The angst is palpable inside the New York Academy of Art’s Wilkinson Gallery, where most of this year’s MFA thesis exhibition is being held. Why the doom and gloom? Should we chalk it up to graduation anxiety or the generally apocalyptic political tone in the US? Or perhaps artist Eric Fischl, a senior critic at the Academy, has had an especially profound influence on his students this year? After all, the artist has a particular talent for riffing on social anxieties. Whatever the source of the gloomy mood, this year’s thesis show definitely indulges in the abject and existential.
Katie Bosch’s “Emaciation” (2018) sculpture commands the gallery from the room’s center. This papier-mâché mummy, built with hog casing, evokes the embalmed remains of Buddhist monks. With its eyes glazed over and hauntingly gaunt body, it can seem a little intimidating, but closer inspection reveals the artistry of Bosch’s brushstrokes and papier-mâché structure.
Arngrimur Sigurdsson’s nearby “Transhuman Torpedo” (2018) definitely attempts to one-up Bosch’s skeletal figure. Sigurdsson’s sculpture comes close to the quintessence of “grotesque.” It looks like a cancerous tumor on steroids, with hair growing from its mid-section and multiple eyes and fingers emerging from its fleshy mass.
While I definitely enjoy the thrill of Bosch and Sigurdsson’s ghoulish creations, I especially love Sian Smith’s particularly haunting imagery. Her “Self-Portrait” (2018) is a delicate oil painting on chiffon fabric. Confronting the viewer with a direct gaze, Smith clutches two pieces of fabric in her clenched fists, perhaps a meta-acknowledgment of what must have been a painstaking process to create this piece.
There are also more playful and quirky pieces, like Brendan Sullivan’s painting “Parallel” (2018), which takes a more surrealist approach. Here, a ghostly apparition that looks like a member of the Bush clan mows a suburban lawn under a crepuscular sky. There are certain elements that are off here: the presence of a gaping hole in the background, unnatural lighting, and (more pressingly) the complete absence of the man’s lower body. Together, these elements constitute a winning spoof on the unofficial spooky theme. It’s like parody of a parody of a suburban ghost story: the middle-aged man forever stuck mowing his lawn.
There are also some admittedly strange juxtapositions in the exhibition, an inevitable occurrence in a thesis show as big as this (44 artists in all). Most glaring is a corner where Erin Pollock’s “Sui Generis” (2018) is juxtaposed with Salomé Pereira’s “Priests” (2017). The former is a gruesome mixed media animation where a claymation figure appears to continually split open his head and eat himself. The latter is, well, a painting of a pair of priests.
By comparison, Helena Vallée Dallaire’s “It’s Only Been a Minute” (2018) just about encapsulates the dominant mood of the MFA thesis exhibition. Melancholy pervades the artist’s blue painting, in which a female figure slumps onto a brown couch in the foreground, practically merging with the sofa. An accomplished image of depressive loneliness, there is something intriguingly honest about Dallaire’s painting. It plainly signals the anxiety just barely hidden beneath the pigments in many of her peers’ works.
As much as I appreciate the collective’s culture jamming initiatives, I don’t know that their putative premise ever bears meaningful fruit.
The banana’s dominance and ubiquity has had serious and far-reaching implications for the region, engendering exploitative labor systems, climate change, and migration.
The first lecture is on the relationship between early portrait photography and diverse notions of US identity during the Gilded Age. Register to attend on January 25.
Charles Dellheim’s study tells the tale of a small group of Jewish art dealers and collectors who played a key role in the changing art world of the 19th and 20th centuries.
The 18-month fellowship aims to provide artists with “as much access as possible” to the club’s facilities and networks “at a time and place convenient to artists.”
Part of the university’s Artists on the Future series pairing renowned artists with cultural thought leaders, this online event is free and open to the public.
A coalition of investors raised funds to purchase the film’s storyboard and announced they would “make the book public.”
A new project, “Emoji to Scale,” orders every mini-object by their real-world dimensions.
Although Khedoori does not depict living beings, their presence is evoked in the traces they leave behind.
The Bronx Museum’s fifth biennial continues to focus its programming on individual identity, eliding the ever-divergent interests of the art market and local communities.
While it may be strange to think of food insecurity as a basis for art, the works in Food Justice reveal barriers and injustices in food access.