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BFA Show Picks

by Britany Salsbury

p. landis blairP. Landis Blair’s installation includes four paintings and a number of small drawings, each of which approaches the much-scoffed-at art historical canon in unique and innovative ways. Blair’s large-scale-painting, Surprise!, is especially exemplary of this trend; a mouse lies dead and caught in a mousetrap that appears to be, strangely, located in a field. In striking contrast with the disgust that might be evoked by such a scene, Blair’s mouse is painted in a way that exemplifies remarkable attention to both form and technique. Surprise! fits comfortably in the long neglected legacy of the tragic beauty of Dutch vanitas painting. Rather than simply translating such a genre to the present day, however, the inexplicability of the mouse’s locale—in the sort of trap one might place in a home, but simultaneously outdoors—draws further upon the central theme of the work it seems to reference, taking the force of such tragedy to another level and giving the viewer much to consider.

Blair’s installation also includes two large untitled drawings which similarly draw upon both tradition and confusion; in one, for example, a woman sits reading a book. Behind her, stands a line reminiscent of a Depression-era unemployment queue. In this midst of this scene stands a crucifix with a holy figure—presumably God. The insertion of such traditional religious iconography into an already confusing image evokes questions of the relevance and translation of such images and their corresponding ideology into current artistic practice and culture. Additionally, they show a mature and developed understanding of both technique and history.

c.g. hongCaroline G. Hong’s submission consists of three dorm-room-style televisions lined up on a platform, each broadcasting interviews which she conducted with her mother and father. Hong asks questions that are difficult in their simplicity; those which would either spawn a manifesto from the philosophically inclined or a one word answer from others. Her father, for example, is asked who he is, and responds with a sort of frustrated confusion. The slight divergences in each display reflect this confusion. During Hong’s interview with her father, one camera loses its focus on him, moving, instead, to an empty compact disc case located on his desk. This movement seems to mirror the conversation itself, in which understanding itself is repeatedly dislocated.

Hong takes up a somewhat tired idea, the often unbridgeable generational gap between parents and their children, and literalizes it in a way that is both innovative and difficult to ignore. In one scene, for example, Hong’s mother yells at her to “be strong,” in a conversation that seems to focus on a failed relationship. Taken out of context in this way, such exchanges reveal the vast difference and the equally compelling desire to relate inherent to such universal relationships.

Amanda Gross, as her exhibition postcard says, makes “food art.” Her BFA installation involved a series of nine drawings of various sizes. Of these, roughly half were of food—particularly vegetables; monumental eggplants in the midst of buildings and colossal onions taking up the whole of each work’s visual space. Occurring in the midst of skillfully executed figural drawings, Ross’s representations of food are notable in that they command just as much attention and notice as the figures in her work.


amanda ross


Of these works, a small, more roughly executed sketch stood out as especially humorous, relevant, and smart. A donut, muffin, and caramel apple appear in the work, surrounded by text which reads “Okay but…I’d rather be eating!” Although there are innumerable relevant interpretations for the drawing—the mass media preference for unhealthily thin young women, the equally unhealthy move toward obesity in contemporary American society, postmodern appropriation of kitsch as artistic device, or even as corresponding with a current move toward the insertion of humor in art—it’s equally compelling to look at Ross’s drawing and think of the way in which, on the most basic level, you really do just want to eat the stuff in her drawing.

e. suterE. Suter’s work, MSG Chromophobia, is easily one of, if not the most, aesthetically interesting pieces in this year’s BFA show. The work, which is part watercolor, part installation, includes 18 small and two large works, as well as a wall painting, umbrella, and temporary tattoos which viewers were free to take with them. The smaller group of drawings served as the focus of the work; each contained ink drawings of women in various poses, increasingly obscured by bright patternings of watercolor. In the first image, for example, only a small section of turquoise and blue connecting to the woman is visible, while in the last image, only a vivid blurring of color is available.

Chromophobia is, curiously, listed in medical dictionaries as both an abnormal fear of colors as well as resistance to stains; Suter’s work both introduces the former as literal and realizes the latter definition as an impossibility. As such, the work serves as an excellent example of work in which neither content nor aesthetics are sacrificed at the cost of one another. Although the work contains an undeniable beauty, it simultaneously invites a consideration of the formal properties of watercolor as media and of the way in which color may function beyond mere opticality.

Of all the work exhibited within the two floors and numerous rooms of work at this year’s BFA show, perhaps the most outstanding was an installation of three photographs by Anthony Carfello, entitled Commencement. Each image represents the artist taking part in fictional rights of passage into the art world. In one, he is tattooed with the word “artist” (so, as his website says, “If I’m ever in an accident, the paramedics will know that this is not just any corpse they’re carrying, but one of an artist”), in another, Carfello is photographed at a debutante ball on the front steps of the Museum of Contemporary Art. In the first, and most on-point image, Carfello is drafted— à la college football—by a top gallery, receiving a hat that says “Artworld” and a jersey that reads “Emerging ’07.”



Extensive conversation has been initiated in regards to the direction of art after postmodernism, after much that can be done has been done. Carfello transforms the seriousness of this debate—and the sanctity of the artworld which values it—into one big, elaborate joke. Offensive, maybe; more significantly, though, Commencement is really apt and really, really funny. Carfello’s work demonstrates a mature and intelligent understanding of both the impenetrability of the art market as well as the issues that plague contemporary critics and theorists. Instead of frustratingly attempting to work within the confines and dictates of such institutions, he addresses them directly. Carfello makes a number of joking allusions to being an artist to watch, but in this humor, there is, ultimately, a lot of truth.

all images courtesy of Gallery 2


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