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5 into 1 and Nexus Selects–juried senior shows


Katie Elia
detail of I and I by Katie Elia, University of the Arts

Only two juried shows of works by graduating seniors from the five big local art schools went up this year–5 into 1 and Nexus Selects. The year after, The Day After, the senior exhibit at Slought Foundation, is no more. And no sequel to Voxumenta or the Voxennial is on the horizon (KO’d perhaps by Vox’s moving blues).

Both shows draw from graduates of local art schools, with the Philadelphia Sculptors-organized “Five Into One” focused on sculpture. Nexus Selects takes a more multi-disciplinary approach, with photography, video and sculpture dominating.

At 5 into 1, which includes work by 15 artists, a number of pieces were focused on the human body. OK, OK, so that’s an art world given. But I’m talking about bodies that are quite literal, classical in their shape-making.

My girl and boy favorites in this category go to Katie Elia and Eoin Burke, both of University of the Arts.

Elia’s pair of females in her piece I and I are idealized female forms dressed in materials that undercut and emphasize the idealization. There’s a reference here to the classical draperies on the Venus de Milo, and also to fashion, in the handkerchief skirt bottoms of both the screening form and the wooly form. But screening is not exactly lovely to the touch. And the wooliness suggests a furry quality that is the antithesis of fashion.

Eoin Burke
Eoin Burke, Egypt Violet (on left), Taureg Figure (right), UArts

Burke’s classical male figures, also represent an idealized beauty that includes Greek gods and their hieratic forebears. But the surprising violet of Egypt and the carbon-colored Taureg Figure announce color as a preoccupation–color in the art sense (especially Yves Klein) and color in the societal sense of race. The tension in their postures and their exposure expresses a vulnerability that stands in contrast to Elia’s dressed-to-the-nines perfect dames. It’s the gals who are the tougher crew.

Libby Peter
Libby Peter, Untitled, University of Pennsylvania

I admired Elizabeth Peter’s pieces in the Penn MFA show, and these too charmed me–three birds roosted on fuses emerging from the wall. Nature, ecology and kitsch meet in a simple, clear gesture.

Melissa Shirk
Melissa Shirk, detail, one of 50 cracked bits of animal kitsch, arranged in a grid of little shelves. Untitled, Moore College

A wall installation of 50 broken and partially reconstructed kitsch animal figurines, each mounted in a grid on its own little shelf, by Melissa Shirk of Moore College, covers similar issues to Peter’s. But she adds iconoclasm and memories into the mix along with endangered nature. I liked the elegance and simplicity of the grid installation.

Roni De Falco
Roni De Falco, Fabric of Ideals, Moore College

I liked the relentless frou-frou of Roni De Falco’s Fabric of Ideals. It went from the floor to the high ceiling, with flounces at the base. It reminded me at once of Christ on the Cross with the draped saints gathered below looking up in awe. I liked the sewn-in boxed grid–a sort of fabric building tower–which cut through the frilliness. I also liked the way the fabric’s transparency blurred the edges. This was a bold piece made of unlikely materials used in unlikely ways.

Megan Bartley Matthews
Megan Bartley Matthews, The Power Crystal, detail, Tyler

I also have to shout out to our ex-student from Tyler, Megan Bartley Matthews, who tried to combine sculpture with painting. The sculptured rocks with their fluorescent paint drips and the matching leaning plant are great. The painting is all Nature’s Grandeur with a loose touch and a magical glow. The shift from two dimensions to three almost worked except for the shift in tone from serious to funny.

The exhibit in the Wilson Lobby at Moore College of Art and Design, runs through tomorrow. It was juried by Lucartha Kohler and Paul Hubbard. Overall, it was a little more conservative than in years past, and that seems to me to be the case overall this year for work by graduating seniors.

Nexus Gallery’s second annual juried exhibition of recently graduated art school seniors opened June 2nd and runs through June 25th.

Everything is Probable, but Jong Kyu Kim
Everything is Probable, but Jong Kyu Kim

For sheer improbability, I have to put in a vote for Jong Kyu Kim’s Everything is Probable, a sort of four-poster bed in which the sheet above shows a projected image of a superhero, blown by a fan. The piece breaks my heart for its full-throttle hopefulness.

Penelope Reichley
Penelope Reichley, Dolly Pardon: Jolene, music video

I also want to mention Penelope Reichley’s funny videos, Dolly Pardon: Jolene, a really really bad fan/karaoke/appropriation music video satire; Fuck Slut (a montage from found footage); and Cat Fight, a stop animation film. They went on too long, only exaggerating and repeating the initial idea, but they still had a mesmerizing quality.

The only hint of a country at war was in Iraq paintings based on news photographs. The work–a grid of 16 small, predominantly red paintings called Iraq on IPod–is by Raphael Fenton-Spaid, the offspring of artists Susan Fenton (she’s now got a show up at SchmidtDean) and Larry Spaid. Let’s face it, the environment is not the only issue out there. Props for his lack of self-absorption and props for the passion!!

Again, this show too seemed to have a lot of work that was more tentative than that in last year’s Nexus Selects exhibit. The exhibit of work by 11 artists from is open at Nexus until July 1.