The class of 2010 from the MFA program I am in at SVA are having their thesis exhibition opening on Tuesday June 15th at 6pm in NYC. After spending the past year in school with these artists and having the privilege of seeing what they’ve been working on, I can honestly say I think it is a show well worth checking out.
Our awkward program name – photography, video, and related media – is becoming ever more apt. This year, the thesis show includes photographic prints, videos, multi-media installations, sculpture and oil paintings. With the swift advance of digital technology, students are using still or moving images merely as points of departure to invent a wide array of forms. Željka Blaskic, for example, produces a five-channel video installation inspired by her childhood in war-torn Croatia. Jan Ebeling (aka Janosch Parker) commissions oil paintings based on photographs of his witty performances. Irene Bermudez combines projected images, freestanding sculpture and a neon sign to create an immersive environment meant to evoke bodily sensations. Allyson Ross creates sculptural reliefs devoid of color based on iconic nineteenth-century photographs of Yosemite National Park. And John Messinger installs a small historical exhibit based on the life of a homeless man. These results and others are exciting to behold and, I confess, daunting for a curator trying to make visual or conceptual order from it all.
If there is an overall trend, it is the trust that students place in personal experience. Robert Gill, for example, embraces the obsession with fitness in our culture. Selena Salfen explores the crushing effects of post-traumatic stress disorder through the history of her own family. Tamar Latzman investigates themes from Jewish-European history by inventing memories of dreams and performing them for the camera. And Laura Oberg explores race in America by interviewing members of her mixed-race family. It may be that the confessional turn of our culture – much enhanced by social networking media – explains the willingness of students to reveal themselves in their work. But the students are not self-centered; they look inward in order to look outward. Growing up with the caveats of identity politics and challenges to the objectivity of representation, our students no longer feel at home with the relatively simple norms of documentary or straight photography. Instead, each student invents a new strategy for using images to make art.
Bonnie Yochelson Curator
Featuring the work of:
JOHN A. MESSINGER