Monday, May 21, 2007

SFAI MFA Exhibition (SF)

Note: This exhibition is located at Herbst Pavilion, Fort Mason Center, in San Francisco. Viewing hours are 12:00-6:00 daily through 5/26/07.

By my count there are 83 graduates who are presenting their artwork in the 2007 MFA exhibition of the San Francisco Art Institute, not counting the film students. The show is thankfully better than last year's largely dismal showing. Still, there are a number of graduates who have been unable to come up with anything interesting to show. In a few cases, you wonder how the faculty decided the person was qualified for an MFA degree. This is a general problem within MFA programs, not just the program at SFAI.

The best approach to these shows is to enjoy the work that has a spark and forget the rest. Some of the work that caught my attention is show below. The images reflect the variety of work to be seen, but they don't cover every artist of interest, or give a full picture of any artist's presentation.

The sculpture at the upper left was contributed by the safety directorate at Fort Mason Center.

Above, Taylor Vogland Dreiling's sculptural installation, "holder."
A terrific piece.

Above, Taylor Vogland Dreiling's "container."

Above, two large charcoal drawings by HeeKyoung Bae.
Drawings of digital imagery have become a subgenre,
but this artist manages to make her own imprint.
The images look like details from a video by Takeshi Murata, “Untitled (Silver).”

Above, an oil-on-canvas painting in Old Master style by Dan Lydersen.
Strange and memorable.

Above, a detail of another painting by Dan Lydersen.

Above, the crucifixion of Jesus represented in balloons, by Christian [!] Oittinen.
It stopped me in my tracks.
The artist, in clownface, looks on.

A wall drawing by Ryan Jones, made with chalk and string.
The photo shows the lovely chalk dust on the floor before some oaf stepped in it.

Above, another study in blue by Ryan Jones.

Above, a work by Matthew Cella entitled, “fiberspace #1 (floating sinking city).”
The media are pigment print and mixed media on carpet. The size is 48" x 84".

Above, a wall of licorice by Jamaica Fredericks.

Above, a large drawing entitled “12” (along with a detail of same), by Alfonso Aguirre.
The media are ink, colored pencils, and watercolor on paper.
Aguirre's work is quiet and takes a little time to register, but it rewards attention.

Above, one of Jeremiah Jenkins's weapons for the next revolution—
first in a video (melting) and then in a refrigerated case (frozen).

Above, Jeremiah Jenkins's contribution to the tradition of flag art.
This one is made of kitchen matches.

Above, Ben Baumgartner honors his Southern roots by
presenting his selection of smokeless tobacco products.

Above, one of Edmund Wyss's oil-on-canvas paintings of instruments that
point and shoot (cameras and weapons). This one is 34" x 46".
(The orientation of this painting in the show
is different from the image on the artist's website.)

Above, several cropped stills from Brian Balderson's video installation,
“My Life as a Dog (Laika Vision Quest).” That's the artist in the dog suit.
Laughter guaranteed.

Above, one of Rocky McCorkle's large, digitally manipulated photo works.
They have very glossy surfaces and rich colors, like ads in lifestyle magazines,
but an atmosphere of loss and
isolation pervades them.

In an intense performance piece called “Corner,” Nancy Popp made a huge racket by
tearing open the corner of her assigned space. The piece explored physical and
psychological confinement—the experience of being “backed into a corner.”
After breaking open the wall, Popp covered the inside corner with paper.
Later, the outside corner drew the interest of a boy in blue.

Added note: The above artists above are not the only participants whose work I noticed with interest. Joshua Eggleton's large graphite drawings were well done (but hard to photograph). Among the painters, Jisun-soye Bae and Aaron Delehanty looked promising. Ryan Hackett works in several media with interesting results. I enjoyed Carla Fraga's project of photographing books she wanted to get rid of, but nobody would take. Andrew Rottner's image bank project, in which visitors are invited to root through file drawers and select images, is fun. And there were two installations, by Deer Fang and Scott Kiernan, that showed energy, skill, and ambition—althought both projects struck me as unfocused, possibly because the artists had awkward spaces to work with.


Anonymous said...

I think the comments are a bit unfair to this year's SFAI MFA grads. The percentage of 'bad' work was small and I also thought there were at least 5 other artists in the show with outstanding work that were not featured on this site's review

Bob said...

Yes, there were other artists of interest. I have added a note to the posting to mention a few more. I agree, the grossly inept presentations were few in number. But there was so much derivative, boring work. I am not the only person who thinks so.

Anonymous said...

hmmm, i always wonder how long people actually spend with an artist's work at these types of shows. seems impossible to actually pay the kind of attention one needs in order to make absolute opinions such as those written here. i wonder what work speaks to those that are able to spend the kind of time each artist's effort or thought or meaning deserves. art is about communication after all isn't it. some of the responsibility and perhaps inability needs to be assigned the listener as well. i should think every participant in a conversation is 100% responsible.

Bob said...

Yes, it is difficult to take in everything at such a huge exhibition. I try not to overlook any artist's presentation, but if an artist's work doesn't engage me, I move on immediately. I want to spend most of my time with the work that sparks my interest. For this exhibition, I went back the next day to see the show a second time.

In an exhibition of this size, I don't walk around casually. I am not there to have a cocktail. I go into a mode of hyper-awareness as soon as I enter the door. Even in less pressured situations, I tend to take in new artwork rapidly. I don't mean that I process my impressions immediately, but I do experience a sudden surge of interest when an artwork can assert its individuality against the thousands of artworks I have seen in my life.

I don't consider the opinions expressed in my blog to be absolute. I just try to articulate my reactions to what I see. I like hearing other people's reactions to particular art experiences. I especially like hearing the reactions of artists, who are generally sharp and candid.

Anonymous said...

if that is the case, i would be careful how and by what context you use the word derivative. sometimes, one gets so caught up in art history, it is difficult to SEE the ART. it is a tricky balance. i hope you are not selling yourself short by going into "hyper-awareness" mode. sometimes its okay just to spend some t i m e and wonder a bit more. but, it is about what you hope to get out of it in the end. some people are only interested in what can be viewed as obvious technique or theory more than to really experience the visual. perhaps the opposite approach of the artist ...

Anonymous said...

I appreciate your comments and impressions Bob, as always. I'm away from SF and couldn't see the show, so thanks for some of the highlights.

I'm not enjoying the lightly hectoring tone of "Anonymous" here, but it's possible this is a student or friend of one. Forgiveable idealism.

But I do agree, after a few decades of serious art contemplation, a person knows what s/he likes, what draws them. This is not to say at all that there's not a place to esteem the difficult or oblique..

Aspiring writers are encouraged to start off with a bang, a hook, a sentence that grabs the reader's interest. It's the best way to stand above the million other apriring writers there. When you're established and have an audience, one can be as oblique and demanding of the reader's attention as one likes.

It's not different for visual/fine artists. For an unknown starting out , a difficult or demanding work will gave trouble standing out among art that engages- and may I say, seduces-the viewer.
That's just how it is, and this is not a bad thing.

Anonymous said...

agreed from the lightly "hectoring" anonymous writer. what bothers me, as an mfa degree holder myself, is that which is said which is not contextualized as personal opinion...
there is so much already written and curated based on trends, and the safe decisions, whether based on personal history or a curatorial degree. it is such a shame to me that these personal opinions go out there without any disclaimer or difficult responses. i wish artists were more outspoken about work and i also wish those that are not were more accountable for their decision to participate as voyeurs. because in the end, i truly believe, unless you are willing to participate in the questions posed by art, as kant said, not any question in particular, but questions nonetheless, those that are "obsessed" must engage in a much more responsible way ... as responsible as the artist is to their work. let's ramp up the seriousness with which art is treated ... that was the purpose of the mfa program in the first place, i wish laymen would follow suit. as i said before it is a delicate balance. and let me not be remiss in repeating that i agree at a show such as this it is difficult. but , fellow commentor, this is certainly not the coming out party that you have described. although, the venue and flea market atmosphere already set up a difficult situation. its unfortunate that these artists and art in general has to live in an atmosphere which you described - within a consumer culture. would you agree that the mfa show at fort mason was almost like walking into the gap? you walk through just as if you were shopping. one more thing, i hope you appreciate the time it takes for someone to pose challenges and not just dismiss it with name calling. isn't that what conversation begs - challenge. or has that also become too difficult and hard without a brand name? although we all are part of a consumer culture, remember it is a wonderful thing to THINK. a sad day if that is categorized as idealism.

Bob said...

In response to various comments above:

Someday soon, in a separate posting, I will say a few things about my attitude toward MFA shows.

I do believe in spending time with art. As a teenager, I would sometimes look at a painting for half an hour at a time. I like seeing work repeatedly in museums. I like living with art, waking up in the morning and feeling its presence, noticing how it changes. However, it’s a busy world we inhabit, and the amount of art circulating through it is unprecedented. For people interested in art, this conditions how we interact with artwork. Of course, the worst occasions for viewing art are large, short-term shows like art fairs or large MFA exhibits. But usually I would rather see than not see, even if the conditions are poor.

In case there is any doubt, I respond strongly (or not) to how an artwork looks. Theory or mere technique does not make me fall for a work. On the other hand, I am bored by work that seems merely decorative. For me, a work needs a backbone, some underlying idea or process that is fused with the visual and makes it feel generative. (I find it hard to describe this.) I should also say that I believe art is a larger category than the visual, as there are excellent artworks that rely on sound, social interaction, and other modes of experiencing the world.

Anonymous said...

well said. ... i appreciate your thoughtfulness. if you ever do write that separate post, let me know.

(from the repeated anonymous offender. you can check a blog i have been involved with as well if you like.