LOS ANGELES — The mood was energetic in the early afternoon hours this past Saturday, May 13 at Otis College, though the day was not in full swing yet given the previous night’s activities. On Friday evening, Otis hosted its Industry Night, an event that focuses on connecting art and design students with employers and includes a fashion show, along with a preview of Otis’s BFA and MFA Annual Exhibitions and the first part of the two-day MFA Open Studios.
Needless to say, there was plenty to look at between all the events, and I found myself especially impressed with the BFA Annual Exhibition, playfully titled The Bucket. Spanning multiple rooms and a multitude of artistic perspectives and outcomes, much of the work was markedly developed for the undergraduate level. Some standouts included the painting “I wear the same thing everyday” (2023) by Carmen Alatorre, comprised of woven together fabric strips which together depict colorful abstract shapes and optically alluring lines. Lia Walker’s Wabi Sabi-influenced ceramic vases and sculptures, such as “Méimei” and “100 Teacups at Play” (2023), also caught my eye with their simple lines and emphasis on the imperfect.
The graduate students followed up with ChatMFA: CONSCIOUS MANEUVERS, an ode to the deeply interdisciplinary nature of their program and a nod to the controversial ChatGPT chatbox that arguably threatens to take over large swathes of the creative industry with its AI-generated content. Hayley Quentin’s subtle and exquisitely rendered paintings had the spiritual undertones of works by fellow Angeleno painters such as Theodora Allen and Claire Colette, whose practices allude to the mid-20th century Transcendental Painting Group that is the subject of a current show at LACMA. Joseph Sherman’s collection of Michael Jackson portraits, titled “arbitrary amount” (2023), show how the legendary performer’s image can still, stunningly, remain visually relevant in our collective pop culture iconography, and Kai Chan’s floor sculptures “Rug: Don’t Step on Me” and “Rug: Sleep With Me” (2023) add texture and humor to the exhibition.
The MFA Open Studios event also delivered, with many graduating students praising the program and how it had benefited their practices. “I felt a lot of freedom to create and to experiment,” said multimedia artist Suwichada Busamrong-Press, whose turmeric-yellow-infused installation spanned both her own studio and a nearby project room. Her sentiments were echoed by fellow artists Patsy Pitts, whose large and beautifully-crafted ceramics focus on Black identity, and Henry Krusoe, whose multi-media practice explores ideas around abjection — including one sculpture that features a flaccid phallus with text that jokes “Forgive me for my terrible penis.”
The day was off to an enthusiastic start as I left the campus, walking through a seemingly ever-propagating series of events, including a ceramics sale and a group of BFA students setting up for karaoke. Students buzzed around socializing, discussing their respective artworks, and guzzling iced matcha drinks as parents perused the sale and gushed over their kids’ accomplishments in what was a refreshingly sweet event, as far as art school goes. Krusoe seemed to capture the graduating class’ mood with his sentiment that he was both “excited for what lies beyond the program and sad to go.”