2011-2012 Columbia MFA Show
April 29– May 20, 2012
Fisher Landau Center for Art
38-27 30th Street Long Island City, NY

Korakrit Arunanondchai, Julia Benjamin, Sebastian Black, Robin Cameron, Nathan Catlin, Lea Cetera, Caitlin Cherry, Lisa Cobbe, Jeremy Couillard, Ernst Fischer, Ben Hall, Kristina Lee, Alexandra Lerman, Molly Lowe, R. Lyon, Irini Miga, Susan Morelock, Claudio Nolasco, Bea Parsons, Jordan Rathus, Corey Riddell, Sandy Smith, Maria Stabio, Ian Warren, Matthew Watson and James Yakimicki. 

Korakrit Arunanondchai, studio view, 2012

Exhibition catalouge PDF Download 

In thinking about the contributing artists that comprise the 2012 Thesis Exhibition of The Columbia University School of the Arts Visual Arts MFA Program, it is hard not to call up the image of “Soup Club,” a weekly social event initiated by members of this class that occurs each Tuesday between Critical Issues seminars and what is clearly the best Visiting Artist Lecture Series in the city (organized by artists within the program as well). “Soup Club” provides an answer to the question of what to do after discussing Bruno Latour and Peter Weibel’s Iconoclash exhibition, for example, or considering the implications of Hito Steyerl’s essay “Is the Museum a Factory?,” and before taking in a Tuesday night artist talk by the likes of Ayreen Anastas and Rene Gabri of 16 Beaver, or Pierre Huyghe, or Moyra Davey, Saâdane Afif, or Elad Lassry. This socialized response is both simple and profound, to break bread together and enact what philosopher Jean-Luc Nancy captures in his phrase “being singular plural.” [1] This mode of plurality and collectivity that does not make “we” into a singular identity but rather emphasizes the “beingwith” of meaningful exchange conveys the reality of “Soup Club” while also describing the unique - ness of this group of alarmingly talented artists. Both camaraderie and a work - ing-through of difference characterize “Soup Club,” allowing a desire for common ground to share the stage with a unique richness of specific vantage points. Creating an invaluable social gathering for the entire program, the regularity of these meetings also provides some pretty delicious soup, I must say. As a frequent visitor to each artist’s studio and sometime participant in “Soup Club,” I can attest that coming together as group of artists in ongoing dia - logue helped to open up a crucial space between production and presentation that each artist within this program has made significant contributions to. By creating a place where consensus is not the goal and where complications are welcomed and returned to, “Soup Club” is a collective place that conveys the artful and visionary amplitude of the artists in this program. It has been remarkable to share both the singular experi - ence of being welcomed into each studio, and to take part in such a distinctive ethos of plurality, a dynamic that also greets the fulsome span of visitors to the program. These twenty-six artists hail from truly diverse places and represent the dynamism of art today. From Bangkok to London to Boulder, Detroit to Chicago to Los Angeles, from St. Petersburg to Saskatoon to Fullerton, from Santo Domingo to Glasgow to Ipswich, from Athens to Vancouver to New York City and beyond, they have brought with them a range of cultural and aesthetic inquisitiveness, ambition, and self-knowledge that embodies what theorist Kaja Silverman has described as “a kind of looking which takes place in the world, and for the world, a kind of looking which stubbornly adheres to phenomenal forms but also augments and enriches them.”[2] And what a world this group inhabits and translates in their art! Whether taking online video fragments of teenage girls fighting as source material, or redirecting the digital voice alteration and effects of gaming culture, algorithmic marketing and data compression of new technologies, or investigating online secret societies and the construction of behind-the-scenes televisual personae, the realities of digital distortion and networked culture abound via hyper-sensitivities that capture shifts in materiality, labor, and communication. And yet contemporaneity within the artistic practices on view here does not only mirror and question new technologies but also re-animates mesmerizing analog effects and anachronistic fragmentation: a dealer of rare soul music LPs and urban detritus is present; a conceptual purveyor of lesser-known moments in the lives of JeanPierre Léaud and Yves Klein exists alongside an oscillating patterned response to Henri Focillon’s “life of forms,” while a 16mm portrayal of sublime coastline is both apparitional and ethnographic. Similarly, large-format photographic image sequences drift and detour indelibly through urban, suburban, and rural American scenography. The worlds that are fashioned here include the socio-economic class divide and uneasy displays of power and weakness that can still reside in the trappings of exquisitely crafted portrait painting, just as a surreal allegorical reach can imagine new approaches to landscape and stratified views of war and Post-Fordist industry. These alternate visions of painting’s capacities are diverse and populated with hybrid creatures that reflect an intensified dialogue between abstract and figurative currents in advanced painting: street dogs and googly-eyed aristocracy are in conversation with new deployments of pattern and decoration, incisive challenges to painting’s architectural complicity, and renewed investigations of totemic symbolism and deadpan coercions of gestural abstraction. The ability to fashion a productive tension with past painting conventions and be aware of digitally informed processes is attentive, ambitious, and morphing throughout the studios of Prentis Hall and within this exhibition. With a similar acuity maxims to live by are culled from family histories and childhood documents, masculine myth-making is estranged yet uncannily familiar, the deep woods are once again a place of enchantment, and sculpture, painting, and video installations on view compound further forays into ecological disaster, funereal ritual, fragmented returns to Classicism and folk motifs, the literary Romanticism and implied politics of the Caucasian War and its afterlives, as well as the appeal to an ever-refined individualism in contemporary advertorial and branding strategies. Indeed, in keeping with philosopher Giorgio Agamben’s clarification of the contemporary away from an adjectival status and toward a more constitutive capacity and embodied responsibility, each of the artists within this remarkable class has been a contemporary to one another, “the one who, dividing and interpolating time, is capable of transforming it and putting it into relation with other times.”3 Each artist in the exhibition is one who recognizes and takes up the challenge of putting forward specificity and a unique partialness that allows for cultural vulnerbality, formal ingenuity, risk, and conviction. It has been a true pleasure to be a part of such a vibrant and talented community over the past two years, and to encounter artworks and artistic practices within this exhibition that are so deeply felt, dynamic, and ready to extend outward into New York and beyond.

                                                                                                                          — Fionn Meade

1 See Jean-Luc Nancy, Being Singular Plural (Meridian: Crossing Aesthetics, Stanford University Press, 2000)
2 Giorgio Agamben, “What is the Contemporary?” in What is an Apparatus? (SUP, 2009), p. 53
3 Kaja Silverman, World Spectators: Cultural Memory in the Present (SUP, 2000), p. 2

Copryright Fionn Meade unless otherwise stated