January 26, 2011

"Oddities", Group Show in FishBowl Gallery

Review by Gail Victoria Braddock Quagliata

Seven current Pratt MFA candidates with very different artistic approaches come together in the Fishbowl in a dynamic display of two and three-dimensional work.

Photography work by second year students Jane Huntington and Caitlin Peluffo approached different ends of the human life cycle with equal mastery of slick, seductive color. Huntington’s “Reclaimed Bunny Series, #11”, with its worn stuffed bunnies wedged determinedly in a tree, seems like a hazy childhood memory dug up, made manifest and somehow grotesque in the present, and captured in a believable moment of anthropomorphic escape from some unseen pursuer. Huntington’s piece represents a thousand different narrative possibilities to any given viewer, depending on his or her relationship with certain childhood memories and concrete objects, and this ambiguity lends a startling potency to the work. Peluffo’s work veers toward old age however, with “Nonno,” depicting in two images both her grandfather himself and the space he presumably inhabits. Like Huntington’s piece, this work seems to elicit a sense of nostalgia, like a child viewing a grandparent, minus the veil of innocent awe and veneration. Peluffo captures the wrinkles, cracks, flaws, and minutiae that compose not only the person who is her grandfather, but the extraneous information that, through the camera’s innately unsentimental eye, flesh out an entire personal experience and concrete space without nostalgia or mawkishness.
Jane Huntington, Reclaimed Bunny Series #11

Second year student Janean Hearn’s acrylic “Still Life” series of four panels depict, in vivid color, a mind game demonstrating what would be fabric if it weren’t paint on paper. Hearn’s panels seem anything but still, in fact, almost implying an odd, uncomfortable moment between movement and inertia. Hearn creates a question, almost asking the viewer to wonder what makes an object real, as she chooses to highlight unseen supports and backgrounds by omitting them entirely from the frame.

Becky Borowicz, Red-3, 2009
The movement implied by second year student Becky Borowicz’s deep red wall-mounted sculpture is more subtle, though the protruding paint-coated yarn seems more likely to actually leap from its place on the wall than Hearn’s solidly two dimensional imagery. Hanging limply from the wall although appearing ready at any moment to breathe or convulse, Borowicz captures a strained moment with an economy of hue and medium, freeing the viewer to explore subtle changes in the surface of the piece created by light, shadow, and the nature of the yarn when coated in paint.

Second year student Ryan Turley’s collage, “Downtown,” uses the overtly sexual imagery so popular in advertising juxtaposed with an innocent child figure, overlaying faceless hyper-masculinity atop giddy, unaware youth to seemingly question proper gender roles and identity. In removing what appear to be the (headless) rippling abs of an Abercrombie and Fitch model from the oddly safe context of a catalog or magazine and thrusting them next to a grinning, here-powerful child, Turley’s wry piece makes a forceful statement about the value of the male and how society chooses to joylessly, constantly eroticize the masculine body while simultaneously condemning the male sexual gaze.

Louise Kim’s “Shoes Define Yourself” refers less darkly to issues of identity and self-concept, depicting Kim in simple line drawing as her alter ego “Chuck,” of “Chuck and Chelsea,” dressed in Cole Haan. As in Turley’s “Downtown,” here the main figures are headless, but in Kim’s work this seems to serve to highlight the sartorial preferences of her characters, her economical use of line functioning as a spotlight on those details that set apart one shoe from another.

Meredith Fitzgerald,Leela's Electronic Exquisite
Corpse 1.0,
Further exploring the concept of identity is second year student Meredith Fitzgerald, whose work was created under the guise of her virtual alter ego, Leela Ada Stephenson. Fitzgerald’s “Embroidered Electronic Exquisite Corpse Results version 1.0” depicts the textile-based outcome of the collaboration between virtual persona Leela and her facebook friends, who contributed suggestions of words and colors, which were then randomly juxtaposed to create an artwork. The identity of Leela, that of curious, childlike simulation of life, is woven seamlessly throughout the project – this is made by “her friends,” this is the result of “her questions.” The resultant textiles are beautifully surreal fragments even before the viewer realizes their origins.

All the artists represented in this show participated in a professional development seminar over the Fall to ease their post-school transition into the art world. “Working with a small ‘think tank’ type of group allowed us to go in-depth on key issues related to becoming a working artist,” said Turley.

Kim said “My favorite part of the seminar was when an artist came over and gave us a speech on what it means to be a professional artist based on her experience... It was inspirational and helpful in many ways listening to a professional New York based artist.” This is one of the few opportunities in which students can meet with a working artist in such an intimate setting, free to ask their own questions.

“I feel the class has helped me demystify the workings of the art world a bit. It's given me some tools that I know will support my art practice after graduation. There was a lot of information that I'm still digesting and attempting to act on but it was definitely worth my time and I can see how it will give me support in the future,” said Fitzgerald. While this may be the only time to catch this group exhibiting in its present incarnation, this will certainly not be the last time these names and faces will pop up in a group show near you.

DeShawn Dumas "You can talk about whatever you like when or whenever you like, just obey." Solo Show in EastOne Gallery

Review by Gail Victoria Braddock Quagliata

The complex textures and nuanced colors wrought in large scale throughout EastOne gallery represent what first year Pratt MFA candidate DeShawn Dumas calls a shift away from the flat fields of pure color that marked his earlier work upon entering the school’s painting program. In his own words, “I now realize pure color disallows the meditative quality I seek. The sense of the infinitely boundless and the freedom of choice that prompts a search for inner knowledge; can only be imparted through the use of modulated, nuanced and indeterminate color.”
In these physically imposing works, Dumas seeks to depict what appear to be dense, subtle worlds through vague and mysterious textures laid heavily across the (usually bland and oft-predictably flat) surface of the canvas. While the application of non-traditional art materials to yank the work from two dimensions into three is perhaps not a concept unfamiliar to painting in the year 2011, the specific set of media and intentions Dumas brings to this pursuit certainly represent a new twist on the concept of questioning and redefining the boundaries of the flat canvas and its relationship to inert pigments.
DeShawn Dumas, Making Trouble God

“…I began an inquiry with a set of specific and historical materials: flour, sugar, coffee grinds and pages torn from the King James Bible,” says Dumas. “Coffee grinds, sugar and flour not only signify the world beyond the white cube of the gallery but have an intimate historical connection with Capitalism's commodity/consumer culture.” Through the deconstruction and apparently intuitive reconfiguration of these rather unexpected collage elements, Dumas layers and juxtaposes until he achieves a surface both hostile and hypnotic, beckoning the viewer to further examine the true constitution of his manmade terrain. Though, at this point, he concedes that the socio-politically loaded nature of his quite carefully selected media may be, in fact, immaterial in the face of his larger goal of creating what he dubs, “a beautiful introverted art object.” Dumas states, “I am not interested in a propagandist sort that demands the viewer know the personal and specific motivations for employing such material,” provocatively suggesting these well-researched, thoroughly-explained materials are not important at all - or perhaps suggesting the artist enjoys toying with his viewer.
DeShawn Dumas, A place without equal in the history of all mankind hunter
Most interesting (at least to this fellow student) is Dumas’s quick assessment of how his own work has so rapidly transformed in just one semester - from technical, stark abstractions into quiet, introspective explorations in textural possibilities under measured swaths of gentle hues and tempered pigments he calls “indeterminate color.” The artist’s statement refers repeatedly to his pursuit of an obscure, intangible meditative quality, and his palpable shift from frank, intense color fields into more elusive, emotionally variable works, each infused with insinuating gestures rife with visual entry points for the curious viewer, clearly speak to a vast maturation from each canvas.