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An image-filled reflection on MICA’s Art Walk

May 17, 2013
mariam cooper yolk no 1By Michael Farley
I arrived at MICA’s annual Art Walk preview of the 2013 undergraduate commencement exhibition severely underdressed and totally overwhelmed. The exhibition sprawls across MICA’s growing campus and features over 400 artists. I am always really taken aback by how smart, polished, and mature so much of the work that comes out of MICA is. Here is part one of my incomplete top picks, favorites, and attention-grabbers.

The first piece I saw, immediately next to the check-in tent outside the Fox Building was Miriam Cooper’s “Yolk #1″ (pictured left). This painting is gorgeous. I love the tension between its graphic and painterly qualities, its asymmetrical balance and somewhat creepy tone.

Annie Rochell Look  Look AwayInside the Fox Building, Annie Rochell’s “Look/Look Away” (pictured left) plays with the cliche of a painting’s eyes following a viewer in a clever way; two images, painted at 45 degree angles from another, show two views of the same boy from different perspectives. It’s weirdly captivating and I found myself pacing back and forth “watching” the painting “move”. It’s oil on canvas for the .GIF generation.

In the adjacent gallery, Justine Kablack serves Lisa Dillin-esque realness (or unrealness?) with a drop-ceiling lightjustine kablack sculpture, flooring/astro turf piece, and painting of a sunset through venetian blinds. I’m hoping the similarities to Dillin’s locally well-publicized recent work are deliberate in some kind of meta-narrative of artificiality miming artificiality. (pictured right)

Olivia Di BenignoI was really happy to see some amazing sculptural work from the Ceramics Department, which back in my day as a MICA undergrad didn’t get a lot of action beyond the pottery wheel. Olivia Di Benigo’s architecturally-inspired pieces are gorgeous. I love work that has a minimalist aesthetic but subtly shows the artist’s hand in its craftsmanship. Di Benigo totally hits the nail on the head. These are beautiful and so evocative while still remaining the most “quiet” work in the gallery (pictured left).
Downstairs, Emilee Wooten’s figurative sculptures of corpulent women are flawlessly executed and so weirdly creepy. I found it really hard to make eye contact with them and then even harder to break their strangely confrontational gazes. I left the gallery feeling almost embarrassed and that’s an emotion I so rarely feel that I think this work will stick with me for a while. (pictured below)emilee wooten

On the second floor, printmaker Rei Lem’s “Construction” dominates the gallery with its fluorescent palette, large scale and chaotic surface. I really loved her work. So much neon artwork that borrows commercial visual language feels like it’s whisking low-brow culture off to the ivory tower to be sarcastically judged. Lem, on the other hand, seems to be stealing the aesthetic back; returning it to a less-precious, approachable place. Its like a really cute DIY valentine to city life with all its texture and overlapping advertisements, tags, and tiny comedic moments. I was really glad I came for Art Walk and got to meet the artist; her approachable, bubbly personality totally matches what I expected based on her work. She was even giving out free screen-printed posters to visitors! It’s definitely going on my wall! (pictured below)

Rei Lem construction

I’m glad I got to meet a lot of the artists whose work I was looking at. In the Brown Center, a totally unassuming collection of objects really impressed me. One was a flat-screen TV on the floor depicting an escalator going down. On the wall, a digital print sat on a shelf, slightly off the wall next to a chunk of granite with the artist’s handprint stenciled in spray paint. Forgive me, I cannot for the life of me remember the artist’s name and I spent hours trying to find it on Facebook, MICA’s website, and a ouija board. She explained that the print was photos of details from a sculpture collaged together, printed, and then presented in a “sculptural” manner. I told her that it reminded me of André Malraux’s “Museum Without Walls” (which postulated that photography could unite and juxtapose details of sculptures from across the world) and that I liked its relationship to the granite, technically a “print” on sculptural material. I have never seen a human face convey so much excitement that someone else “got” their work. Of all the work this year that deals with issues of representation vs. reality, hers felt the least like a one-liner and strangely poetic despite its kind of “un-aesthetic”.(pictured right)unknown artist

Jianna Lieberman and Aviva PaleyAcross the plaza in the Bunting Center, Jianna Lieberman and Aviva Paley, two graphic designers made these shirts… which I think are hilarious. Despite their patriotic overtones, however, they were oddly enough printed on t shirts made in Honduras.
Lastly, in that same gallery, I loved this painting by Donna Castello “Reflection/ Love Seat”. donna castello reflection slash love seat


MICA’s annual commencement exhibition runs this weekend through Monday, with a campus-wide reception on Sunday from 1:30 to 5:00 PM
  • Hello

    The escalator piece on the 4th floor of Brown is Amy Beverungen ~_~

  • Justinekablack

    Amy Beverungen is the artist with the escalator video!!!

  • Michael Farley