“MFA Sculpture Show Part II” confuses, enlightens

Grad students got talent.

“The information on the left is wrong. Call me … if you figure out the right information.”

I’m not sure what to think when I see these words on the wrinkled notebook paper tacked to the wall inside Green Hall. It’s in the portion of the “MFA Sculpture Show Part II” that belongs to Kit Yi Wong ART ’12, who also goes by Ali Wong. To the left of a sheet is a sort of artist’s statement that reads “Kit Yi Wong Presents: Ali Wong Presents: The Autobiography of Ali Wong, by Kit Yi Wong.” It’s confusing, inverted, self-referential and of course, wrong — but also so right.

The entire show is, in some way, summed up in Wong’s words, in the way that introspection — from self or from an outsider, welcomed or unwelcomed — plays a critical role in the experience of the show. If Kit Yi presents the personal artworks of Ali, then it’s not Ali’s — so it’s wrong, and vice versa. Wong’s works especially seem to tackle the tension between the interior self and the self one sees in the mirror, flaunting feeling and emotion more than sheer technique. Her work includes a series of paintings on strangely shaped canvases, and they are at once both calm and anxious. Some canvases are covered in silky smooth colors; others have bright, unsettling shapes resembling a microscopic view of deadly bacteria.

One room over is the thesis show of Kevin Beasley ART ’12, whose collection of seemingly disjointed works produces a different kind of tension. Right in the middle of the room is a large sculpture that resembles a piece of rusted, antiquated machinery. Its powerful nature and gritty design is in stark contrast to the clean, white space. The visibility of the piece is in even greater contrast to an image of a flame on the wall, hidden by a white curtain that easily blends into the walls and ground. Beasley’s works call for an immediate questioning of the relationship between the pieces. Perhaps there is none, and that is precisely the answer.

Walking down the stairs to the middle gallery, it’s extremely easy to miss the work of Stephen Decker ART ’12. For a second, I even wondered if Wong’s “This information is wrong” also applied to the gallery guide. But Decker’s work is there; its presence is just soft. In this gallery, quiet piano music plays from speakers suspended in the air, haunting the empty space. A projector, nestled comfortably on the ground against the far wall, plays a video of a dark human figure sprawling around in suspension, or more likely, in water. The buoyancy and effortlessness of the man’s existence along with the accompanying music playing from 10 feet above the ground create an eerie and mysterious environment. There is no traditional sculpture in this section, but Decker’s ability to sculpt the space with such ease and delicateness is equally impressive.

Florencia Escudero ART ’12 and Constance Armellino ART ’12 occupy the lower gallery, which spans two stories of open space. Escudero’s work hangs with immediacy and urgency in that there is a shattered plate of glass that seems to have purposefully fallen from a suspension above. Yet it is obvious that the suspension, a rectangular frame holding objects on strings, was never holding this plate of glass. There is a sadness in the dusty shattered glass, clearly having been stepped on with soft footprints left on the surface. It appears that the suspension has somehow abandoned this glass sheet, mercilessly and wrongfully dropping it to the ground in neglect. I cannot help but think of the implications of Wong’s earlier statements, in which Kit Yi presents Ali who presents Kit Yi, and it is all so wrong that one part leaves the other. But in the case of Escudero’s work, it’s actually possible.

Escudero’s work, which also ranges from sensational amalgamations of household objects to painted cloth, is divided from Armellino’s work with a giant white curtain. Armellino’s work is significantly less colorful and elaborate, yet also evokes similar questions and feelings. There is a pyramid of 33 martini glasses that, at first glance, are so transparent that it worries me that if I can’t see it, I might run into it. Yet at the same time, even though the martini glass is such a recognized shape that its silhouette is easily identifiable, in this case even a pile of them is nearly invisible. The same notion of deconstructing and reconstructing object is evident in a series of images in which a standard enveloped is cut, splayed open and folded into a variety of unrecognizable shapes.

Ultimately, the MFA Sculpture Show demonstrates a mastery of manipulating space, objects and, most importantly, thought. The placement of Wong’s section at the front of the gallery is especially astute, the lingering confusion of her words guiding the viewer through the rest of the exhibition. As a result, those who view the show with an eye of suspicion will be rewarded in understanding not only the objects but also their intent.

“MFA Sculpture Show Part II” goes until April 10 in Green Hall.

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