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Popeye and Survival Kit Team Up for Turn Up II 

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Benji Diaz

With a roster that contains artists with some already impressive credentials, Turn Up II: Alma Mater Edition is a group exhibition featuring emerging artists from around the state of Ohio. With last year's focus on CIA grads, this year there are artists representing Kent, Akron, and Cleveland State University. Says Omid Tavakoli, director of PopEye Gallery/Survival Kit, "This is the direction we really want to go into, which is showing more emerging artists in this space to get their feet wet. It's a great opportunity to reach out to other universities to see what is being made in Ohio." This exhibition is a wonderful turnout of what is happening out there around our state.

Currently an Imaging Arts MFA candidate at the prestigious Rochester Institute of Technology, Yiyun Chen holds a BA in studio art photography from Cleveland State and a post-BA in fine art photography and video from Cleveland Institute of Art. Yiyun's photography presents an ethereal beauty in the awkwardness of his subjects. Yiyun has three portraits that grace the southwesterly wall. It is difficult not to contemplate who these people are.

Cleveland Institute of Art graduate Xyl Lasersohn dominates the north wall with a take on the relationship between painting and video games or puzzles. Reminiscent of the late artist Philip Guston, Kidney bean shapes, muted tones and blocks dominate these paintings. Lasersohn's artwork has us traveling throughout its surfaces as we try to solve the equations in front of us and successfully creating a situation where we cannot possibly unravel the answers.

Kit Palencar, hailing from University of Akron and a current MFA candidate at Kent State, uses painting and graphite on paper to exhibit portraits that dive into the psychological. They are almost disparitions under all the ghostly layers. As we turn the corner, we are confronted with Kathryn Shinko's piece "FACEB666K", which seems to be a commentary on the evils of social media.

"Kathryn's work is typically adult-heavy and deals with a lot of sexual ideas," says Tavakoli, "so I had to dig deep into her portfolio for something safe for this show." Shinko, who received her BFA from University of Akron and her MFA from Kent State, is a 2017 American Craft Council Emerging Voices Award nominee.

In Brittni Stump's wall installation we are privy to three, brightly colored woven pieces in a chaotic amalgam of different materials. Stump, who received her BFA in crafts with a concentration in textile arts from Kent State University, presents perhaps the most joyful of the work in this exhibition.

The two stand-outs in Turn Up II are artists Benji Diaz and Meg See. See presents a beautifully intertwined, sculptural ceramic installation in various flesh tones. They are piled high and visually stimulating, almost like a puzzle. A 2017 CIA graduate, See's artwork recalls the twisted turns of emotions brought physical. It is difficult to hold back from trying to rearrange the individual pieces as we contemplate the sculpture.

Diaz, who received his BA in graphics design at Cleveland State and has been twice awarded the Cleveland National Arts Prize's Adult Intermediate category, exhibits the most controversial work in this show. He employs pop cultural icons in his work with a wink and a twist. Wrinkled Teletubbies dominate the back wall along with portraits of Kermit the Frog and Gonzo, who seem to be holding a philosophical discussion about their respective existential crises. Probably the most revealing to this viewer was the diptych of Big Bird. Presented as a human/bird hybrid, our yellow and orange friend is crouched in his nest at the point of ecstasy in all its messy glory. All of Diaz's work in this show have high impact. He has also curated the last two Queer Arts shows during Cleveland Pride. His artwork is not to be missed, and certainly impossible to ignore.

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