitewash,” a mixed-media piece based off the game Hangman, which aims to make a statement about police brutality in the United States. “Whitewash” features newspaper articles reporting on brutality and incorporates the names of many victims of police brutality.


The exhibit also includes three different Mad Libs based on tweets from President Donald Trump. This is an interactive aspect of the display, where visitors can write in their own answers on whiteboards, making their own mark on the exhibit.


“I like that there is an interactive part of the gallery with the Mad Lib style versions of Trump tweets because visitors can get involved in the art,” Samek Museum Guide Molly Horning ’19 said about the exhibit.


Frey has been developing this project for almost 10 years through his research of the grid and fascination with the motifs of language and games. “I have been working with the motifs of language and games for almost 10 years, but all the work in the show has been made since I started teaching at Bucknell, and this is my third year,” he said.


The Samek Gallery is located at 416 Market Street in Lewisburg and is free to all visitors. The gallery will host Frey’s “Language and Other Games” exhibit until May 19.

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