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2013 Regional MFA Exhibition at NYCAMS

posted by Christopher Howard — Feb 07, 2013

The New York Center for Art and Media Studies (NYCAMS) will host the annual CAA Regional MFA exhibition, on view February 12–27, 2013. Coinciding with the 101st Annual Conference, this exhibition, called Make It Work, will bring together a selection of artists from some of the New York area’s brightest art programs. The opening reception will take place on Friday evening, February 15, 6:00–9:00 PM.

The guest curator, Barbara Pollack, is an artist and critic whose writings have been published in Vanity Fair, the New York Times, ARTnews, and Time Out New York. Her essay for the exhibition appears below.

The artists come from seven area schools: Brooklyn College, City University of New York; New Jersey City University; the New York Academy of Art; Parsons the New School for Design; Pratt Institute; Stonybrook University, State University of New York; and the School of Art and Design at Purchase College, State University of New York.

Gallery hours are Monday–Friday, 10:00 AM–5:00 PM or by appointment. NYCAMS 
is located at 44 West 28th Street, Seventh Floor,
 New York, NY 10001. Contact the gallery at 212-213-8052.

Make It Work

Art making is a long and difficult journey, with practitioners balancing the need for mastering a range of techniques against the desire to achieve unique expression. Nowhere is this tension felt more acutely than in art school, where the individual is often pitted against the group and, indeed, against authorities figures, on their way to making work that truly is self-expressive. I watch my own students struggle between the need for approval—am I doing this right?—and the courage to embark on their own path, between perfecting skill and defying convention.

The artists in this exhibition are still enrolled in graduate school—Brooklyn College, New Jersey City University, the New York Academy of Art, Parsons, Pratt, Stony Brook, and Purchase—all esteemed programs that have produced many of New York’s leading artists. But even though they are students, these individuals have already become full-fledged artists, experimenting and creating as all artists do on their way to realizing fully formed concepts and productions. Using a variety of media—sculpture, painting, photography, video, and digital printmaking—they manage not only to “make work,” but also to make work that challenges ideas about what work is.

In this exhibition you find diverse practices even within a single academic program. John Ros from Brooklyn College creates a landscape of drywall and fluorescent lights, laid out on the floor, while his classmate Kate McGraw combines abstraction and folk art in her brightly patterned drawings. Sergio Villamizar from New Jersey City University takes inspiration from comic-book depictions of superheroes as his colleague Darren Fisher constructs a hostile, aggressive contraption in a work called Surface Tension. The contributions of two students from the New York Academy of Art, Elizabeth Glaessner and Robert Fundis, make a strong case for the vitality of realist painting. But check out Spidey by Ezra Thompson from Stony Brook, a hauntingly suggestive canvas of a boy trick-or-treating.

There are captivating videos on view: Christine Howard Sandoval (Parsons) films a walk along the city’s waterfront, and Judith Shimer (Pratt) is hysterically funny in her Ugly Video. In One Act Video in Several Scenes, Samantha Harmon (Purchase) dissects the moving-images aspect of video by depicting a sequence of still photographs of tiny maquettes of buildings. Sculpture also is particularly strong: Jonathan Stanish (Pratt) displays an assemblage, titled Leisure, comprising a mannequin and silkscreen print; Elianna Mesaikos (Purchase) presents Filthy Gorgeous, made on the spot in the gallery with melted sugar; and Ryann Slauson (Purchase) offers Portrait, a witty replica of a construction site, made from cardboard, plastic, wood, and clay. Slauson is one artist who directly examines the meaning of “work,” but you can discern a similar inquiry in the jagged line of photographs, unframed and tacked to the wall, in Artifacts, an installation by Nicholas Warndorf (Stony Brook), and in the way traditional sculpture is challenged through photographs by the duo Kaitlynn Redell and Sara Jimenez (Parsons).

Make It Work is, of course, the encouraging admonition of Tim Gunn on the television series Project Runway. And I share with him the sense of wanting everyone to do well, everyone to do his or her best. But this exhibition is not a competition, not a Work of Art, the name of another television show that turns contemporary art into a contest. The sixteen participants here are not contestants who approach art making as a competition. In fact, by bringing the artists together in one exhibition, I find an interesting dialogue among them, a shared inquiry into the necessary tools, processes, and attitudes that go into making an artwork—especially one that challenges traditional notions of what an artwork should be. That takes real work, and for that, each participant in this show should be congratulated.