Let's Review: Open Studios 2015, UCSD grad students put work on display

It was a big day for the arts at UC San Diego March 7. Some 40 MFA graduate students opened their studio doors to the public, inviting the curious to view their work and chat with them about artistic practices.

This was the eighth year for Open Studios and according to Sheena Ghanbari, program promotion manager for the Visual Arts Department, it was the largest show to date.

Concurrent with Open Studios, three other campus galleries hosted new shows. The Visual Arts Facility Gallery debuted “#inthedesertwithanya,” the SME Gallery in the Structural & Materials Engineering Building opened “No Longer Extant,” and the University Art Gallery in the Mandeville Arts Complex revealed “State Park.”

The day’s offerings included a symposium on performance art titled, “Hysterical Bodies: Disabling Normative Behavior in Contemporary Art,” anchored by a keynote address given by USC professor Amelia Jones about artist Nao Bustamante.

In the student studios complex, Heidi Kayser’s room was judiciously laid out with drawings and sculptures. Kayser began her work at UCSD by playing with X-rays of furniture, but after she broke her back in a climbing accident, it evolved to exploring the artistic aspects of the MRIs doctors took of her spine.

A reproduction of one MRI “slice” of her body hung on the wall. You could see her heart in the outline of her body cavity. “I have a big heart,” she explained with a smile.

Kayser will be a part of the upcoming “Ideas” performance series at Calit2, where she will show the MRI slides of her body on the 20-screen TV board in the Recombinant Media Lab, accompanied by an audio of the MRI’s humming sounds.

Across the way, Ava Porter was locked in combat with Brazilian jiu-jitsu training partner, Russian-born Farhad Akhmetov. The duo have been collecting images of the sport to construct a video-game, virtual-reality counterpart and to make life-sized action sculptures carved from material by the roboticized CNC printer, which is akin to a 3D printer. Porter said she’s interested in the artistic aspects of “ritualized violence” in our culture.

Trevor Amery welcomed visitors to his sculptures studio. One featured a life-sized kayak that will be paddle-ready once it’s sealed. Another sculpture was made from an old carjack stand and another fashioned with a tractor seat. Angela Jennings showed drawings of strange colorful creatures. Patrick Shields greeted visitors admiring his intricate fine-line drawings of shapes and strange objects. He referred to his work as “long and drawn out; I like to play inside systems of drawing and representation,” he said. “They push you and you push back.”

Room 452 was reserved for student publications and a video running on a small screen that contained some of the best work in the show. Created by Tim Ridlen, it premiered days earlier in connection with a lecture he gave, which doubled as an artistic performance. Ridlen examined the topic, what kind of knowledge art produces, by way of looking at the cinematic theories of Italian film director Pier Paolo Pasolini. The video featured all kinds of amazing advanced special effects, like layering, superimposition and transparency of images.

Downstairs, visitors explored a disappointing show, “#inthedesertwithanya.” There were rocks, animal pelts, photos and audio recordings placed about, but with no concept of order or theme, and nothing that called attention to the beauty of the desert or addressed environmental issues.

On the other side of campus the University Arts Gallery premiered “State Park,” curated by former MFA student Mike Calway-Fagen, who now teaches art at the University of Indiana. Walking into the gallery turned out to be like walking into an odd version of the gift shop at the Torrey Pines Reserve Lodge.

There were several wooden sculptures, a photo display and lots of hiking sticks screwed into the ground. Gareth Davies-Morris, chair of Art and Humanities at Grossmont College, explored the work, saying his favorite was a framed collection of Boy Scout outdoor merit badges. Unfortunately, the show did not deliver any insight into improving, upgrading or re-imaging our State Parks.

However, in the SME Gallery, “No Longer Extant,” curated by Ph.D. student Melinda Guillen, saved the day. It is a dramatic installation piece about the artistic aspects of demolition and destruction, featuring the work of Cayetano Ferrer and Adela Goldbard.

The gallery space is completely darkened. On one wall, a large video presentation shows a mockup of a Mexican Ford “Lobo” pickup truck pulling into a field. The truck is blown up in a big flash as the lights of Mexico City twinkle in the background. On the opposite wall, an ATM machine is also blown up and for several minutes, $20 bills flutter to the ground. The explosion audio is computer-enhanced to make each loud, but very pleasant.

Deeper in the room, demolition videos of famous neon-lit Las Vegas buildings are shown on the walls of a small cubicle with a seismic floor map of Las Vegas geology. Also in the gallery space is a miniature red brick house. Eventually, the earthquake engineers in the SME building will shake it apart as a test of its structural stability. u

IF YOU GO: Events related to the exhibit in the SME Gallery include film screenings 5 p.m. Tuesday, April 7 in Room 149; a walk-through with Adela Goldbard and Melinda Guillen, 3 p.m. Tuesday, April 14; a talk by Cayetano Ferrer, 5 p.m. Monday, April 23 with a closing reception 6-9 p.m. visarts.ucsd.edu

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