Art Criticism and Writing | MFA Program

Thursday May 21st, 2015
Filed under Alumni, News, Events and Alumni, Spring 2015, Uncategorized

William Larson: Fireflies at Gitterman Gallery by Amelia Rina

William Larson, "Fireflies"

William Larson. Untitled, c. 1969–78; electro-carbon print; 11 x 8 ½ in. © William Larson. Courtesy of Gitterman Gallery.

The constant stream of digital information traveling around us over wires and airways is an increasingly recognized phenomenon. Over the past two decades, many artists have begun exploring the seemingly limitless possibilities of digital communication. However, long before the integration of once-mysterious electronic media into the art world in the 1990s, William Larson used a Graphic Sciences DEX 1 Teleprinter to produce some of the earliest digitally generated artworks, in his series Fireflies (1969–78). The DEX 1—a sophisticated predecessor to the fax machine of the 1970s and the computer technology developed in the 1980s—allowed Larson to translate sound (music and voice), text, and photographic elements into electronic signals that were then transmitted over a telephone line and burned into carbon paper by the device’s stylus, rendering what he calls a high-definition “electronic drawing.” Each unique, grayscale print combines graphic marks and photo collage to produce a visual stutter of image, text, and line; like a cross-section of a hurricane, Larson’s work highlights possible instants in the continuum of images electronically whirling around us everyday.

Strongly influenced by László Moholy-Nagy and Constructivist collages from the early 20th century, Larson treats both image and text as decontextualized signs. While their original denotations cannot be ignored—body parts, plants, clouds, and lettering remain recognizable—the combination of these references in the untitled compositions become a garbled visual language that speaks as if in tongues to our cultural understanding of what images signify. In one print, negatives of faces become floating black masks while the majority of a nude male torso and legs hang from the top edge, and a man with a black bar over his eyes is positioned at the bottom edge next to a corner of clouds. Scraps of words form uneven horizons; the legible sections read, “documented medical evidence indicates that’s exactly what,” “Noo,” “see,” and “does.” A viewer’s natural impulse to decode these fractured messages echoes the sensation of trying to recall a disintegrating memory; it feels like there must be a relationship between the elements, but the points are too far apart to make any real connection.

From the Daily Serving online posting on May 21, 2015. Read the full article here.

Tuesday May 12th, 2015
Filed under Alumni, News, Events and Alumni, Spring 2015

When Found Photographs Tell New Stories by Amelia Rina

Erik Kessels, "24 HRS in Photos” (2013)

Installation view at Pier 24 Photography of Erik Kessels, “24 HRS in Photos” (2013), C-prints (images courtesy of Pier 24 Photography, San Francisco)

SAN FRANCISCO — Situated directly under the Bay Bridge in San Francisco, Pier 24 Photography occupies a 28,000 square foot warehouse originally built in 1935. The exhibition space — described as neither a museum nor a gallery — combines the original architecture of the pier with the sleek, neutral interiors common to contemporary art institutions. The converted, hybrid space creates a fortuitous parallel with Pier 24’s current exhibition, Secondhand, which features thirteen artists who use found photographs to create composite images that examine the present through a reconstruction of the past.

In appropriating old photographs, these artists fold our notion of linear time into a kind of tightly wound spiral; when an image is recycled it moves toward a new identity, while still maintaining a reference to its original form. This layering simultaneously enriches and fragments an image, depending on what the artists choose to save or omit.

Many of the works on view in Secondhand are enhanced by their sculptural quality. Erik Kessels’s installations, “Photo Cubes” (2007), “Album Beauty” (2012), and “24 HRS in Photos” (2013) are some of the largest in the exhibition, each of them exaggerated in size or quantity. Featuring waist-high plexiglass photo cubes, a room of wall-sized photo albums and cut-outs, and a floor-to-ceiling wave of 4×6 in. glossy drugstore photos, the works represent just a small portion of the countless found photographs Kessels has amassed in his search through other people’s memories. In an interview with Pier 24, Kessels explained that he searches for the “beautiful mistakes” in vernacular photographs, and that “an amateur is someone who dares to make these mistakes.” Kessels’s unrelenting curiosity has given rise to a collection that reveals the miraculous imperfections — like one family’s earnest though always unsuccessful attempts to photograph their black dog, resulting in a series of images that each feature a dog-shaped void — that can happen when people record their lives.

From the Hyperallergic online posting on May 12, 2015. Read the full article here.

Saturday May 9th, 2015
Filed under Alumni, News, Events and Alumni

Teju Cole in conversation with David Levi Strauss and Emmanuel Iduma

Thank you to everyone who came out to our final Quijote talk, Teju Cole in conversation with David Levi Strauss and Emmanuel Iduma! Stay tuned for information about our upcoming fall lecture series.

Saturday May 2nd, 2015
Filed under Alumni, News, Events and Alumni

Advanced Poetry Workshop with alumna Cynthia Cruz

Cynthia Cruz

Cynthia Cruz

“I always tell my students to take notes on their lives: to literally write down, indiscriminately, everything in their world,” writes Cruz. “The Chekhov on the old wood nightstand near the bed, the chipped tea cup, the pile of French Vogue magazines stacked on the floor. These objects reveal far more than we can say about our selves—and more honestly. This is the stuff of our poems. Not necessarily lists or list poems, but, rather, incorporating, in some way, the objects which hold meaning into our work.”

When we write poems, we begin with what we don’t know, collecting disparate bits and pieces. When we revise, we use what we know: the pull of sound, language, meaning, silence and order. In this advanced workshop, we look at craft—line, space, stanza, form, music and register of language—as well as the work of outside writers who use these tools in their own writing.

Class takes place on July 7, 14, 21, 28 from 6-9 PM.
Unterberg Poetry Center of the 92nd Street Y
1395 Lexington Ave, New York, New York 10128
Manuscript submission required. Submit by Monday, 5/18 at 9 AM.

Wednesday May 13, 2015
Filed under Alumni, Events, News, News, Events and Alumni, Spring 2015

2015 MFA Art Criticism & Writing Thesis Presentation

2015 MFA Art Criticism & Writing Thesis Presentation

Please join the graduating class of School of Visual Art’s MFA Art Criticism & Writing program for a presentation of their theses.

May 13, 2015
132 West 21st Street, 6th Floor New York, New York 10011


“Blind Lines of Investigation” by Renée Brown

“Keine Neue Welt Ohne Neue Sprache” by Cynthia Cruz

“A Stranger’s Pose” by Emmanuel Iduma

“Picasso’s Hands” by Michael Johnson

“An Intangible Incarnation: Silence in Art and Activism” by Damla Koksalan

“A Penelope Work of Forgetting: Tracing Chris Marker’s ‘Immemory’” by Kaitlyn A. Kramer

“Lygia Clark and the Age of Prestidigitation” by Tatiane Schilaro

“Encounters With Sirens: Navigating a Virtual Future” by Amelia Rina Sechman

“The Diagrammatic Body: Notes Toward the Recent Work of Amy Sillman” by Elizabeth Sultzer


Refreshments will be served.

Tuesday July 1st, 2014
Filed under Alumni, News, News, Events and Alumni

Preliminary Study: RSI-T (part 2) curated by alumna Naomi Lev

“Preliminary Study: RSI-T (part 2)” is “a group exhibition comprised of art work that explore the effects of technology on the evolution of the body, and consequently, the mind,” according to exhibit curator Naomi Lev.

The show features paintings, installation and video art by artists Ann Oren, James Budds Dees, Dov Talpaz, I Ting Hou and Javier Barrios. Work from West Michigan artists Mark Rumsey and Kevin Buist will also be included in the exhibit, which opens at the Fire Barn Gallery in Grand Haven at 6-9 p.m. on June 30.

It will then open at the Muskegon Museum of Art at 6-7:30 p.m. on July 1 before moving to the Richard App Gallery in Grand Rapids at 6 p.m. on July 2.

RSI, which stands for Repetitive Strain Injury, is a condition that can develop from repetitive movements. The show examines RSI in the context of new technology such as computers, iPhones and Google.

“In the last decade, technology has appeared in our lives in an extremity that has never been experienced before,” Lev said in a press release. “The outcome of our excessive use of mobile devices, computers and other tools of communication is not yet thoroughly detected or observed.”

The three-day event will culminate with a panel discussion at LaFontsee Gallery in Grand Rapids at 7:30 p.m. on July 2.

The public will have the opportunity to hear about the evolution of this show from Lev, in conversation with Buist, director of exhibitions for ArtPrize, technological entrepreneur Mark Holzbach and Chris Protas, Fire Barn Gallery director.

From the MLive online posting by Brandon Champion on June 21, 2014.

Tuesday June 24th, 2014
Filed under Alumni, News, News, Events and Alumni

Mika Tajima by Kareem Estefan for Bomb Magazine

Installation view of The Double, 2008, canvas, acrylic paint, gold leaf, silkscreen, paper, pins, wood, 384 ×66 × 36 inches. Courtesy of the artist and The Kitchen, New York. Photo by Tom Powell.

To kick with sabots, to willfully destroy, especially for political advantage. The Brooklyn-based artist and musician Mika Tajima is something of a saboteur. She reduces the legacy of modernist design and enterprise to rubble, reenacting its erosion in networked society as swift destruction, so she may sift through the wreckage for the progenitors of our present political confines. Cue the screeches and drones of Tajima’s records with New Humans, her noise ensemble with Howie Chen and Eric Tsai. Replay Dead by Third Act, which documents a New Humans performance in Turin’s historic Fiat factory—the site of radical autonomist struggles and Futurist innovation—where Tajima and her bandmates meticulously smashed a chic compact car.

Mika Tajima is also, perhaps, a slacker. “The figure of the slacker is a critique of those systems that regulate bodies and space,” she wrote in Artforum, reflecting on Richard Linklater’s 1991 film Slacker. “Slacking is nonperformance in the face of post-Fordist total life.” She’d prefer not to—not to innovate, not to adapt to a shifting business climate, not to balance work and leisure. She is predisposed to negate; yet sometimes she merely mirrors, as with the moniker New Humans, which ironically repeats the promise of a collective subject to come that her work assiduously sabotages. Evading even the labor of figuration, she paints in monochrome or introduces a minimalist color gradient or geometric pattern, perversely evoking the Rothkos and Le Corbusiers whose effects (on the design of workplaces, housing projects, hospitals) she deconstructs. She calls this “Furniture Art,” both alluding to modernist composer Erik Satie—who pioneered the arrangement of ambient sound with his “Furniture Music”—and to the office space abstract art came to fill, as corporate furniture. Continue reading…

Saturday June 14th, 2014
Filed under Alumni, News, News, Events and Alumni

Claudia La Rocco on Valuing Labor in the Arts for Art Practical

Valuing Labor in the Arts
Response: Dear Christian
By Claudia La Rocco

On April 19, 2014, the Arts Research Center hosted Valuing Labor in the Arts: A Practicum. This daylong event included a series of artist-led workshops that developed exercises, prompts, or actions that engage questions of art, labor, and economics.

Claudia La Rocco participated in the “Yoga for Adjuncts: The Somatics of Human Capital” workshop at the Valuing Labor in the Arts practicum and was commissioned to write this response.

Dear Christian,

I’m writing from Governors Island, where I have a residency through the Lower Manhattan Cultural Council. Spring is finally here, and it’s one of those dazzling, windy days. The water is terrifically choppy. And it seems important to say, given the topic(s) at hand, that I have this residency as a writer, full stop (or something). I am also the organization’s research fellow, thinking about issues of sustainability (isn’t everyone these days). A little while ago, LMCC’s Director of Cultural Programs, Melissa Levin—do you know her? She’s lovely—told me that she has to fight for us.

She said:
I think of physical space as being equivalent to mental space—when people ask me why a writer or a photographer needs a dedicated space … well, they think, research, edit, and create dialogue. They also need space for making.

I can see the water from where I sit, the orange ferry going by, Wall Street as our mythologized lap of labor. I just ate a tuna sandwich. I am listening to Fiona Apple’s “Werewolf” on repeat, through headphones.

Yoga for Adjuncts: The Somatics of Human Capital workshop, Valuing Laboring in the Arts practicum, April 19, 2014, UC Berkeley Art Museum. Courtesy of the Arts Research Center, UC Berkeley. Photo: Megan Hoetger.

When I told people about your workshop “Yoga for Adjuncts: The Somatics of Human Capital,” I kept saying it was marvelously sinister. This is perhaps best encapsulated by your final question to us, even as you asked us to breathe, to accept the ground beneath us: “Do you have a contract for this coming fall?”

Come on. What adjunct worth her salt has a contract?? That’s not how the system works—to the extent that it works.

Continue reading…

Friday January 17th, 2014
Filed under Alumni, News, News, Events and Alumni, Spring 2014

Alumna Amiee Walleston on Matthew Higgs for Art in America

Agnes Lux, #91-L, 2012. Graphite on postcards. 82⅝ X 52½ inches. Courtesy the artist.

Matthew Higgs’s Economics of Art

by Aimee Walleston

Currently on view at James Cohan gallery, “Everyday Abstract-Abstract Everyday” features 37 works that New York-based curator Matthew Higgs chose with an agenda based, in part, on changes brought about by the economic downturn. “I’d been noticing that the high production values very much associated with the boom in the art world in the mid-2000s were in decline,” says Higgs. “An awful lot of artists are now working with much more modest materials-perhaps due to the economy.”

The exhibition’s unifying aesthetic is homespun, showing artists less as business-savvy designers and more as workaday tinkerers. The hand of the maker is evident. Higgs historicizes this conceit by including works from artists as generationally disparate as Andy Warhol and Walead Beshty. The former’s entry is anOxidation Painting (1978), which the artist famously produced by urinating (or having others urinate) on a canvas overlayed with copper. Beshty’s contribution, 20-inch Copper (FedEx® Medium Kraft Box ©2004 FEDEX 155143 REV), Standard Overnight, Los Angeles-New York trk#798399701913, May 15-16, 2012 (2012), is a box sculpture also made of copper. Both works are concerned with the oxidation process of copper, to very different ends. Warhol’s series brings the artist momentarily to earth, to the processes of bodily secretions. Conversely, Beshty’s work—part of the FedEx series, which the artist has been producing since 2005-is about travel and motion: it examines how copper is oxidized, marred and be-stickered when enduring the processes of shipment.

Two works that Higgs calls “guiding forces” for the show are small sculptures by Judith Scott and the Philadelphia Wireman. Scott was a Bay Area artist who Higgs had worked with in the final years of her life. Her small, untitled mixed-medium sculpture from 2004 looks like an amorphously shaped rubber band ball (it is actually made from yarn and other mediums). The artist, who died in 2005, had Down syndrome and was deaf and unable to speak, created deeply formal abstract sculptures with yarn and found materials. In the show, the Philadelphia Wireman’s untitled 1975 sculpture is a near-twin to Scott’s, with colorful wire and rubber bands wrapped around a McDonald’s badge. The Philadelphia Wireman is an anonymous artist whose 1,200-odd works, produced during the 1970s, were collected in an alley on trash night in Philadelphia. “Those two artists worked outside the convention of art,” says Higgs. “They illustrate the desire to create a world for oneself, outside of the existing world.” A world, equally, untied to the fickle demands of economics.

Esthetic pairings are one of the hallmarks of the assemblage. A Bill Jenkins wall piece, Bed with Rope and Fence (2012), consists of the wire frame of a bed adorned with scatterings of rope.Wärmegitter (2011) by Alexandra Bircken is composed of a bed-sized aluminum frame with a hammock-like knitted center. The two works play off each other and invite dialogue. An equally compelling kinship appears in a pairing of gridded wall pieces by Gedi Sibony and Hannah Wilke. Sibony’s The Two Simple Green Threes (2012) is a drop cloth stenciled with a grid of multicolored designs of animals, plants and snowflakes. Wilke’s grid, S.O.S-Starification Object Series #2 (1975), is one of her well-known chewing gum vagina pieces. The series is best known through images of Wilke displaying the tiny sculptures on her naked body—here they are shown on their own, affixed to sheets of paper.

“Both works are about applying structure to things that would rather remain informal–molding chewing gum and stenciling a drop cloth,” says Higgs. “When installing the exhibition, I was interested in narratives that might unfold between the pieces. What remains important, however, is that they have radically different origins and intentions. That’s the pleasure of making a group show—it’s just a temporary gathering, it’s not forever.”

No show can take the temperature of the economic climate, a truism made obvious by the fact that many of the works are from artists who are no longer active. “I wanted to make the show cross-generational, but I also wanted to show artists who made work for very different reasons,” says Higgs. “It’s not an ism or a tendency. It just seems to me that especially among younger artists, there’s a quite humble approach to making, and, equally, a relation of making to everyday life.” By creating an alternate case history to contemporary abstraction—one that refers to economics on a global scale, and not simply those of the art market—Higgs’s exhibition makes an elegantly definitive statement: artists keep making art and the world keeps turning, boom or bust.

Click here for the original article.

Thursday January 9, 2014
Filed under Alumni, Events, Spring 2014

Alumna Kara Rooney in Group Exhibition “A ‘Womanhouse’ or a Roaming House? ‘A Room of One’s Own’ Today” at AIR Gallery

A ‘Womanhouse’ or Roaming House? ‘A Room of One’s Own’ Today

Curated by Mira Schor

A ‘Womanhouse’ or a Roaming House? ‘A Room of One’s Own’ Today revisits the requisite territory for artistic production by women visual artists suggested by Virginia Woolf’s A Room of One’s Own and articulated at Womanhouse in Los Angeles in 1972. As many around the world are considering reviving the model of the commons as an alternative to global capitalism’s privatization of the social, and as local geographies compete with global identities, this exhibition considers the following questions: What is the room today? Who occupies it? What is the space necessary for an artist to make art in and for whom? Rather than a “Womanhouse” ought we now envision a Rooming House or a Roaming House?

About the Curator: Mira Schor is a painter and writer living in New York. She focuses on gendered chronicles in representations of the body and language, as well as storytelling and autobiography within the political field. She is the author of the books, A Decade of Negative Thinking: Essays on Art, Politics, and Daily Life, and, Wet: On Painting, Feminism, and Art Culture. She is also featured in several online publications, including her blog, “A Year of Positive Thinking,” and, “M/E/A/N/I/N/G,” which Schor authors and co-edits with Susan Bee. Mira Schor has been the recipient of awards in painting from the Guggenheim, Marie Walsh Sharpe, and Pollock-Krasner Foundations, as well as the College Art Association’s Frank Jewett Mather Award for Art Criticism and a Creative Capital/ Warhol Foundation Arts Writers Grant.

Artists Exhibiting: Irina Arnaut, Sharon Louise Barnes, Kimberly Brooks, Pauline Chernichaw, Jacintha Clark, Marcia Cooper, Laura Crosby, Amy Finkbeiner, Parisa Ghaderi, Marita Gootee, Marcie Hancock, Nancy Grace Horton, Sara Jimenez, Jeanne Jo, Natanya Khashan, Alex McQuilkin, Lucy Meskill, Megan Mette, Dawn Nye, Kalena Patton, Dominique Paul, Katrazyna Randall, Kaitlynn Redell, Kara Rooney, Caitlin Rueter, Julie Schenkelberg, Hayley Severns, Virginia Sprance, M. Louise Stanley, Evelin Stermitz, Robin Tewes, Gwenn Thomas, Marianne Van Den Bergh, Rebecca Volinsky, Angela Voulgarelis, Jen Waters, Sasha Wortzel, Jayoung Yoon, Nancy Youdelman, Lu Zhang

Opening Reception: Thursday, January 9, 2014, 6-9pm

Video Screening: Saturday, January, 18th, 2014, 3-5:30pm

Panel Discussion: Saturday, February 1st 2014, 4-6pm

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