When you walk into the graduating senior show at Fort Lewis College, you can’t miss “Emily.” Jason Harris’ abstract painting bristles with slabs of color, scraped and repainted. Smack in the middle sits a rough, black rectangle.
Given its provocative title, “Emily” makes you wonder if this is a portrait of sorts. If so, let your mind conjure an emotional storm. That’s what abstract expressionism is supposed to do.
Harris has a second painting, “Aella,” in the Exit Gallery down and around two corridors. It, too, has been created in a freewheeling style. Harris splashed a huge red circle on a ground of dripping blue. It looks as if it was painted in a flurry – again, the whole purpose of this kind of expressionism.
These two bold works dominate an otherwise tentative exhibit. Graduating senior art majors are required to submit works, and the show is assembled and hung by the students. So many works came in that the gallery is full to brimming. In addition, more works have been squeezed into the Exit Gallery, looking more like a Salon des Refusés than a legitimate exhibition. Lighting is spotty, and telltale signs of amateurishness can be found in uneven alignments and poorly cut mats.
“depARTing” is a surprise as it immediately follows a splendid show – also of student work.
The 53rd juried student exhibition was curated by fiber artist Jen Pack and stood out for its sophistication, quality and presentation.
“I’m pretty tough,” Pack said in an interview last week about winnowing work for any show. “A piece really has to be worthy for me to include it.”
The juried show had been hung by Andrea Martens’ exhibits class. Definite care went into groupings, sight lines and variety. So there’s a lesson to be learned here about quantity, pairings, lighting, etc., not to mention the courage to not accept everything.
Fortunately, a few pieces that were in the juried show have reappeared in the open senior show. They are more than worth a second look.
Ceramist Nick Schlau has three works in the senior exhibit. In the main gallery, Schlau has a quiet, porcelain vessel with a light crackle glaze. Its beautiful, soft shape speaks of the malleability of clay as his cool celadon pieces did in the earlier exhibit. They contrast with a large, confidently thrown stoneware bowl in the Exit space. But nothing prepares you for his untitled cracked, Raku-fired plate. It’s an entirely different aesthetic and illustrates the Japanese concept of the happy accident.
Vivian Krishnan’s explorations appeared in the juried and now in the senior show. Four miniature Chine collé prints from her “Don’t Be Shy” series of seated men posing nude for her camera are in the Exit space. “Reflection in the Bathroom,” a digital woodcut from another series, presumably self portraits, shows a fresh approach to both subject and composition. “Silk” is a still-life lithograph of a simple scarf with delicate, almost undetected patterns in a beautifully realized image.
Will Scruby’s two works from the previous show, a print and splendid digital photograph, are strong and worth seeing a second time.
Sashiin Vicenti’s various works demonstrate a refined sense of form. “Austere” is a shaped clay vessel with a delicate finish that echoes in a tiny wood and paper figure titled “Epitome of Rhythm.”
If anything dominates the exhibit, it is graphic design. The program is attracting many students, and the class projects for various clients are generally professional. Freeman Newlin’s digital media piece from his Exit Poster Series is clean, strong and elegant. Taylor Neve’s Tour de France poster is as sophisticated and forceful in design as his World Wildlife Fund poster in the earlier juried show.
Paintings, which used to dominate student shows, are rare and range from tight conventional realism to Harris’s big gestural extravaganzas.
Times are changing, and maybe it’s time to re-evaluate the conditions of the open but required senior show.
email@example.com. Judith Reynolds is a Durango writer, artist and critic.