As soon as I walk into the gallery I find out why MFA1 felt so forced. It’s because they were the redheaded step child to the prodigal MFA2. The curator’s editing hand is clearly felt. Standing just inside the entrance, I could see each artists’ work and the flow was soothing. Colors complimented each other and the spaces inbetween allowed each work its own identity. The whirring of a helicopter caught my attention.
I look over and see that Jared Steffensen has created a mountain range with clouds from astroturf, felt, and batting. A plastic toy helicopter encircles the highest peak with a wireless camera transmitting its flight to the other room. Its pleasing simplicity and humble presence joyfully reminds me of the Mushroom Kingdom. Across from the mountainscape are three paintings by Nathan Spondike. They depict a bizarre object centrally located on a yellowish-green landscape as if from a slightly blurred photograph or a portrait studio backdrop. They follow along with other paintings of his that I have seen. There tends to be an agent seemingly representing a pollutant or foreign invader encroaching upon a declining natural world. At least that’s what I remember.
On the back wall was a group of four drawings by Brant Watson. Blue color-pencil lines radiate from various circles within a larger one. The smaller circles are voids in their centers and move across the frames in the series. Like an eclipse, the four or five circles align themselves like a giant eye in the first three panels and then continue to move in the fourth. Next to the entrance, across from Mr. Watson’s work was Eric Benson. As a design student, Mr. Benson presents some research into sustainable practice for the graphic designer’s world. Treeless paper, chlorine-free bleaching, water based inks, and a website to help you get into the practice of being earth-concious while producing snazzy brochures. On the wall the information is presented in the form of vinyl lettering that warn you to keep your distance. You are too close to the toxins! Please back away from the toxins! Whee-ohh-wheee-ohh-wheeeeee! There are samples of identical white sheets of paper, except that one is virgin and costly to the environment and the other is recycled and tree friendly. Next to the paper were large swatches of green paint. Latex= bad, with all its toxins. Boooo! Lactose based paint= good, with its creamy yogurty smell. Yummy!
In the next room Thuy-Van Vu presents three large fluttering paintings. Okay, so the paintings aren’t fluttering. But the images of manila tags make it look like tree leaves blowing in the wind. The red painting could be the flickering of fire. In each one the cards or tags are one swatch of paint. As the movement progresses across the picture plane, the value shifts and it creates this larger mass. It’s like inspecting a couple of leaves on a bush then stepping back to see the whole plant. Or if you want to be artsy about it, look at Chuck Close paintings. I personally thought of Dan “da Man” Suthalan‘. The flowing energy and the brilliant hues of the painting also made me think of the colorplay in Hero. Further in the back was the receiving transmission from Mr. Steffensen’s heli-camera. A comfortable lazy-boy sits in front of a tv showing the dizzying path of the rescue copter. In a different monitor, Mr. Steffensen is seen leaving the house in a sportsjacket with his personal shade tree. Sitting on his shoulder, Hey where’s Mr. Bluebird? Mr. Steffensen situates his posture so that the tree casts a shadow over his eyes. We watch him walk down the street in a distorted, pigeon-toed stride. Hanging on the wall is another jacket, but this one with mountain ranges on its sleeves. This group of work was whimsical and enjoyable. Unlike “May I Have This Dance, Tree?” the acting was minimal and thus didn’t feel awkward. Very fun.
The bright colors of the whole exhibit were kept fresh with help from the generous amount of space between the works. I noticed a color scheme to the show. Blue, like the sky or water and Green, like grass or trees. Then it hits me. Earth day is April 22nd. Mr. Benson tackled sustainability, Mr. Spondike painted and Mr. Steffensen sculpted landscapes. Ms. Vu and Mr. Watson were a little abstract, but the micro/macro quality of the paintings and the suggestion of an eclipse of the drawings put both in the realm of nature. This show felt really tight. Strong work and relevant curating. This show was GREAT.
I’ll tell you ’bout what I sees.