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David Jacobs: Sight and Sound

By Shannon N. Alomar Columnist 


More than just an artist with impeccable taste and an authentic sense for creating beauty with minimal materials, David Jacobs has helped to cultivate a component of Hofstra’s culture.

Before 1963 art pieces could not be seen on campus grounds, but Jacobs had a vision to change all of that. Prior to him arriving at Hofstra, Jacobs taught at Ohio State University where he was able to implement the idea of placing outdoor sculptures on the campus to enhance its environment.

Although Jacobs teaching career at Hofstra ended nearly 19 years ago, he is still a significant member of the community. Emily Lowe Gallery wanted to showcase his artistic career through an exhibit, “David Jacobs: Sight and Sound.”

Karen T. Albert, associate director of exhibitions and collections at the museum, gave The Chronicle an inside look at the exhibit and the meaning behind the pieces that were greater than the eye could see, or could not see.

As soon as you enter the museum’s exhibition space, your eyes are immediately drawn to the buzzing rubber tubes with attached metal piping hanging from the ceiling. The piece is called the “Sound Column Environment,” and the sound that is created from the motor running inside of the columns, changes as you walk about the room.

“Ursula” is an assemblage piece, composed of different objects to create a two-dimensional or three-dimensional form. It was also placed on a low platform in order to be viewed in a certain way. I couldn’t figure out exactly what it was supposed to be, my brain wanted to call it a birdbath, a sewing machine or a person stuck under something heavy. That’s what I liked about it best. It could be whatever I wanted it to be.

As I stepped closer to view it, I created a shadow over “Ursula” and it became darker, obviously. It made me think of the way we as a society poke and prod things and get closer to them to gain a better understanding of them. But if we remain a step away, we can actually see the whole picture and gain more from it.

Albert explained that the inspiration for his art pieces with sound, such as this one, came from the nostalgic sound of vacuums he use to hear in his parent’s home as a boy and the various “noises” he would hear in a factory he previously worked in.

In addition to the sound element of his artwork, Jacobs is very interested in the using industrial materials and scrap parts to create a visual experience that is unique for the viewer.

“He is very conscience of space… with his works, he wants you to walk around it and become one with what you are viewing,” Albert said.

The other pieces from Jacobs’ collection that were chosen for this exhibit included: “Ursula,”


“Head Columns I, II Marquette,” “Sound Column Environment,” “Off the Wall,” “Star Wars V,” “Big Dipper,” and “Dream.” Albert made sure to mention that the pieces chosen are a perfect example of how the arts use scientific principles and technology to achieve an aesthetic vision.

“Big Dipper” was the standout piece of the exhibit. Jutting out from the wall were four large feather-like objects. Upon further inspection, I discovered they were actually made of aluminum. The scratched surface created a weathered, three-dimensional appearance. The way Jacobs incorporated shades of dark greenish-black tones to light grey centers made them appear soft and wispy. I wanted to reach out and touch them like people may want to reach out and touch the nighttime skies. The juxtaposition of hard metal fused with dainty air-like objects and noises from the “Sound Column Environment” created a sense of a warm sunny summer night even though I was inside.

“This exhibition provides a way for viewers to understand how the production of works of arts can merge with the problem-solving and analytical skills usually associated with science and technology,” Albert said.

If you are interested in seeing all of Jacobs’ work, be sure to stop by the Hofstra Museum before April 27.


Additional contributions by Elizabeth Merino


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