CalArts Graduating Class, 2010

IS THERE A VACCINE FOR ART INTOLERANCE? If so, please tell me where to get it.

At the beginning of the summer CalArts announced its exhibition of work by this year’s crop of MFA grads. This next wave of artistic talent washed over downtown Los Angeles’ Chinatown from July 2nd through July 9th at six participating galleries. The culminating exhibition of fledgling master work was called Box Scheme, organized by independent curator Ana Vejzovic Sharp, former curator of The Museum of Contemporary Art in Cleveland.

Judging from this show, Cleveland must be as relieved to rid of Ms. Sharp as Little Rock was when the Clintons left for Washington, D.C..

By the time I had worked my way through the press release and followed the links to individual artists, I felt like the narrator in Ali Smith’s The Shortlist Season. Outwardly subdued and respectful, the Smith character cannot navigate a contemporary art exhibition without breaking into a sweat. Is it the art that gets her glands going? Could it be that, contrary to popular piety, pictures and related stuffs are intrinsically bad for her? Sweat running down her spine, she wonders if there is a patch test for art intolerance.

We have the results, the doctor would say. You are sensitive to dust mites, the hairs of cats and horses, shellfish, metals related to nickel and several forms of cultural expression.

Which forms? The ones produced by talents addled by vacant quests for novelty or corrupted by the sham profundity of Joseph Beuys. It is all there in the press release:

Spanning experimental forms and critically reflexive expression, the exhibition explores the trajectories and discontents of contemporary discourse.

Discourse about what? Specificity is never the point of MFA terminology. A word like discourse exists as a platonic category. There is only Discourse, never discourse. The lower case requires some thought to what is worth committing to some material or other. It implies some aspiration to visual inherence, that charged relationship between form and content. The cloud of Discourse is more useful for illustrating how late artists stay up devising ways to inch farther along the exhausted trajectory of the cutting edge.

You can go to the website for Box Scheme and browse the work yourself. These are a few of my favorites:

Kelly Cline, Self-Portrait, 2010

This is one I really do like. As a picnic table, it is quite beautiful. Hopefully, that is precisely what it was intended to be, for some public park or other:

Ari Kletzky, A Constant Questioning, 2010

Then there is this, made from a single hole-punch reinforcement applied to a dog photo taken from a book:

Orlando Tirado Amador aka Fire Semen, Self-Portrait as Astra Tantras, 2010

In the paper maché sculpture category is this:

Erich Bollman, Untitled, 2010

Erich has at least learned thrift at CalArts. If you go to his webpage, you will find some of these same items recycled in different arrangements. If the  MFA program encourages thrift, that is at least something. Rather counter-cultural, actually, in these days of colossal spending and skyrocketing national debt. So maybe there is something to be said for an MFA from CalArts after all.

© Maureen Mullarkey