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Friday, October 22, 2004

Sculpture/Crafts Show

The previous post only talks about Derek Cote's contribution to the show currently on view in the VCU Fine Arts Building first floor gallery space, but there are in fact ten other artists also showing, each represented by a single work.

Three of the works feature a single commonplace material (tape, cake boxes, extension cords) in abundance, arranged in what Jerry Saltz refers to here as a "squirrely, self-replicating building system", a method of working that has quickly become tiresome. The examples seen in this show each seem to be only glimpses of unrealized room-filling installations, which even then would be unsatisfying. One of the best-known practitioners of this process is Tara Donovan, another former VCU student. DC-based Dan Steinhilber also recently showed in Richmond.

What for me is most interesting about this group show of graduate students from the separate Crafts and Sculpture departments is that you cannot tell which artist is from which department, none of the work is functional. Crafts departments in art schools across the country have long suffered from an inferiority-complex in comparison with the so-called Fine Arts, and in fact the VCU Crafts Department is now called Material Studies. What does it mean when work being created in the Materials Studies Department can't be differentiated from what is created in the #1 ranked sculpture program in the country?

I took Kiersten Ware's excellent non-profit management class last year and have become a big believer in the mission statement. Departments, what are your mission statements? And if they are all the same, why bother being separate departments?