Fresh Paint
Monday, May 16, 2005
Northwestern University MFA Show
Since there only seem to be four of them, I guess the University doesn't promote them as much as they should. (Though the online department description optimistically talks about 10-12 students in the program. Perhaps the others had their shows elsewhere? Or are they trying to kill the program? Hmmm....

Back to the art itself. It's not that good this year and it can't be blamed on Ed Paschke's death. In the past the department was known for its painting strength, especially representational painting, owing most likely to James Valerio's influence. I wrote about two of the graduates last year (Michael Ellis and David Gracie), both fine (I particularly liked Ellis's work).

Kelly Marie Breslin's installation, which may or may not have been called "Love Stone Fuckin Rock Series" was dreadful lazy crap, cutsey stuff like the undergrads used to do, so seemed a tad old-fashioned, plus indescribably bad. Black and white blobby cutouts kinda kissing each other, black and white posters that were actually unreadable, stuff stuck to the wall with a few marks on it... what the fuck? This is the culmination of your education? Grumble grumble.

Zachary Buchner's sculpture was a bit better, especially one stunning, painfully orange painted plywood piece that looked somewhat like a shallow collapsing staircase, or perhaps a venetian blind relaxing against the wall. The color was so overwhelming, so pervasive, it was literally uncomfortable looking at it. He also had a very tall, narrow zig zag in a subtle white or beige leaning against a wall on the other side of the room that was almost the exact opposite of this piece. He also had some other crap lying around on the floor that was far less interesting (2 pieces mysteriously had powdered pigment covering them and falling on the floor and the other didn't seem to be made by the same artist at all).

I mention the startling orange because the color glowed so broadly that the drawings hung on the wall next to it picked up the reflected color. These were strange textured things by Joseph Pflieger (though I wasn't sure whether it was an illusion or actual texture and the guard was hovering too near for me to find out), like the surface of the moon or a cloud of gray oatmeal. He also had a few kinda boring minimalist beige paintings and a photograph of a barn and a fence, for some reason.

The final artist, Ryan Scheidt, has paintings and a video thing documenting the stages of each painting. He will go far with this series in this particular art environment, called "Works from the Cultivation Project," a wall of 16 square 16 x 16 inch paintings, 4 24 x 24 inch ones, and one big 60 x 60 inch one (sizes approximate). They too look like layered and glowing manipulated images of the surface of a far planet, but colorized and painted in latex layers. They are quite gorgeous, though cold and somewhat calculated. He can easily dump the video (which wasn't working well anyway when I was there). Anything at Corey Eiseman's wonderful toegristle.com site is far more interesting anyway. Ryan should get in touch with this guy. They could make some noise in the art world. (Doing a google search on Ryan's name shows he's already well on his way. He seems to be with Julia Friedman in New York already.) Friedman was one of my favorite galleries when it was in Chicago.

So that's it. The show is up at the Block Gallery on Northwestern University's campus through June 19.

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