REVIEW: "Welcome To The Conversation": RISD Graduate Thesis Exhibition, Part 5

In part 5 of my exhibition highlights from "Welcome To The Conversation": RISD's Graduate Thesis Exhibition, I would like to call attention to the graphic design department, which exemplified some very strong conceptual design work through displays in print, video and book format.

My favorite work from this department was by Leslie Kwok. I first noticed her work in a collaborative wall drawing/video piece "The Group Portrait", undertaken with the help of her cohort.

"The Group Portrait" (wall drawing and video) by Leslie Kwok and the RISD '08 MFA Graphic Design department

The site-specific wall drawing, an outlined portrait of the graphic design '08 MFA candidates, is documented in a time-lapse video placed alongside. By watching the video, the viewer is invited into the micro-world of the department, where each student is responsible for a portion of the outline that will stand for their portrait. Of course, the outlines remain empty, and the video offers a point-of-view of the back of each artist. This leaves it up to the viewer to "fill in" the blanks, perhaps to assign a face and personality to the graphic designer, a role which outside of the microcosm of school often exists as a transparancy (or work horse!) behind which the work itself takes center stage.

This stands in ironic contrast to the role of the "art star" that comes to mind when one considers the high stakes luminaries of the contemporary art world, into which the entire crop of RISD MFA candidates now emerges. (For another take on this, see part 6!)

Also of great interest were Kwok's visual and narrative explorations of social ties, in a print series titled "Social Constellations" (depicted below), and video, "Sociograms", which can be viewed as a Quicktime movie on her website.

"Social Constellations" - 20"x26" poster by Leslie Kwok, RISD '08 MFA Graphic Design

REVIEW: "Welcome To The Conversation": RISD Graduate Thesis Exhibition, Part 4

Hopefully, many of my local readers took the opportunity to visit the RISD Graduate Thesis Exhibition, which wrapped up yesterday. As for myself, I had to return to the exhibit hall several times to take it all in. While I cannot go into great detail on each and every artist, or nuance of the exhibition, I hope here to draw attention to what I considered the highlights of the visitor experience.

On my first pass through the cavernous hall, I was pleased to discover the work of Maryam Molki, a MFA Painting candidate of Iranian decent. Although a painter, Molki focused her thesis work on a series of altered mass-produced rugs, hung vertically on the wall to be viewed rather than walked upon.

Maryam Molki - RISD MFA Painting '08 - altered rugs

Admittedly, I had just come from an informal kilim rug "purchasing consult" for a friend, but I was drawn to the excersise of excessive material removal and subtle reconstitution that Molki perpetuated upon these mass-produced, "Made In China" specimens. I should note that photos don't do these pieces justice. Like many works in fiber, the ability to examine the work close up, with tactile focus, is key.

Maryam Molki - RISD MFA Painting '08 - altered rugs

Also from the painting department, and working rather sculpturally, is Cassie Jones. Playfully grotesque, her dimensional paintings grow from the wall in kitchy shades of flesh, "astroturf" green and grey. Referencing building materials, skins, and invented topographical maps (of alien planets)...

Cassie Jones - "My Friend Will Be Me" RISD MFA Painting '08

Cassie Jones - "Above The Beneath" RISD MFA Painting '08

I have always gravitated towards gnarly painting. With its hoof-like protrusions, the piece depicted above is as gnarly as the Incredible Hulk's bathmat!

REVIEW: "Welcome To The Conversation": RISD Graduate Thesis Exhibition, Part 3

There is so much to talk about when it comes to the latest crop of RISD designers and artists. With the most challenging faculty, and access to the newest technology, it's no wonder that the design world looks to the graduates of this institution for fresh creative solutions.

That said, "flash and dazzle" cannot compare to time-honored traditional skills and the fine craftsmanship essential to creating artisan furniture. Embodying the best of both worlds is one of my favorite up and coming furniture designers, Zeke Leonard.

Zeke's reclaimed oak wall sconces, (which I covered in this archive post), clung cheerfully to a massive white wall, not suffering in the least from the expanse. A certain modest quality in these fellas evokes a sense that they could "live" anywhere, which I love. In contrast, and new to my eye was his massive "Boat Chair", impressively cantilevered over the exhibition space with the help of a reclaimed Red Oak arch and a hand forged steel chain. To give you a sense of the scale, this hanging chair could easily accommodate a couple...

"Boat Chair" by Zeke Leonard, RISD Furniture Design MFA '08 - Reclaimed Red Oak and hand forged steel

Whether modest in size or massive, Zeke's work retains a confident, yet approachable presence that I always appreciate. You can explore more of Zeke's work at his website.

REVIEW: "Welcome To The Conversation": RISD Graduate Thesis Exhibition, Part 2

Happy Friday, everyone. I'm full of granola and ready to leave the car at home today, for another fun-filled day of ambulatory adventure in sunny Providence. I'll make a stop back at the Convention Center for another go-round of the RISD graduate thesis show, which runs only through this weekend.

"Exxon #1 from Route 66" by Greg Kordas, RISD MFA Photography '08

Above: "Exxon #1 from Route 66" by Greg Kordas - archival inkjet print

Speaking of leaving the car at home, I spent a cool $50 to top off my tank yesterday on my way to the studio. As I pondered why I'm spending more on gas than on art supplies, the work of RISD Photography MFA '08 graduate Grzegorz Kordas came to mind. Greg's large format, archival inkjet prints depict real gas stations, glowing like ethereal oasis in the inky black of infinity. He photographs his subjects at night, with a focus on the power of artificial light, and the consumptive behaviors it has been proven to trigger in us, the unsuspecting citizens of a greedy society.

Get It While It's Hot...RISD Graduate Thesis Exhibition

Suggestion? Make a plan now (before it's too late) to visit "Welcome To The Conversation": the Annual RISD Graduate Thesis Exhibition, on view now at the Rhode Island Convention Center. I'll be posting highlights from the show over the next few days. Don't wait for me though, join the conversation today!

"Welcome To The Conversation": RISD 2008 Graduate Thesis Show - Poster by Chris Ro, RISD MFA '08, Graphic Design

Highlights from RISD's MFA class of 2008 will be open to the public until June 1st. Regular exhibit hours: Daily, from 12-5pm. 12-8pm extended hours on May 31st.

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