It’s always good to check in on local Southern California university art programs. We always forget to do this and know we need to extend the scope of coverage to what these schools are up to. Artist and UCLA MFA student Janna Ireland sent us a note a few weeks back that the UCLA MFA 2013 exhibition was coming up, opening November 1 and closing November 17 at the New Wight Gallery. It was on our list of shows to see and, since we were visiting the Hammer, it was a perfect opportunity.
Please Note: We left our camera at home and all of these photos are from our iPhones. Very poor quality: we apologize–and that is all the more reason to see this in person.
The show is located in a small gallery space underneath a giant Eli Broad complex. It’s a very bare space that features one piece by each of the seventeen artists. Like we’ve seen in the past from the program and from the nature of classes, there are certain themes present in the room, these intellectual spirits who lead you from one piece to another. The first piece you encounter is a series of name tags pinned to the wall, dated with descriptions and each saying “DAVID.” The piece is David Whitaker’s Name Tags, a performative work-in-progress that sees the artist wearing simple name tags for what we assume is the entirety of the semester. This piece feels like the MFA 2013 class’ thesis as many somewhat humorously explore the identity of an artist.
A new, larger, and woody Altar by Janna Ireland takes the identity baton and shows her enclosed in lush greens on a blanket. There are some fruits and books and her presence in the work–like all of her pieces–suggest an immediacy, that this is Janna at her most present: this is what her Summer into Fall of 2012 has been. Around one corner is a beige apartmentscape by Marten Elder and A’alia Marilyn Brown‘s Equestrian statue of Dan Flavin. Elder’s recent photos always have a delightful toying with LA’s ugly beauty that surrounds him and Brown’s work shows an homage to an influencer through a horsey grin. At this point the sound of music will have entered the gallery and the word “booty” will be implanted into your mind. The sound goes with Dylan Mira’s video installation representing balloons: one the image of a blue balloon, one blue and deflated, and two tied to a couch dancing and clapping together. The relationship between form, sex, and human life have never floated together so effortlessly.
The next large chunk of the show consists of paintings that all are placed around Gerardo Monterrubio’s ceramic and wood untitled sculpture. The piece sees a knot of ceramic that could potentially be a frozen trashbag placed atop of large pieces of wood. Leon Benn‘s L’âme de Culver City (Trader Joe’s) painting watches Monterrubio’s and may be the shows biggest standout in its incredible irony and–like Elder–comment on the LA Leon sees. The piece is a pixelated blue and purple oil and acrylic painting with the word “TRADER” melting in bright red. I think I laughed for five minutes with this painting. Christine Wang‘s Girls And Dogs is on a wall parallel to Benn’s paintings and sees dog and girl faces portraited together with cursive text: “Girls are like dogs. There are short, yappy ones and the tall, quiet ones.” The piece comes off as playful in the moment but carries on like a reality checking underline beneath the invisibly written “bitch.”
The tail two spaces in the gallery feature Devin Kenny‘s temporary dirt-and-glass performative pieces, Katie Sinnott‘s always enveloping mixed media installations, and EJ Hill‘s TBD future performance piece, currently framed as empty spaces awaiting the moment it is realized. These pieces all seem to hum in the back as the space is a lit by a glow
The visit to the UCLA MFA 2013 exhibition was great but obviously incomplete: there were empty chairs commemorating a passed performance piece and a audio hallway was silent for our passing through, not to mention Hill’s empty frames. This isn’t a surprise because the artists like the school year are still in the process of making. This said, there are some very special works–Name Tags, L’âme de Culver City (Trader Joe’s), Girls And Dogs, Ireland’s altar–that swell with life. The exhibition is on view through November 17 and represents a peek into student artists at work in anticipation of a soon-to-come graduation.