SVA — MFA 2020

School of Visual Arts MFA Fine Arts 2020
Online Thesis Exhibition, July 16 – August 6
Curated by Regine Basha

*We Interrupt This Program… is a post-COVID, online exhibition honoring the 2020 Graduates of the MFA Fine Arts program at the School of Visual Arts. The exhibition was supposed to happen in the Spring of 2020 but, due to complications related to COVID-19, had to be postponed indefinitely. This online version serves as a window into the work and processes of a group of hard-working artists who earned their degrees in May but did not have the chance to exhibit their thesis projects to a broader audience in person. In the spirit of student solidarity, a spontaneous online show did arise recently, organized by some of the MFA Fine Arts students and grads called ‘Please don’t come to this show’ and can be found here. This student body, and many like them around the city and country, had grown particularly close through the lockdown and the trauma of COVID-19 (though my understanding is that they were already a close-knit group to begin with!). Throughout my studio visits with them, I was especially impressed with how this incredibly diverse group---hailing from many parts of the globe including China, Korea, New Zealand and from within many parts of the United States including El Paso, Puerto Rico, Florida and places other than New York---chose to support one another. In these times of extreme racism, ignorance, hate and injustice, not to mention capitalist exploitation---it gives me a glimmer of hope to witness genuine solidarity and compassion in emerging groups of artists, who have carved out their own terms of social engagement with one another during these dark times. As we know from the several protests in university programs around the city this year, even pre-COVID, students are waking up to what’s broken and what’s unacceptable and pushing back on the status quo. The Black Lives Matter movement, often with students at the forefront, has mobilized citizens of New York City to not only protest but to also consider their own agency in being active anti-racists. It is often for these reasons I remain committed to visiting the studios of emerging artists in MFA programs as part of my curatorial practice overall... as this is the arena where change begins.

Speaking of status quo, group shows often tend to be weaved together with a theme or a guiding principle, but with MFA thesis shows, that is not the case; there is an opportunity to ‘riff’ off of the works through random proximity. The task of putting the show together in the ‘actual’ space would have relied heavily on dimensional associations... I usually enjoy exploring how these things happen in the course of installing the show. Textures, scale, psychic space, rhythms and subtle overlaps of concepts often drive the arrangement into spatial relationships between works and between real bodies standing in front of them within a specific architectural space of the gallery. In almost every case, the works made in the studios were made with the knowledge that they would be seen in actual, not virtual, space.

Now that we are operating in 2D, within a flat, but vastly broader electronic network, new considerations arise: How do the works behave here? How will they communicate or be perceived as a group in digital space? Considering these new sensibilities, I have selected works that serve this context more seamlessly, rather than works that might come across as ‘documentation’ of work in real space. Fortunately, many artists in this group have their own websites and social media handles with plenty more work, so viewers can get to know their most current output in real time.

That in itself would not be possible in real life.

What you will find within this online group show is a summary of the important themes that emerge in the paintings, video, photography, sculptural installations, public art interventions and other new genres the MFA students (now graduates) were invested in during their time at SVA.

For example, several artists are concerned with the environment and the anthropocene such as Maximilian Juliá with his investigations of the flora/fauna of his uncle’s Puerto Rican farm, or with Becca Guzzo whose beguiling sculptures shed light on the tragedy of exotic animal tourism. Investigations of time and space as conceptual and sculptural material play out in the performative videos of Dulce Lamarca, and in the mixed-media sculptures and videos of Kunjin Jiang. Similar issues of time and personal memory as a narrative played out in the stitch work of Yawen Erin Huang and in the deftly stitched language/image-based works of Amanda Smith. Personal narratives involving trauma found its way in the sculptural work of Carra Seals, and in the figurative sculptural heads of Maria Duran Sampedro. Jason Elizondo and Jee Youn Hwang, in very different ways, explored a materially-rich historical memoir related to their family history, as did Daniel Arturo Almeida in new treatments of family portraits. In the style of grand history painting, LaTonia Allen has created a monumental, and complex tableau reflecting aspects of her black identity. Creating highly colored environments along with abstract paintings, Carlos Rosales-Silva creates site-specific works based on material and experiential knowledge of his LatinX context. Also working in all-immersive color and site-specific installations as environment, is painter Lynn Weilin and installation artist Jimmy Mezei – who mingles found and hand-made functional objects into multi-part arrangements. Through the mark, doodles and scribbles, Jennifer Rappaport explores how her work can be pedagogical; whereas in the case of painter, Jyoon Hurr, obsessive mark-making unpacks deeply-felt emotional energy. Painters Linda Streicher and Marcelina Pater, in very different ways, approach intervening into architectural space as part of their work. Peter (Chun Chieh) Chang focuses on the germane material of concrete as a potentially affective painting medium, implicating its social implications as more of a construction worker’s element, rather than an artistic element. Addressing the problematics of New York’s urban streets as both source and research are artists Olive (Mengxia) Shi with her red square paintings and Tao Wei with his voided-out found garments and detrius installations. Keno Tung deftly used the streets as a stage for blurring photography, film and ambiguious micro-narratives. Other artists such as Sarah Malekzadeh made exuberant wall rugs of found images and objects of consumerist and meme culture, while Esther Yijun Xu, utilized data, coding and translation as found objects towards speculative narratives, in her VR films, wall works and books. Andrea Crapanzano explores the intersection of fact and fantasy in photographic work and forensic ephemera. Tarah Rhoda puts a microscope to human tears and creates an elaborate research/sculptural practice based on collecting tears and chronicling grief. Collection, accumulation and micro-viewing was also present in the way Michael Marrella stacked bits of paint atop long poles set precariously against the wall, forcing the viewer to look very closely. At the other end of the spectrum, Jae Won Jung builds up layer upon layer of dark paint along with hay and other natural materials to create dense paintings and sculptures reflecting natural processes of emergence and decay.
  —Regine Basha

The title *We Interrupt This Program... is a modification of the (now defunct) urgent broadcast announcement, “We interrupt this broadcast,” used frequently by radio and television networks when breaking into a program in progress to deliver important news or information.
Graduates: LaTonia Allen Daniel Arturo Almeida Peter (Chun Chieh) Chang Andrea Crapanzano Jason Elizondo Becca Guzzo Yawen Erin Huang Jyoon Hurr Jee Youn Hwang Kunjin Jiang Maximilian Juliá Jae Won Jung Dulce Lamarca Sarah Malekzadeh
Michael Marrella Jimmy Mezei Marcelina Pater Jennifer Rappaport Tarah Rhoda Maria Duran Sampedro Carra Seals Carlos Rosales-Silva Olive (Mengxia) Shi Amanda Smith Linda Streicher Keno Tung Tao Wei Lynn Weilin Esther Yijun Xu