The student exhibition can be a pivotal moment in the life of an artist. Being in it teaches pupils that being an artist requires more than just creating work. From framing and mounting to writing text descriptions and artist statements, the process of putting on a show is paramount to art’s reception. And while some student shows are simply a learning process for the amateur aficionado, others, particularly at the graduate level, can be the moment when an artist’s career is launched.
At UCSB’s Art, Design & Architecture Museum, seven graduating MFA students are presenting The Chess Club through June 3. Curated by Bruce W. Ferguson, president of Otis College of Art & Design, the exhibition considers the “move” in art, acknowledging the students’ transition to professional artists and the strategies that must inevitably take place to make their work seen.
Standouts of the cohort’s work include Carlos Ochoa’s virtual realities that immerse you in a sensorial landscape of color, sound, and abstract geometries. Visitors are invited to put on headsets and navigate their way through the bright-pink landscapes with oculus controllers, experiencing three-dimensional forms and ambient sounds in a manner that feels exploratory and futuristic but still rooted in recognizable shapes. The work is fresh and exciting, making you wonder what ideas Ochoa still has up his sleeve.
Toni Scott’s installations are impactful. Her dramatic, large-scale sculpture “The Empire Strikes Black,” made of painted palm fronds, rope, and wood, feels like a deserted island of memories and struggle. Painted entirely black, the sculpture has a depth of texture that invites you to consider the relationship between geography and history, the palm fronds appearing as sharp machetes rather than an organic material symbolizing tropical leisure. Casting large shadows on the white wall behind, the piece also conjures ideas about protection and foreshadowing, creating another powerful dimension in shades of gray.
Jennifer Lugris’s paintings are playful deconstructions of ordinary domesticity. Bright and colorful, the works depict tidbits of a scene among various-sized canvases, your eyes reconstructing the full visual as you slowly scan the wall. One canvas shows a pair of boots, another a kitchen table; a lamp and a window pane are revealed, as well as a human form. Considering the relationship between the ordinary and extraordinary, Lugris shows the everyday world as vibrant and alive, while challenging us to consider how reality is visually constructed.
The other graduating artists are equally compelling. Daria Noor Izad creates minimalist drawings on canvas, ceramic sculpture, and assemblage works inspired by her nonverbal understanding with horses. Social-practice artist Robert Huerta works in prints, installation, and new media to take on urgent issues including the U.S./Mexico border, immigration, and masculinity. Lucy Holtsnider’s practice addresses the impact of climate change in collages made from beautiful handmade paper, while Jimmy Miracle paints colorful landscapes in various scales. Perhaps the most traditional of the cohort, Miracle also painted portraits of his fellow classmates and professors, the canvases hung at the entrance of the exhibition reminding us of the relationships that are forged during two intense years of study and art-making.
The Chess Club is exemplary of what an MFA show is all about — a diverse group of artists working across a range of media, but with the shared intent to create works of art that allow us to look at the world through new perspectives and, hopefully, to reveal something about contemporary life.
The Chess Club: UCSB 2018 MFA Thesis Exhibition shows through Sunday, June 3, at the Art, Design & Architecture Museum, UCSB. Call 893-2951 or see museum.ucsb.edu.
SBCC and Westmont Student Exhibitions
In April through early May, student exhibitions also took center stage at SBCC and Westmont, with significant pieces highlighting Santa Barbara’s emerging artistic talent.
The Annual Student Exhibition took place April 13-May 11 at Santa Barbara City College’s Atkinson Gallery. The show was juried by writer and independent arts curator Yasmine Zodeh and featured 49 artworks by 27 student artists. Ceramics, drawing, painting, printmaking, and sculpture were all showcased — representing a range of the art department’s offerings. A standout work of the show was created by artist Alberto Lule, who also received the Frederick and Ursula Perl Endowed Art Scholarship. In an intimate drawing done in graphite on paper, Lule depicts himself crouched down in front of prison stacks. While direct and confrontational, the drawing is also poetic and full of sensitivity. It feels like the first chapter of an open book — one that you’ll want to keep turning the pages to.
At Westmont College, 14 graduating seniors presented in Degrees of Separation: Westmont Graduate Exhibition from April 5 through May 5. Working in media ranging from yarn bombing to stop-motion animation, the students tackled themes including mental health, environmentalism, gender stereotypes, and faith. Some took inspiration from narratives and personal relationships, selecting portraiture as their medium of choice. The most successful works were ones that took a concept and worked through it in multiples, offering manifold perspectives of the same theme.