MFA show shows something that might be nothing

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When welcomed by a Basquiat-like blackboard — colored with what appears to be random scribbles — you instantly know that the artists whose work is displayed at the Second Year MFA Student Exhibition plan to compete with masters.

Not surprisingly, the trippy three-dimensional space they create in the Art School gallery is fantastic. The whitewashed walls contrast starkly with shapes and materials of all colors and kinds that hang on them. The t-shirts, the paintings and the strategic, yet deceptively random, scattered pieces on the floor further enhance the depth of the room. Coupled with that, the simple yet droll arrangement of objects and work around the rooms illustrates just how abstract contemporary art can be — how the position of the various pieces is an extremely important part of their viewing. The cans placed on a window sill or the freely hanging members of a deck of cards, sandwiched between pieces of glass, are all perfectly placed in their surroundings.

Imagine the Mona Lisa in the Louvre; then imagine the Mona Lisa in the Yale University Art Gallery. One just doesn’t fit — it’s all about the created experience, the ambience.

The exhibition aptly typifies the diversity of art and raises the multimillion dollar question with no answer — “what, really, is art?”

For some, art is translated through exhibits of cards immobilized between glass pieces. For others, art is expressed in the form of a Sony flat-screen displaying a bath tub filled with smoothly swaying weeds. What previously artistically ‘ignorant’ viewers would simply see as recycled junk metamorphoses into a work of magic. A bottle, a testament to the presence of art in everyday life, is strapped in a neck brace. Maybe suggesting the entrapment of the artist in society. Indeed, it is interesting to see how an artist has made a blue hanging t-shirt his main focus. It definitely challenges the conventions of traditional art but also makes one wonder how a hanging t-shirt is creative and/or artistic. Another artist, has made what appears to be a large nest as his central work.

But the show is not just restricted to randomly recycled pieces. A cool piece features a stone base with footsteps impressed in the stone lying perpendicular to a strangely illuminated white slab. Exhibits also include traditional prints and photographs. Included in these captured moments are naked bodies in the act of egestion photographed by Katie Koti ART ’12 that display the sensuality of the human skin. Other artists, like Gabriela Collins-Fernandez ART ’12, have adopted what appears to be childish drawings in their works. On closer observation, Jaewon Seok’s ART ’12 piece is simply a sticker on the wall. If art is about being creative, the piece fell short on that front, but who knows what the “artist” could have been thinking. Heesun Seo’s ART ’12 work consists of white folded napkins lying on the floor, stacked up. One wonders if they are meant to be picked up; they certainly tempt the viewer to do so. Proceeding on through, the viewer sees stools made of sponge, literally plopped in the middle of the room, complemented by randomly arranged colored cloth placed in a nearby corner. The hanging art ranges from blotches of paint to wires projecting from canvasses.

The MFA show truly taps into the depths of the contemporary art world with pieces the artists have modified and adapted to make their own. Mostly, it shows the viewer that art knows no bounds — that expression comes from way, WAY within. A black circle, or a dot — perception is the key to an object becoming art. Just search for it.

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