UCSB’s art department has been vital lifeline, influencer and haven/incubator for Santa Barbara’s art scene for decades. Among its many symbiotic gifts to the art-watching public and artists themselves is the annual MFA Thesis Exhibition, an invariably intriguing glimpse into the creative energies of a select number of MFA candidate artists.
Unfortunately, COVID-19 has deprived us of this late spring ritual, as the AD&A Museum is shuttered, in sync with other art spaces in town, and in the world. Fortunately, the forces that be have mounted an impressive and thorough online exhibition, Field Day, of works from this year’s MFA crop. And though we have to settle for the realm of a faux “field” and dimension-less virtual gallery, delight is in store, once- or twice-removed.
Colorado-born Serene Blumenthal’s rough admix of sloganeering, punk ethic, and feminist muscle stirs in pieces such as the subversive satin wall hanging “Eat the Rich” and the “Melted Americana (caught in the hedges).” COVID-19 itself is itemized amongst anxiety-provocations in Blumenthal’s “Wound Woman,” while art-making during sheltering-in-place is behind the context-entangled “iPhone quarantine collages” by Kio Griffith.
Tokyo-born (and still partly based) Griffith, an artist, curator and critic, is naturally diverse, probing and fluid in his artistic means and aims. His MFA thesis forum shows “processing generated video” pieces, lithe pine and balsa sculptures, documentation of a “Neofluxus” performance, and works based on multiple analog clocks and live radios. This, we gotta’ see.
Megan Koth occupies the putatively “old school” painting slot in this MFA mob, with her supple and skilled approach to the art of painting. But ulterior motives hum beneath her coded imagery of female “beauty-seeking” self-care and anatomical minutiae examined within what she describes as “liminal and ritualized space as a woman artist and painter of women.”
For David Wesley White, who earned his BA at Manhattan’s Parsons School of Design before heading west to UCSB, the available media palette includes video, performance, and installation — oh, and body-molded bedsheets. As he writes, his art is a method to “examine personal and American history through a queer lens.”
North Carolinian native Marshall Sharpe injects half-unexpectedly topical contextual firepower in this post-George Floyd moment, with deceptively picturesque, gray-on-gold acrylic paintings of slave cabins on his great grandfather’s Alabaman plantation.
Upended and joy-buzzered Americana takes a giddy, surreal spin with Thomas Stoeckinger’s videos, kinetic sculptures, and art tipping of sacred American cows — such as a baseball bat turned to rubber. For another example, bask in the moveable miniature feast of the kinetic piece Jolly Green Giantess takes John Doe out on the Deere, on Two Horses. From our online perch, at least we can watch the art in video motion, if not in its proper space.
411: Field Day, the 2020 UCSB MFA exhibition, can be seen online at UCSB AD&A Museum.
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