Zulfiqar Mannan

Amid deep-seated fears running amok nationwide of exclusion through difference, the Yale School of Art celebrates an eccentric line of artists and their work in its 2017 MFA Painting and Printmaking Thesis Show at the Green Gallery.

Titled “CODA,” the thesis show was unveiled to the public on Feb. 2 and will be on display until Feb. 25, with two receptions in between for each of the two groups that will share the gallery space one after the other. While sharing similarities in the intensity of their abstractions, the artwork on display depict a wide range of tastes, intentions and executions.

According to Isaac Howell ART ’17, the MFA show hires two full-time faculty members as “loose curators” who visit the artists in studios and talk to them to figure out what pair of artists should be exhibited next to each other. While the exhibition is more or less student-organized, the floor plan is assigned with counsel from the two faculty curators who ensure that the artists displayed together accentuate the characteristics of each other.

“I liked how artists were kind of obligated to work space-consciously,” said Hazal Özgür ’20. “I was speaking to one of my TAs about her work and I asked her if she ever felt restricted having to work with one specific part of the gallery and she told me that while she was working on her own piece, she let the gallery, and the artists she was sharing the gallery with, inspire and shape her work. I think that’s cool because, speaking broadly, that process enabled each gallery to be read as a composition as a whole that can be traced down to individually idiosyncratic works that speak different ideas.”

The space opens up with the vibrant typography-based work of Nicholas Mayer ART ’17, whose piece consists solely of grouped words written in various bright colors, almost intentionally avoiding making a statement with phrases like “It’s Big, It’s Bad” or more simply, “Cookie Eater.” In contrast, the only artwork that accompanies Mayer’s in the space belongs to Steph Gonzalez-Turner ART ’17, which makes its own silent but bold statement in a lone, white, curved wall protrusion.

Another part of the gallery is transformed by the poignant, abstract figure representations by Tunji Adeniyi-Jones ART ’17, juxtaposed with a large hanging sculpture by Charlotte De Larminat ART ’17, which evokes images of a swing. In the same room, Simon Ko ART ’17 provides a final comparison between the individualism of the three artists in the divergence displayed by her monotone enamel portraits of varying textures. The show has been well-received by visitors all over the campus, not only for its content, but also the regulations and directions that propelled these pieces.

Powell explained how the painting and printmaking department at the School of Art treats the MFA show as a thesis but also a “work-in-progress” display.

“It’s still ideas in development. It’s a way to check in with students’ work and time here at school,” said Powell, whose two-part artwork is displayed in the basement. “I’ve been working on my wall piece, which is a free-standing sculpture, since October and the 20-foot wall painting in three to four days over winter break. My painting was quick but I wouldn’t have reached it if I hadn’t done the wall piece first.”

Outside the gallery space hangs a poster that reads “please return my jacket to my thesis installation” in bold, capital letters. The page is put up by Georgia Kennedy ART ’17, and displays an image of her wooden installation with the black leather jacket that is nowhere to be seen anymore. In her plea, which is taped in several places all through the first floor of the Green Hall building, she explains how she spent many hours altering and sewing the jacket in order to fit her perfectly and how the material means more to her than just another part of an art piece. The bottom of the page reads, “No Questions Asked.”

Kennedy’s installation stands tall right next to Howell’s and is a prominent part of the show that has received raving reviews all around, even by students who visit the gallery for short periods of time right before they attend their classes in the building.

“The gallery was fascinating to walk through briefly because I got to get a glimpse at what goes through some of the grad students’ heads even though I’ve never met them before,” Monique Baltzer ’20 said. “The massive scale of the projects was so compelling and made me feel as if it was almost an interactive experience.”

The second group of artwork for the MFA thesis show will be put up on Feb. 16.