MFA Photography, Video and Related Media Exhibition
June 22 - July 13, 2019
School of Visual Arts presents its annual exhibition of thesis work by MFA Photography, Video and Related Media. Curated by Nat Trotman, curator of Performance and Media at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in New York City, the exhibition features works from the graduating class of 2019 and will be on view at the SVA Chelsea Gallery through July 13. Additionally, a thesis screening featuring video works will take place at the SVA Theatre.
Exhibition: June 22 – July 13, 2019
Reception: Thursday, June 27, 6:00 – 8:00pm
SVA Chelsea Gallery, 601 West 26th Street, New York City
Screening: Friday, June 21, 2019, 5:00 – 7:00pm and 8:00– 10:00pm
Welcome Address: 5:00pm
SVA Theatre, 333 West 23rd Street, New York City
Keeping with a 30-year tradition of bringing together artists from all over the world who embrace a wide range of image-making strategies, the 24 MFA Photography, Video and Related Media graduates in this exhibition reflect a sort of unity in diversity, grappling with the ways our sense of reality is constructed at a moment when it can seem like the very fabric of that reality is breaking down. Whether through physical or psychological experiences; through the landscapes, edifices and social norms that surround us; or through the technology that increasingly infiltrates our lives, these works present varied and highly personal positions on the role of the artist in the world. Bodies abound, both as tangible presences and as ghostly traces that evade the camera’s gaze. And just as our physical selves are at once object and subject, many of the works hover between real and virtual, absence and presence, personal and social.
A number of graduates draw on personal histories as a lens for more widespread social and psychological conditions. In Fragmented Fables, Olivia Hunter builds a mysterious visual narrative meant to evoke life with obsessive-compulsive disorder. Candice Kwan investigates visual constructions of maternal identity in Zygote to Stardust, using her own experiences as a point of departure. Di Wu’s multimedia installation Stage IV metaphorically examines the artist’s history of anxiety and depression through biological imagery. Angie Nam’s Vestige uses abstracted family photographs to explore senses of loss, erasure and absence inspired by the dementia suffered by the artist’s grandmother. In Performance, Failure, and the Machine Takeover of the Family Album, Brianna Calello turns to her mother’s and grandmother’s archives to explore the inability of cameras, from Kodak to Google Clips, to accurately capture the life of a family.
The shift from the personal to the social continues in the work of Serichai Traipoom, who examines another kind of family structure in NIGHTLIFE, his photographic series devoted to New York’s queer club scene. Xiaolin Zhang portrays the culture of a Manhattan boxing gym in the detailed portraits and still lifes of his project Clinch. David Cade’s Through the Looking Glass documents a community of male sex workers, exploring the lasting repercussions of male-on-male sexual abuse from the viewpoint of its survivors. Jordan Cruz’s Traumatic Iterations presents a memorial to generations of women in Puerto Rico who have suffered domestic violence, particularly in the wake of Hurricane Maria. This impulse to give voice to the underrepresented is also taken up by Tooraj Khamenehzadeh, who stages underwater poetry readings by young Iranians in I’m Not a Song to be Sung. And in Distopía of a Jungle City, and the Human of Nature Carla Maldonado depicts the situation of indigenous communities in the Amazon, whose lives have been marginalized, displaced and rent asunder by Brazil’s pro-deforestation policies.
Underlying a number of projects in this exhibition is a well-developed understanding and critique of the ways digital technologies impact our communal and physical existence. Petros Lales’s To Be is to Get Cut is an interactive, virtual environment populated by creatures that bear uncanny resemblances to human anatomy—and the impulses that they embody. In Esprit, Kyle Henderson addresses notions of desire by applying images from online pornography to crumpled sheets of metal painted in the colors of sports cars. The collage-based photographs in Paul Simon’s Prima Facie, though entirely analogue, emulate the digital logic of bodily fragmentation to evoke the complexities of gendered, sexual subjecthood. Broken and distorted bodies also appear in Brett Henrikson’s Next Slide, in which he manipulates art historical images on a flatbed scanner to collapse boundaries between the antique and contemporary. Taole Zhu incorporates found internet footage into A Little Darker than the Entire Universe, a series of performative video-sculptures that imagine new futures through the lens of science fiction and other simulations. Hao Chen’s Boxman investigates the endless cycle of consumption and production promoted by Web commerce, via a stop-animated character built from discarded cardboard boxes. Liu Yan questions the distinctions between the reality and representation of things in the oblique and colorful structures of her project Digital Ontology of Objects.
Spiraling out from this interest in artificial realities, several graduates look to landscape and architecture, often seemingly devoid of human influence, to investigate the ways that our environments have been fabricated by memory, ideology or history. In Looking for Spirit, Lucea Spinelli questions the power of Catholic iconography in realistic yet uncanny details of church architecture and décor. Cheng Gong articulates the ten precepts of Buddhism by staging elaborate still-life scenes that bring Eastern objects and ideas into Western settings. Yi Chen’s Nearly Natural addresses the thin line between nature and artifice in urban environments, exploring the ways that lived reality is engineered through landscape design and architecture. In Professional Amateur Junyan Hou examines our relationship with nature, using rock climbing as a lens for the grace and labor through which people grapple with the raw power and beauty of the outdoors. In Another Possibility of Light, Wanki Min combines images of cities, people and landscapes with astronomical photographs of the night sky, contrasting the scale of cosmic time with that of our daily lives. The dreamlike, staged scenes in Chongdao Ma’s A Time to Live, a Time to Die reflect on the artist’s nostalgia for youthful fantasies, now complicated by the process of growing older.
As part of this exhibition, there will be a screening of At Home on the Road with an intro by SVA Thesis Critique faculty member Laura Parnes on Friday June 21. At Home on the Road features seven moving image works that thematically encompass the analysis of one’s own upbringing and the desire to contemplate and explore nostalgia for physical and mental landscapes. While some work focuses on the physical return to home, like The First Line of China by Hanwen Zhang and Sara’s Galapagos by Sara Arno, other visions of home are more abstract, like in Yin Xueqing’s Fiction About Country C. Other works discuss displacement and the absence of home; Livia di Lucia’s Three of Us and Jonathan Ellis’s ode to the cross-country voyage, Witness American. Self-examinations continue with Raquel Salazar’s piece The Circle of Altruism, where helping others becomes the way to care for oneself. And finally, a home world completely contrived inside the artist’s brain, To be Continued by Zheng Zhang, is an animated 3D space that exemplifies a new reality facing the next generation of lens-based creative thinkers.