Skip to main content

Two to Watch

Last Thursday I attended the MFA Photography degree show at Columbia College Chicago and saw work by two artists that was as good as most of what you would see in a commercial gallery or museum. I happen to have worked with these two students in the semester that just ended, one in a directed study program, one who took the Journal and Sketchbook course as an elective class. Most of the credit for their great work in the show comes from their major, and the teaching and guidance that they received in the Photography Department. But I was extremely proud to feel that I had contributed maybe five or ten percent to the final degree work.

David Rodriguez's piece, "Better Place" (above), distinguished itself from everything else in the show by containing the least physical amount of conventional photography. He constructed a table frame with welded rods emerging from it, which climbed up to a point that resembled a mountain-top. About five of the facets formed by the peak contained prints. A wood panel painted in a pastel colour lined up with this peak when you look at it straight on. From seeing ideas develop in his sketchbook this semester, I know that this piece combines personal associations about place and relationships, with a formal investigation of cultural signs heavily influenced by Ed Ruscha. If this was in another context, you would say that this was a sculpture rather than a photograph -- though the piece as a whole added up to an image. I think that the genre is unimportant: call it what you like, it was a very impressive and thought-through investigation of form.

Ani Katz is that rare bird: an artist who is as good with words as she is with images. Having seen my own work that combines print-animation and narrative, she requested to work with me on a directed study program to develop an installation that combined spoken narrative with video slideshows of her photographic work. The visual material was well on the way to completion when we first met. The work we did together focussed the writing more on key personal moments, and brought out the theme of her relation to her family more. This was all there in embryo in the writing: I just saw it as my job to lead Ani to recognize it. For the degree show, she created a three channel video piece, synchronized with recordings of her voice reading selections from the written material. Just as with David, she created something that went well beyond the conventional form of displaying a photograph, or the narrative form of even the most documentary type of photography. I saw the things that she had taken from our sessions together, but I also saw that she had created something bigger, more weighty, more expansive, by projecting it in a large space: a sustained, mournful meditation on loss and coming of age.

If they continue to make work with these individual vocabularies they have developed, I am convinced that these two artists will have a great deal of success.

And if you live in Chicago, you can see their work as part of a one-day exhibition in my studio of pieces produced by Journal and Sketchbook alumni from this year and previous years. Details to come.

(P.S.: Thanks, David, for introducing me to the correct pronunciation of Ed Roo-shay.)


Popular posts from this blog

On my 300th blog post


It's my 300th blog post. And I seem to remember that in my 200th blog post I said that I would start quoting from John Ruskin's "Praeterita", after which this blog was named. Well, better late then never, so quotation number 2 is below.

First, though, some thoughts on this blog and blogging in general. I started Praeterita at the end of last year after reading a book by an art-marketing guru called Alyson Stansfield that recommended it as a means for artists to publicise their work better. But from the start I thought it would be more interesting to talk in a discursive way about my wider interest in art, and artists, and the history of art. After a desultory beginning where I only posted once a week, my blogging habit has now grown to the point where I am posting sometimes twice a day, and more than 45 times per month (helped enormously by the Blogger feature that lets you save blog posts with a post-dated timestamp, so that you can put posts in the bank to …

My worst open studio

Most open studios are notable for nothing really happening. You sit there waiting for people to come into your studio, eat all your nibbles and guzzle the free drink, and then leave after a cursory glance at your work. Usually, the worst thing that happens is that you get stuck in a boring conversation with a dull person,

But there was one time a few years ago when I got into one of these conversations, and quite quickly the person I was talking to started to make homophobic remarks about another artist in the building. After a few minutes, I decided I'd had enough and asked him to leave. He seemed genuinely surprised that I had any objection to what he was saying, which in retrospect makes me even angrier if he thought he had a sympathetic ear.

He asked me why, and I told him I didn't like people talking that way, and I said: "This conversation ended 30 seconds ago." So he left.

So, nothing dramatic like Jackson Pollock getting drunk in a fancy New York apartment a…

Brancusi in Plastic

Artist Mary Ellen Croteau is showing these columns made from recycled plastic cartons and lids in the window of the Columbia College bookstore on Michigan Avenue. They are a playful homage to Brancusi's "Endless Columns", with a serious environmental message for our times:

Mary Ellen also runs a wonderful experimental art gallery in a window space in west Chicago, called Art on Armitage. I will be exhibiting a mixed media piece there during August 2012.