VCU SCULPTURE + EXTENDED MEDIA MFA EXHIBITION
June 9th, 2017 – June 25th, 2017
Opening Reception: Friday, June 9th, 6pm-9pm
Artists: Savannah Knoop, Levester Williams, Anthony Iacono, Steven Randall,
Leyla Mozayen, Hallie McNeill, Shana Hoehn, Ryan Flores,
Ellie Hunter, Pallavi Sen, John Orth
Before the foot was purple, it was orange observes Kendall Buster, commenting upon Anthony Iacono’s decision to alter the color in one of his painted paper collages. The orange foot had been resting on a lavender face, in a quietly kinky vignette. Changing the color opens up an entirely new set of meanings: the participants lose their difference, a power dynamic shifts, anatomy fails, ambiguity ensues, and our understanding of the scene is put into play. Throughout this exhibition of recent graduates of the VCU Sculpture + Extended Media MFA Program, such slippages are abundant, meanings are never singular, and a concern with the complexities of corporeal existence is pervasive.
Savannah Knoop’s Rocking Tail (4 Screens) invites physical participation, and relates to an off-site performance at the East 10th Street Baths. Carved to fit the anatomy of a specific bather, the sculpture serves as both accessory and prosthesis for whomever is willing to take a seat and rock. The resulting experience is unique to the individual and as disorienting, invigorating, and knotty as any intimate encounter. In John Orth’s video installation Emporium, bodies and sculptures become entangled in a nonlinear narrative. Trapped, tied, and wrapped actors engage in acts of mimicry and seduction in a dark, diesel-infused dreamscape where human desire meets mechanical force.
Shana Hoehn’s Shudder Blade Teeter Topple, is set in the washed-out interiors of corporate break rooms and anonymous construction sites. In a blend of live action video and computer simulation, emotionally detached coworkers engage each other with disinterest, caught in an unstable environment where vertigo is normalized. Ellie Hunter’s hanging screens reflect a similarly anesthetized world, in which modern day office furniture is casually mingled with images of 5th century roman statuary. In these gauzy prints, references are literally flattened, and historical specificity is obscured by moire patterns that shift with the viewer’s movement. Hallie McNeill’s freestanding screen, Divider, creates a room partition that engages the sense of touch on multiple levels. Providing neither concealment nor privacy, Divider proposes a barrier to human contact while inviting reflection upon the limitations of haptic sensation.
The origin of materials play a significant role throughout the exhibition. In Levester Williams’ /SOULBOX/, a single African upside-down catfish swims in a tank volumetrically identical to the artist’s body. Filled with toilet water from a Virginia penitentiary, the tank and its contents evoke the stark existence of incarcerated individuals confined in the prison industrial complex. Steven Randall’s Chainmail Series and Accumulation Jugs are created from detritus collected from the border between Mexico and the United States. Collapsing material, site, and narrative the works draw on the unintended aesthetics of a contested landscape. Pallavi Sen’s installation A Version of My Bed aspires to a utopian ideal. Enacting a personal ethic of environmental sensitivity, her handmade objects circulate in an endless play of reuse, rearrangement, and redistribution as exuberant in its commitment to visual delight as it is to imagining an alternative to consumerist culture.
Ryan Flores’ collection of ceramic objects, Slippage, is influenced by Spanish still-life painting and Dutch vanitas. Exploring the tension between seduction and repulsion, underlying forms become subsumed by an overwhelmingly visceral surface that seems to emanate from an internal power source. In Leyla Mozayen’s anthropomorphic assemblages, the material excesses of capitalism are found in a state of upheaval. Made from medical supplies, discarded toys, and scraps of broken furniture, the works accumulate a patina brought on by illness and war, becoming grotesque actors in a far-reaching practice that stitches together personal history with destructive forces active in her native Syria.
The correspondences between these works, as well as their obvious differences, are reflective of the rigorous, sustained research practice and lively studio dialog that are hallmarks of the VCU Sculpture program. In their variety they demonstrate the vitality of divergent strategies unique to each artist’s individual perspective, while collectively they stand as a timely argument for a rigorous, critical engagement with the physical world.
–Matt King, Department Chair, VCU Sculpture + Extended Media
The exhibition is generously supported by the VCUarts Dean’s Office and made possible with space donated by 56 Bogart St., LLC.