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Lens-Based Artists Document 'American Truth' in SVA's 2019 Alumni Exhibition
November 13, 2019 by Michelle Mackin
           Photograph of seagulls eating french fries off of pavement in front of fast food restaurant, all taking place against a snowy backdrop.
Amy Stein, Fast Food, 2007, digital C-print. Courtesy the artist and ClampArt.

This month, SVA’s biennial alumni exhibition will return to the SVA Chelsea Gallery with "American Truth,"* a survey of contemporary America featuring lens-based work by 20 alumni artists. The exhibition is curated by MFA Fine Arts faculty member Jasmine Wahi, co-founder and director of Project for Empty Space, a nonprofit arts organization in Newark, New Jersey.

The artists in "American Truth" explore the meanings that this phrase has for communities across the country—be it their own community or that of another. The work on view, Wahi says, will be "a pastiche of events, lives, landscapes; of heartaches and joys; of grave and grotesque violence; of the utterly mundane and quotidian; of the filthy, visceral and pungent truths that make this country—the land of the imprisoned, the land of the slain, the land of the free—the multilayered place that it is."

The exhibition’s participating artists include Jaime Permuth (MPS 2009 Digital Photography; MFA 1994 Photography and Related Media), who has spent years following blind New York City subway magician Olmedini El Mago; Lissa Rivera (MFA 2009 Photography, Video and Related Media), whose work examines the medium’s connection with identity; Kathy Shorr (BFA 1988 Photography), whose photo project "Shot" captures the scars of gun-violence victims posing for portraits at the location of their shooting; Thomas Holton (MFA 2005 Photography, Video and Related Media), who for many years has documented the life of a Chinese American family living in a small apartment in the Lower East Side; and Zackary Drucker (BFA 2005 Photography), who works to break down how we think about gender, sexuality and seeing.

BFA Photography graduates Dana Davenport (2015), Amy Elkins (2007), Lisa Elmaleh (2007), Brian Finke (1998), Hector René Membreno-Canales (2014), Star Montana (2013) and Ilona Szwarc (2013) will also be showing work. Other artists in the show include Anna Beeke (MFA 2013 Photography, Video and Related Media), Renee Cox (MFA 1992 Photography and Related Media), Melvin Harper (MFA 2017 Photography, Video and Related Media), Kathryn Mussallem (MPS 2015 Digital Photography), Anna Ogier-Bloomer (MPS 2017 Digital Photography), Rachel Papo (MFA 2005 Photography, Video and Related Media), Amy Stein (MFA 2006 Photography, Video and Related Media) and Sarah Teller (BFA 2017 Photography and Video).

"American Truth" will be on view from Saturday, November 16, through Saturday, December 14, at the SVA Chelsea Gallery, 601 West 26th Street, 15th floor; the reception will be held on Thursday, November 21, 6:00 – 8:00pm. (For more information, visit SVA Galleries' "American Truth" exhibition page.) A related panel discussion, "Truth & Reconciliation," featuring participating artists Finke, Membreno-Canales, Harper and Shorr, will take place Wednesday, December 11, 6:30pm, at the SVA Chelsea Gallery.

*This exhibition has no affiliation or connection with the conservative news group The American Truth Project.

A version of this article appears in the fall/winter 2019 Visual Arts Journal.

SVA Features: “Truth” Tellers