November 30, 2010

Kevin William Reed, "Headspace" at Alcove Gallery

Review by Raymond Miller

The walls of Pratt Institute’s Student Affairs Office have a new function. They have become the support for the new Alcove Gallery. This is the now third addition to a group of student exhibition spaces.
Headspace, by Kevin William Reed is the title of the inaugurating show in this space. Currently pursuing an M.F.A. in Printmaking at Pratt, Reed has mounted a show of new prints and paintings. These pieces by Reed mark a new phase in his fine art career.

Initially Reed received his undergraduate education at University of Maryland. It was here that he was introduced to printmaking. In this first encounter with the medium Reed experienced a new artistic challenge. Through printmaking he was pushed to explore new realms of expression beyond just fine tuning his technical skills. Printmaking has also introduced him to a new art community which has also helped his development as an artist.

This collection of new work is the result of Reed’s mining through his own psyche discovering the sources of his inspiration. It is his goal to work as intuitively as he possibly can, speaking in the visual language he has developed over the course of his artistic career. Reed remembers in his youth collecting postcards designed with images of Asian art. He admits that these images, likely imbedded in his subconscious, and are now surfacing in his newer work.  What’s more Reed sees this as an opportunity to laugh by including humor in his art. Where the Asian influence is concerned, the largest painting in this show is much like an Asian landscape. The humor comes in where this landscape contains depictions of animals that would be foreign to this environment. This juxtaposing of symbols removes a seriousness that is often associated with fine art.

This Headspace collection for Reed, functions as the first step in a new direction toward self realization rather than an actual location. The collection shows that he is still in a phase of transition attempting to understand himself better as a creative individual. Exposure of this kind is certainly a bold move though the work that has resulted creates excitement for what comes next.

This exhibition is part of the Student Exhibition Spaces Program coordinated by the Center for Career and Professional Development at Pratt Institute.  All current students can submit work for inclusion in future exhibitions by emailing for more information.

SeungHun Lee, JongHeon Kim, and June Kim, "LAYERS", group show in Fishbowl Gallery

Review by Gail Victoria Braddock Quagliata

The photographs currently on display in the Fishbowl Gallery are clearly the work of separate artists: two seem to depict some sort of ethereal, muted drowning scene, segueing into a visceral but poignant homage to the wolf, then, finally, massive, stark black and white prints of some empty street, some empty night. Only further examination allows the connections between these seemingly unrelated works to become apparent. “LAYERS,” is a group show, featuring the work of three Pratt photography students, second year MFA candidate SeungHun Lee and first year MFA candidates June Kim and JongHeon Kim.

June Kim, I Wolf (top), 2010 and Family of Present (below), 2010
As described by Ms. Kim, “All of our work has different layers. We may make very different work, but in spite of the obvious surface differences, we all address the same underlying themes.” Initial observation certainly describes more differences than similarities: Ms. Kim’s work is raw and urgent, both her text-based pieces and her photography are immediate and absolute. In her text work, Kim injects the word WOLF into phrases where one would automatically expect LOVE, subverting concepts of what is “primal” and what is “family.” The image of the artist - beautiful, pale-skinned, and seemingly fragile – crawling on the earth in a stance mimicking that of the wolves surrounding her, is at once terrifying and absurd. In this image Kim firmly places herself as an equal to these animals, a sister, a concept she discusses further in her statement (as research has discovered wolf packs don’t actually follow a clear hierarchy but exist, in fact, in more of a familial structure), yet in her text pieces she elevates them beyond our narrow human concept of “some stupid animal,” replacing our most inexplicable, cherished, and animalistic emotion, love, with WOLF. The viewer is immediately confronted with his or her own prejudices about the meaning of, and appropriate place for, animals in our human world. The wolf, especially, as “man’s best friend” minus some key piece of cuddly domesticity and safety, represents some fading shred of savageness. To see this fierce, lovely creature juxtaposed in such a way with a term so savage yet saccharine (LOVE) makes just… so much sense.

Yet Ms. Kim’s savage, carnal fun seems almost too real and too vicious adjacent to the ethereal, intangible images presented by JongHeon Kim. The artist explores themes of identity, station, and social signifiers; literally asking, “Why do people try to find their identities by outer looks? Why do people evaluate others by the prices of the clothes that they wear? Why cannot people penetrate the shallow exterior and see what is beneath it, what is really valuable and meaningful?” 

JongHeon Kim, Lookism #1, 2009
Mr. Kim’s images, shot in what appears to be a swimming pool, bear a diffuse, dreamy sense that only the distorting, light-refracting qualities of water can impart. Contrary to the crisp, vivid finish in Ms. Kim’s anthropomorphic stare-down or the murky nightscape of Mr. Lee’s street scenes, Mr. Kim’s pool views seem almost abstract – what from afar appears to be a smear of color or abstruse shape, upon observation, reveals itself to be an article of clothing tangled helplessly in the water around the body of the (presumed) wearer. These articles of clothing, given such meaning as social symbols, in Kim’s hands are odd creatures made almost impotent and writhing in some unseen current, as the wearer seems to drown under their weight, or is he being freed from their burden? The ambiguity of the meaning behind using these loaded objects is one of the manners with which Mr. Kim draws in the viewer and demands closer inspection and analysis of these nuanced images; this careful tension is enhanced by the artist’s use of color and the taut framing.

Last, most somber, and darkest by far are the large-scale exterior night shots by SeungHun Lee. Lee positions the viewer as voyeur in these massive matte black and white prints, peering into bright windows and the lives of others from the safe shroud of anonymous darkness afforded by some random street at night. Lee says, “When the sun goes down, and time passes into midnight, and artificial lights illuminate the world, I go across the boundaries to alternate narratives: void of humans, enigmatic spaces, and reflections of artificial light. These areas stimulate my visual senses to think about what is and what is not.”

SeungHun Lee, Bayside, New York #3, March 2010
Lee’s work seems to discuss the tension between inside and outside – the artist observes an emotional space from a detached distance and dispassionately removes all unnecessary detail to focus on that specific component at the core of the narrative. These works are formal and tenebrous, evoking some ominous, hushed, creeping sense of doom somehow with a mechanical hand - like a well-oiled machine trained keenly on making the viewer feel this dread without fanfare.

It seems these works, on one level, all discuss the meaning of belonging or social strata, essentially one of the many layers this work shares. Where Ms. Kim embeds herself into the family of the wolf, Lee observes the lives of others from afar, and Mr. Kim dissects the meaning of rank and social identity as determined by meaningless exterior trappings. “LAYERS” will be on view in the Fishbowl Gallery through December 3, 2010.

Artist websites:
JongHeon Kim
June Kim
SeungHun Lee

This exhibition is part of the Student Exhibition Spaces Program coordinated by the Center for Career and Professional Development at Pratt Institute.  All current students can submit work for inclusion in future exhibitions by emailing for more information.

DJ Perera, "ELIDARAWWA " at EASTONE Gallery

Review by Gail Victoria Braddock Quagliata

DJ Perera, Exhibition View of ELIDARAWWA.
The profusion of dynamic color and shape presently holding court in EastOne gallery is the creation of Pratt first year MFA painting candidate DJ Perera. These 5 pieces comprise the strongest selections (by the artist’s own appraisal) of nearly a dozen pieces Perera has completed in the shocking brevity of one semester, though the degree of compositional/formal involvement and ascertainable aesthetic intent would imply far longer than a few hurried months juggled in between other classes.

“They display what I believe to be the most conclusive discoveries in establishing a solid unity between the formal elements of painting. In these works I look at varying aesthetics, sizes, compositions, all of which exhibit strong harmoniously uniformed surfaces,” states the artist of his magnetic display of color and form.

Perera’s atypical artistic background perhaps lends an added degree of complexity to these somewhat intentionally uniform, thus impenetrable, works of art. Though he completed his BFA with honors at what sounds like the most Mom, apple pie, and American flag-waving of institutions, Texas Christian University, Perera is a Sri Lankan citizen who was raised in the Middle East, and states that he never acquired a truly comprehensive art education per se, something that so many emerging artists take for granted, especially those of us in a program at a vaunted American fine arts institution like Pratt.

“Since I'd never been exposed to the history of art in this country or in Europe prior to my arrival to America, I was never really influenced by artists when it came to producing my own aesthetic. I was truly painting for myself and no one else - what I felt, what I thought was honest,” says Perera. This is remarkable to consider when viewing the paintings on view in EastOne, that these pieces come essentially from years of instinct and a 5-year crash course in Western aesthetic practices. Perera admits to developing a deeper affinity for different aspects of several seminal abstract modern artists - Sean Scully, Jackson Pollack, Barnett Newman, and Ad Reinhardt.

DJ Perera, Siniduhaha, 2010
Reinhardt’s “boldness,” the facet to which Perera is most drawn, is a clear influence in this work. Perera’s color choices are decisive and unapologetic. There are clear formal parallels here to Newman, though that intangible quality that Perera finds peaceful in the abstract expressionist’s color fields, one might readily find dynamic and tense in Perera’s hand.

Perera speaks about his work as something of an ongoing exploration, aware that he is a student in spite of having exhibited numerous times before this, his 3rd solo show. The artist’s drive, both to improve his method of working and progress in a measured, logical fashion is as clear as the forms he paints.
“To ultimately create art work that is visually free of thought and effort yet contains energy, thoughtfulness and honesty is my ambition.” Perera is well on his way.

This exhibition is part of the Student Exhibition Spaces Program coordinated by the Center for Career and Professional Development at Pratt Institute.  All current students can submit work for inclusion in future exhibitions by emailing for more information.