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MICA Foundation Exhibition 2003

By J. Bowers | Posted 9/3/2003

Maryland Institute College of Art Foundation Exhibition 2003

MICA's Meyerhoff, Fox Second Floor, and Pinkard galleries through Sept. 7

2002 was a year marked by paranoia, protest, scandal, and war. Probably not the ideal time to be a wide-eyed Maryland Institute freshman, trudging through campus with a milk crate full of pastels and a mind full of big ideas. Also probably not the best time to be a working artist/teacher, trying to find room for creative expression in a world where everyone seems more interested in watching the evening news. But take one look at this year's Foundation Exhibition, which contains pieces created by last year's freshman class, and any worry about world events quashing youthful creative enthusiasm will fly out the window.

The most refreshing thing about young artists is their willingness to take risks, and the students here are no exception, pushing the envelope with bizarre materials and delightfully quirky humor. For example, Vivianna Cordova's abstract, paisley-shaped wall sculpture captures the viewer's attention with startlingly rich redness, courtesy of the red fabric, string, and coiled Twizzlers--yes, Twizzlers--that the artist painstakingly pinned to the form's surface.

Other student artists--like Ben Shipley, who combined Chinese takeout menus with scraps of raisin boxes and other denizens of the dorm floor to create a grid of decoupage pieces, and Ashley Hosler, who drew inspiration for her huge collage from manila envelopes, sketch-pad covers, and tissue paper--might consider careers in installation art. There are also a few Pop Art protégés, including Laura Bagneto, who paints an absinthe-green zombie woman worthy of any pulp magazine (pictured), and Tree McClure, who enchants and challenges with a dreamlike style that echoes both Salvador Dali and comic-book artist Chris Bachalo.

Also in the Pop vein, students from MICA's Electronic Media and Culture classes offer up computer art for the Foundation Exhibition, complete with three iMacs for viewing purposes. Many of the pieces here exploit and expand upon the fleeting visual nature of pop culture. David Hellman's image is made up of flashing multicolored phrases, ironic enough to belong on U2's old Zoo TV monitors. "honestly you'd be more likeable if you wore a sash" and "no bullshit, just hardball" are two highlights.

Sometimes, however, the earnestness of the students' messages obscures interesting ideas. Joanna Barnum's sculpture, a gauzy female torso topped with an old computer monitor that flashes the words "abstain," "diet," "eat," "rebel," etc., alongside commercial stills for McDonald's, Gap, and D.A.R.E., takes a solid visual composition and turns it into a familiar anarchist cliché. Other students' works, including a series of monochromatic drawings, seem uncomfortably restrained, their style reined in by the class assignments that spawned them.

But that's freshmen for you--eager, willing to try new things, en route to becoming the next big thing. Lucky for the rest of us, a good bit of that experimentation leads to some very good art.

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