Thursday night, the second series of MFA Thesis Exhibitions for Studio Art opened at the University Art Gallery. Nearing the end of their degrees, artists Jenny Yurshansky, Andrew Printer and Betsy Seder displayed their final compilations of art and research in the form of sculptures, video and photographs.
The first part of the exhibit features Yurshansky’s sculptures, an eccentric and varied collection that includes works utilizing physics, chemistry and embroidery. The second room, put aside for Seder’s work, focuses solely on a video and still frames.
Yurshansky’s sculptural pieces fill the first room; in their size alone, they leave the biggest impression. Off to the right, an enormous wooden box stands, its back to the visitors. Veer around to its front, and you will find a little door; below this opening, hundreds of cut-out squares of paper with maze-like, angular designs gather in piles. If you open the door, you will be greeted by a strong stream of air, blown up from high velocity fans in the floor. The fans set the prints inside the box into a whirlwind of flying designs. The sculpture, called “A Chance Operation,” contrasted the notion of fixed, ordered mechanisms with its chaotic angular prints soaring through the air.
Yurshanksky’s investigation into the buildup and dissolvability of structures permeated her collection. Across the room, she set up a pair of cabinets back-to-back, a structure called “A Hermetic Dilemma.” One of the cabinets contained rows of calcifying glassware. These jars of various sizes contained water, in a heated environment, leaving the liquid to evaporate slowly so that the calcium gardually deposits itself across the glassy surface. This cabinet then enters a dialogue with the other cabinet, which has a motor that sends a metallic wire, attached loosely to the top and bottom of the cabinet, spinning. You can clearly see the wire moving at the top, where the light hits it, but about four inches down, the wire disappears. The effect is similar to spinning a very long jump rope sideways, but this wire spins so rapidly that the middle disappears, as if it dissolves into immaterial nothingness.
Again playing on our perception of the world was Yurshansky’s “By Definition.” This long ovular mirror was made via acid erosion; it creates ghostly reflections of the spectators. The more I looked into this piece the less I recognized myself, as my image was faint and cloudy. This sculpture, like the others in the collection, worked off of the idea that our past perception of the world is always fading, always blurring.
The next room exhibited Betsy Seder. Seder’s works, more conceptual than Yurshansky’s, similarly explored dissolutions – not just of constructs, but also of relationships. At the front of the room, a video plays.
When I entered this room, there were two people sitting on a bench listening to the video playing with headphones on. I noticed that they had been sitting there for a while. I watched from afar; without sound, it just looks like a middle-aged woman walking around a house, nothing exciting. When I placed the headphones over my ears, the same two people were still watching. I thought they must be waiting for something exciting or unexpected to happen. I kept watching; others came, saw us intently focused on the video, and joined in. The scene lasts exactly 13 minutes, 22 seconds. That’s all.
The work is based off an early 1920s real-life event about a wealthy psychiatrist who moved with his wife to an expensive Los Angeles modernist home. He had some strange views, including a strong attraction to the homeless lifestyle. Eventually, she couldn’t stand it anymore and left him, after which point the psychiatrist decided to leave his home and live on the streets as a tramp. He died of pneumonia on the streets. Betsy Seder’s video was an imagined portrayal of the dissolution of the marriage and of the household in general, focusing on the wife’s frustration at home. She walked around the house, always alone, and spoke as if to her husband, but to no reply.
Four large framed photographs made from pigmented inkjet accompany the video. The photos were taken from the inside of the psychiatrist’s 1920s house, showing the view outside of four different windows. Ironically, the four images are indistinguishable from one another, as they all essentially look out at the same dense foliage.
Until May 14, you can continue to check out the works of Yurshansky, Seder and (the undiscussed) Printer. There will be one more set of MFA Exhibitions after this one, running from May 20 – May 28.