By Pedro Vélez
It’s that time of the year when the School of the Art Institute of Chicago throws its spawn (130 of them) into the wilderness. Judging from the less-than-stellar works on display at the Sullivan Galleries (on view through May 17), most of these artists don’t stand a chance. So, what went wrong? Who should be sent to the lions? How about the curators? Have your pick from this year’s class which was made up of Lisa Dorin, Deputy Director for Curatorial Affairs at the Williams College Museum of Art, Bad at Sports’ Duncan MacKenzie and Encarnación M. Teruel, Director of Visual Arts, Media, and Multi-Disciplinary Programs at the Illinois Arts Council. Do we really need curators directing a thesis show? Hiring a “middleman” to choke the flow of creative juices from stressed-out students is just not working out. I say, let students make their own choices on their own terms without the shadow of doubt lingering over their heads. Don’t get me wrong, I love SAIC, I’m her son too, but maybe the time has come to take responsibility and start failing those who don’t make the grade. Like my good friend artist and activist Sara Daleiden always says, “Not everyone has to be an artist, those who fail grad school can be reassigned to become cultural producers.”
Here are some of the best, the worst and the mediocre.
Performance art, including mimes devoid of sarcasm and irony, were all the rage during SAIC’s MFA 2013 opening reception.
For a few hours, an artist lived inside the bowels of that raggedy couch.
Look closely: Hippie performance art or expanded painting?
Painting was scarce at SAIC’s MFA 2013, and most of it was applied lightly.
Another trend at SAIC’s MFA is balancing acts in sculpture and installation art.
Also trendy, multiple variations on the likes of Amanda Ross-Ho and Rachel Harrison. This one, which I liked, is by Maddie Reyna.
Sometimes one has to wonder why students go into debt for trivial gestures and sad craftsmanship like this altar to Axl Rose. Does the artist know about Laura London’s encounters with Axl Rose and his lawyers?
The artist as object of desire.
Michael H. Hall channels Nauman and Gober in this disgusting blob of silicone foam and hair ventilated by a cheap fan.
I spotted John Pyper, the editor in chief of Boston’s Big, Red & Shiny, who commented most works seemed like sad attempts at getting gallery representation.
One of my favorites: “Bandits” by Emre Kocagil. I love the movement on those evil masks.
The most evocative and beautiful piece was “The Iron Rod” by Milad Mozari, a short film recorded during several taxi rides beneath Chicago’s Loop. According to the explanatory text, the improvisational conversations and performances are based on a Mormon hymn and the Persian classical music system known as the Radif. The sound of the train overhead makes the experience even more poignant and operatic.
Craftsmanship and dexterity overload: “Free Class Jump” by Anastasia Douka is a large installation made of paper, glue, wax, steel, string and fluorescent lights.
Anastasia Douka with her installation.
Another great installation by Nick Henning.
Food porn in polyurethane foam, latex, lycra, sphagnum moss, gummy candy and other materials by Cara Krebs.
Suk An with her ethereal mixed media sculpture. The black ink microphone melts and creates a drawing.
Daniel Luedtke’s LED tubes transgressing the wall and illuminating a glazed ceramic relief.
Also by Daniel Luedtke is this sleek, indexical collage titled “Powder Kills Shine.”