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.

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