Being an undergrad senior show, I went in with low expectations. Or more accurately no expectations. As a recent graduate I understand that the works shown might be the best that these artists have created up to this point, but there is still plenty of time to make more and better things.
With that said, there seemed to be more bright spots than my own senior show. Maybe it was the curator, maybe it was the number of pieces included, I’m not sure. Even though some artists had multiple entries, the show seemed very comprehensive.
Upon entering the gallery, you are welcomed with a self-portrait photograph of Caren Lewis that carpets the entryway. It is a little seducing in that an attractive young lady reveals herself piecemeal in an animated/ film strip kind of way. The first unit presents her face and as you move forward the camera moves down her body in an overlappnig and jumpy sequence. On opening night I wondered if you were allowed to step on it. By the time I left, I figured it didn’t matter because it was being stepped on. When I visited again I discovered that the photo was printed on cheap paper and was very abused. Interesting to think that this attractive young lady is being walked all over. I knew it was true! Girls really do like it if you’re a jerk!
Immediately to the right was a simple yet commanding installation by Rebecca Ward. Colored tape was applied to the wall and created a triangular cage in the corner. The optical effects and use of repeated colors made me think of Bridget Riley, Latin American artists and other optical artists. Another wall based installation was Edmundo Abasolo. He hung three strips of acetate with blue acrylic paint from a wooden board. It looked attractive, but did not do much for me when I studied it. I wanted more of a tactile investigation. Something like Jesus Soto.
Then I run into “Helen of Troy” and “Harriet Tubman”. I am still so jealous of Christa Palazzolo’s rendering skills. She had other work included in the show, but none that called for my attention like her paintings. Jose Luis Olivares on the other hand, had multiple pieces and they all demanded my attention. This guy works alot of detail into his pieces and orchestrates the moving parts very well. His works are like part 1970s psychedelic Electric Company/ Sesame Street animations, part Philip Guston, part notebook doodling. I’m not sure why I like them, but I do. Next to a small group of Mr. Olivares’ drawings were the remnants of Mark Hensel’s performance. On the floor was a burlap suit and sack laying over a mound of dirt. At the opening, Mr. Hensel was laying on the ground wearing the burlap suit and buried under a blanket of dirt. An hour into the event he arises and proceeds to present gifts to the audience. As he hands them a baked potato wrapped in aluminum foil, he states “It’s uranium.” Judging from the title, “Atomic Communion”, I figure he is commenting on nuclear issues? What I do know is that the mask portion of his suit looks eerily like a KKK hood.
Two nice drawings that I noticed had some figures interacting with jumbled up music staff and notes. Kathryn Yu made nice illustrations. The musical grass is what got me. Bo Hye Na paints a pretty picture. It is either a little girl doing a flip or an inverted image of a little girl laying on the ground, looking up at us. She also has some sparkly abstract shapes floating around her eyes. Its nice, but her photographs are what struck me as odd. I believe she is Korean, but her subject matter were portraits of Hispanic people. The photos next to her were by Tsu Chien Wa, who I assume is Asian and Liliana Alonso who is Hispanic and they photographed Asian and Hispanic people respectively. Besides that little quirk, her portrait of a family was interesting as it recalls the Holy Family, but none of the figures were touching and looked suspiciously at the viewer.
I believe photography is the most difficult medium to create great work with. Most of what I see has a documentary feel and I have trouble getting more than just good composition out of them. Works like Ms. Lewis blur the boundaries into other forms, while some, like Ms. Na provide more immediate content. By far my favorite piece of this show was Amanda Mullee’s photographs of young teenage girls with saucy text on their shirts. It surprised me how suggestive they were with the body language, the clothing and the text. I thought they did a way better job than the covered nudes in the paintings next to them. Although the messages were quite clear, it is obvious that these models were no older than fifteen. The background placed them at the mall and their body structures were that of developing young ladies. This taboo was minimized by the cropping of the girls’ heads. I felt like a pervy old man, but I am interested in seeing more of Ms. Mullee’s work.
Let me give a shout out to Jonas Criscoe. His work is good and was included in the show, but you may have seen his work in the Texas Biennial and New American Paintings magazine. This show is GOOD for being what it is, a graduating undergrad show. Let’s just see if some of this promising talent sticks around.
I’ll tell you ’bout what I sees.