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Ten recent graduates of the Rhode Island School of Design (RISD) MFA Painting Program are debuting their work at Kathryn Markel Fine Arts in Chelsea. The thesis exhibition reveals, through a few pieces, each of the emerging artists’ perspectives.
The online exhibition text, which is a bit heavy on artspeak, cites a few themes as “attempts to reverse-mirror the everyday, the felt contradiction that often what’s perceived as more personal is more easily and collectively valued when shared; a sense of social responsibility,” adding that they “seem to be trying to make sense of the world around them via art’s capacity to contest the very privilege of a worldview.” It’s a roundabout way of saying that their work is perhaps very aware of a viewer’s perception, and its place in the art world. And there does seem to be an affirmation of a lot of the dominant trends currently in contemporary art, with heavy abstraction, intensely layered and gravity-defying paint, and a playfulness with unorthodox materials while still creating within the boundaries of the right-angled traditional canvas.
Viewing the exhibition, there may not be many moments of surprise or extreme experimentation, but there are several standouts. Whitney Oldenburg’s two pieces — “Unpeeled” (2015) and “Hurt” (2014) — mix everything from acrylic to rocks and car polish in huge textural assemblages that have a tactile messiness giving them a visual edge, and Irmak Canevi’s “Burkhard Heim Suspects That One Shouldn’t Fly But Fall, He May Prove Right” (2015) is a grid of found materials, some arranged in configurations like small machines, suggesting (through its name and design) the deciphering of some theoretical physics puzzle.
In the back room, Anthony Bragg’s “New Fire (shelves)” (2014-15) is an illuminated tower of yule logs that contrasts its fake fires against his small, studied “Rope” (2014) of two climbers in the snowy outdoors, and just across Jon Merritt’s “Arboreal Model” series of acrylic on panel works deftly take an 8-bit style to tree totem shapes.
Below are more photographs of the work on view from the recent RISD MFA painting graduates.
Rhode Island School of Design MFA Painting Program Thesis Exhibition continues at Kathryn Markel Fine Arts (529 West 20th Street, Suite 6W, Chelsea, Manhattan) through August 15.