The Circular Ruins
School of Visual Arts (SVA) presents “The Circular Ruins,” an exhibition of work by MFA Illustration as Visual Essay class of 2022 students. Curated by faculty member and alumnus Viktor Koen, the exhibition will be on view from Saturday, January 16, through Saturday, February 6, at galleries.sva.edu.
Presenting works by Andrew Alexander, Lillian Ansell, Yunyi Dai, Rae Weyn González, Melissa Guido, Stephish Liu, Yinhan Liu, Bernardo Rodriguez, Yiting Ruan, Myron Solomon, Jr., Sisi Yu, Wenxu Zhao and Zihan Zhong.
Koen writes, “‘The Circular Ruins (Las Ruinas Circulares),’ first published in 1940, is a classic paradigm of Jorge Luis Borges’ passion for magical realism. At the time, when the specific story was chosen to be the subject of an entire semester’s body of work, how relevant the idea of rebirth through fire could be didn’t cross my mind. But pandemics have a tendency to claim everything in their path, and now, ruins, strange altars, dreams of immortality and, most of all, destruction that manifests itself in consecutive waves seem to assume an urgent relevance.”
By viewing fire as a beginning rather than an end, 13 unique project concepts followed unexpected paths—down visceral rabbit holes and parallel universes where unlikely characters took the lead, from neon-colored gaming environments, shadows that question their hosts and personal documentation of origins and birth, to works inspired by Mayan codexes or the Rolling Stones’ “Sympathy for the Devil” hypothesis of evil’s influence through the ages. The projects include fantastical stories, too: of protagonists riding towards the sun on glorious birds or the exact opposite, making their way through dark dreams that one can only have from a bed in an intensive care unit after a terrible accident, punctuating a stream of terrible life choices. Or of a feline island where cats yearn to be tigers only to discover the tiger was already within; or a butterfly man’s quest to see if and how he fits in long-abandoned temple ruins; or a series of self-reflections as a means of multiplying oneself, even though distortion is the price to pay.
Even projects that followed Borges’ original story, in book or printmaking form, presented an impressive array of ways that the artists strengthened their visual voice by exploring the writer’s true gift: to irresistibly hint at the extraordinary, and by doing so open the door, prompting us to venture with him down that murky river, leading to an opportunity to find ourselves face-to-face with our very own version of the circular ruins.
The MFA in Illustration as Visual Essay at SVA is designed to maximize students’ opportunities as figurative artists, from the conventional gallery wall to the full range of 21st-century media. The program fuses the development of creative thinking with technical and communication skills. Additional focus is placed on best practices in navigating the visual-art marketplace while empowering students to choose making art as a way of life.