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The Good and the Bad of SAIC’s MFA Show 2013

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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.

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.

For a few hours, an artist lived inside the bowels of that raggedy couch.

Look closely: Hippie performance art or expanded painting?

Look closely: Hippie performance art or expanded painting?

Painting was scarce at SAIC’s MFA 2013, and most of it was applied lightly.

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.

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 actually liked, is by Maddie Reyna.

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?

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.

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.

Michael H. Hall channels Nauman and Gober in this disgusting blob of silicone foam and hair ventilated by a cheap fan.

We 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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

Anastasia Douka with her installation.

Another great installation by Nick Henning.

Another great installation by Nick Henning.

Food porn in polyurethane foam, latex, lycra, sphagnum moss, gummy candy and other materials by Cara Crebs.

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.

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.

Daniel Luedtke’s LED tubes transgressing the wall and illuminating a glazed ceramic relief.

Also by Daniel Luedke is this sleek, indexical collage titled Powder Kills Shine.

Also by Daniel Luedtke is this sleek, indexical collage titled “Powder Kills Shine.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

4 Responses to “The Good and the Bad of SAIC’s MFA Show 2013”

  1. Winslow Smith Says:

    Students should be left to make their own choices without the shadow of doubt lingering over them, but also the school should start failing those who don’t make the grade.

    I don’t get it. Isn’t that the type of organizational structure you’re criticizing?

    What would the grade be?

  2. will.er Says:

    I think SAIC wanted curators to be as objective as possible and instead of relying on students who may have some vendetta against their classmates, so they brought in outside people.
    Also what qualifies as not making the grade?
    If you look at the way the school is structured the only people who fail are the ones who dont care and aren’t actively pursuing their work, you may not like the work being produced but fortunately the function of schol isnt to weed out the “bad”, its supposed to allow all the students the same opportunity for growth, regardless of their individual visions.
    Looking at school the way you do ultimately means failure for anyone participating, or at least anyone who cant color inside your lines.
    Look at it this way, no one wants to pay $40,000 a year only to be told at the end that their work is bad, thats not for the school to determine, thats for galleries to determine.

  3. LauraR Says:

    The majority of the work that the curators (and curatorial fellows, who were also a huge part of the process) did was organizational. They took care of the logistics so that the artists could focus on their “creative juices,” and they planned out the gallery space so that each art work would have what it needed to communicate with the viewer and the works around it in the best possible way.

    This was a very large show with over a hundred artists working in many different mediums and styles, and I think the curators, curatorial fellows, and artists all did a fantastic job.

    To learn more about the show, the artists and their work, and the process of putting it all together, you might want to check out the website: http://www.mfashow2013.com/

  4. GarySavage Says:

    No hay peor cuña que la del mismo palo.

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