“In The Manner of the Adverb” is part one of the MFA thesis show, and it showcases a partiality toward a clean, controlled aesthetic via drawings, paintings, film, photography and digital work. This spare visual sense is tempered with a conceptual intensity that informs the execution of each work, and fills the quiet space with potent references.
This segment of the thesis show includes the work of Kent Familton, Andy Fedak, Nils Schirrmacher and Hong-An Truong. Familton, who opens the front part of the main gallery with Schirrmacher, paints large canvases (all four here are nearly five feet wide, and at least as tall) with geometric, abstracted shapes and a pallet of diluted blues, greys, whites and creams with dashes of sharp black that play with the literal and symbolic borders of hard-edged painting. Not only do they subtly eschew expected crisp lines – the painter’s gesture is alive and kicking – but certain shapes and patterns wink at the figurative.
These patterns lay nicely against the work of Schirrmacher, whose work uses photomontage and acrylic paint to explore parallels between Nazi Germany and largely California-based co-op colonies. Schirrmacher makes these comparisons by investigating their ideals manifested in the rigid, utilitarian architectural tropes common to both groups–structures like chicken coops are surprisingly similar to concentration-camp buildings. Their differences and similarities are intensified by their portrayal in such a tightly delineated space; Schirrmacher built the structures as scale models, photographed them and layered those images on top of one another with pale grey paint, creating a continually abstracted palimpsest of humanity’s reach for salvation and transcendence. “In this cleft,” Schirrmacher comments, “… contemporary islands of zeal and brutality are contemplated.”
In the back of the main gallery space is Truong’s impressive three-channel video installation titled, “Wheel in the Sky,” spread across three large adjacent panels. Truong’s work explores themes of memory, the self, translation, historical trauma and perception using various kinds of footage, including ocean waves washing on a beach, helicopters and the artist’s own relatives. Truong manipulates time, pacing and narration, highlighting the nature of memory as temporal and subjective rather than concretely chronological.
Fedak’s work in the Room Gallery is the most sensually remarkable of the show, and is a manifestation of “beauty and aesthetic seduction” says Fedak. A large single-channel high-definition video installation utilizing the latest in digital imaging technology, this work questions relationships of space and sculpture as filtered through new ideas of reality and time presented by digital realization. Our connections with structures of the world around us – including capitalism, architecture and machinery – are also contemplated. The imagery of both short videos is skillfully and sharply rendered, but it is Fedak’s use of deep, visceral sound that lifts the work into the realm of an intense and moving experience. Sound is explored in its full spectrum, from absolute silence to the deepest booming bass (hence the first lines of this review) and its effect on the watching experience is commanding.
“In the Manner of the Adverb” is open in the University Art Gallery and Room Gallery through May 9. The second segment of the MFA exhibition, “Oranges and Paper” opens May 15. All MFA graduates will also show at LA><ART in a show opening June 28.