June 10, 2009 · 0 Comments
Here are some pictures of work we liked in the graduating student shows. We spent some time with and interviewed some of these graduates but mostly our observations are from seeing the works in the shows. Look for some of these artists to pop up around town because we know some of them are staying around and for sure they’re going to hook up with some alternative spaces and get themselves shown.
PAFA BFA/Certificate — Jessica Herzfeld’s giveaway of a hand-colored zerox cartoon (click to read the limerick) was a high point in a show that could have used more energy and wildness.
PAFA BFA/Certificate — We paid Itsuki Ogihara a visit at her PAFA studio last January and the Japanese artist impressed with her street performance piece (she had used a stencil of cars and trucks in a line to create a pattern on the grimy walls under the Market St. bridge. What she did was wash the walls through the stencils creating a whitish pattern of cars and trucks on the very dark walls). A mural by subtraction, we thought–how clever! Mural Arts should hire her. Ogihara’s a materials girl and her piece in the PAFA show was a nice stencil of joint compound on two book-ended walls that was a stealth charmer. It reminded us of Islamic grid patterns and because it was white on white and book-like, it referenced books with exquisite content like the Koran, the Bible, or illuminated manuscripts.
Penn BFA show — Manya Scheps met us at her show to step us through her imaginary creation, the Poached Pack. PP is a fictitious collective. The young artist, who belongs to PP is also a PIFAS collective member (a real collective) and she told us she’s not poking fun but studying the phenomenon of young artists hanging out, doing stuff like organizing shows, having openings, making zines. For her piece, Scheps aka PP organized a real group show of Philadelphia artists. She also produced a book/zine about the PP, a website for them and a video with a faux interview of one of the members. The art show within the art show was actually pretty good and the whole thing is a pretty perfect project for the times.
Penn BFA show — Nicholas Salvatore’s self portrait piece– an array of me-me-me videos around a dentist’s chair — plays with the pleasure, torture and mania of self-revelation in our digital age.
Penn MFA show — Cecelia Post’s videos are dreamy explorations about the self in the world. Above she is sewing what looks to be a life-sized doll that sits on her body and becomes one with her, in effect creating a new self. Her other video of a possum and baby possum rummaging for food at night captivated not only for its color and its nocturanal voyeurism but also for its evocation of mothers and offspring in general (we speak here as mothers with offspring).
Penn MFA show — Kurt Freyer’s video mixes psychedelia, surrealism, and dream narrative about “Them” and “Us” for something spooky, riveting in parts, and peculiarly wonderful. The crude shed he built to watch the piece in was a claustrophobia chamber that went very well with the paranoia on the screen.
Penn MFA show–Posing as a variety of societal rejects and otherwise forlorn or beset characters, Nicolas McMahon stars in his own videos and photos. It’s not a pretty picture. He undercuts the stereotypes we see daily in the media–the poor emphysema victim, the sexy phone-sex purveyor. We gave McMahon a shout-out for outstanding work a year ago, (in the small student photography show accompanying the Through You exhibit at Penn), and we’re still shouting.
Penn MFA show–Elizabeth Hoy’s decaying wall is the metaphor for the whole world and the people in it going to hell in a hand basket. Creaky, crumbly, rickety, leaky, slapdash and makeshift, it looks like urban survivalism to us. Move over. We need to get under that shed, too.
Moore BFA show–The big news at Moore is video. Of the two that knocked our socks off, one comes out of the new photography and digital arts department, which is graduating its first group of students. The other, from Angel O, comes out of 2-D fine arts. In Angel O’s Adam: 19 years in utero, the artist plays all the roles, from the baby to the mom to the father, and each of them is horrifying at some level. The scenario of permanent pregnancy and permanent fetal dependency seems perfect for this day of the real-life OctaMom.
Moore BFA show–Megan Jensen’s video, I Live Here, from the photography and digi arts program, uses digi wizardry to cast a loving, yet skeptical, eye on home and on the suburbs, with pop-up hills and dales and houses and signs. The video hits its stride immediately after the first few interior scenes. We get a terrific sense of space and rhythm as we tour the real and the not-so-real Our Town — the ideal delivered with some gentle, questioning commentary. You can catch it here on YouTube.
Moore BFA show–Kelsey Costello (image in introductory post), using humble, low-tech clay and paint, imbues buildings with warm feelings for places from her past. The yearning for a remembered place is palpable.
All three of these Moore artists made us think of the rush of college students returning home instead of setting out on their own, thanks to a shaky economy and a really scary world out there.
Tyler MFA show — Mike Trefehn’s installation looked like something out of a small historical society museum. The artist is mining his family, studying the town his German grandparents settled in and in one case literally walking the perimeter of the town to feel it in his bones. Part performance, part narrative about immigration, work, social class, and all rumination about his own place in the world, Trefehn’s piece actually transforms the currently rampant phenomenon of navel-gazing into something serious and forward-moving.
Tyler MFA — Nick Barbee charmed us with his painted clay figurines that were cruder than kitsch gift shop souvenirs but treading on the same nostalgia for history territory. Barbee’s questioning what heroism is really all about and like Trefehn, Barbee is mining his own past. He’s a Virginia native and all the material in his show was about Virginia. The artist inserted himself into the tabletop arrays of Pochahantas, Gen. Robert E. Lee, John Smith, Mr. Bojangles, Arthur Ashe and the rest by placing painted rainbows, lumpy white clouds and images of himself throughout. He explained that he’s always loved rainbows and clouds and that as a Virginian, he belonged on the table too. Like we say, charming.
Tyler MFA — Erin Riley, whose BFA is from Mass Art, emailed us in early winter to tell us about her work–hand-woven tapestries of cars and car crashes. We looked, we liked and we scheduled a studio visit. We loved the costumed little girl in front of her family car–a childhood that Riley’s own childhood didn’t quite measure up to: “A lot of people died in drunk driving accidents in my life. …I always joke if I don’t make it, I could always sleep in my work, or use it to stay warm. I’ll be fine.”
University of Delaware MFA — James Zeske, in his Nomad installation, crocheted strips and strung them vertically to frame the walls of his temporary campsite, and he recycled molded styrofoam packing material to deliver a touch of home– niches hung on the wall. The shifts in scale and materials are surprising–a trophy deer head sculpture (I’m not sure if it was plaster or styrofoam) is miniature and unabashedly crude. A sentimental figurine looks store-bought, but the music come out of the fiddle is a small abstract sculpture of lightening-bolt-like pieces. (It’s not easy for an MFA program in Delaware to catch someone’s eye. But here it is, at the Crane, shouldering its way in. This alone is worthy of notice). If Elizabeth Hoy and Penn are urban survivalism, Zesko and Delaware are her deep-woods counterpart.
Tags: angel o, cecelia post, elizabeth hoy, erin riley, itsuki ogihara, james zeske, jessica herzfeld, kurt freyer, manya scheps, mike trefehn, moore college, nick barbee, nicolas mcmahon, nocholas salvatore, pafa student show, penn mfa, tyler mfa show, university of delaware mfa