Tuesday, May 10, 2005

VCU MFA Thesis Shows - Round Two

Matt Gamble
Originally uploaded by Bromirski.

The second round of VCU MFA thesis shows is up until May 15 - once again, lots of good work to see. I can't believe I'm saying this, and if you are aware of my initial strongly negative reaction to his work you may not either, but Matt Gamble has won me over. More on Matt below, following are some of the other highlights -

Gabriel Bennet - Gabe is showing a light, bright, airy, shiny, sculpture that fills the room floor to ceiling. You walk in and see a silver sheet mountain landscape with the highest peak in the far corner and the whole undulating thing falling toward you, complete with a waterfall and giant poppies. The landscape ends at about chest level so you never look down on it. You can walk under or around it to the back and see that the whole thing is some kind of crazily complicated umbrella-like contraption, I don't know if it can actually fold/unfold or not, hooked up to a heavy looking body harness. From this side you might wonder who wears this and for what purpose, the evil Penguin or James Bond, but my final impression is that of a Wizard.

Kate Hudnall - More fantastic! She is using the same little room that Ryan Mulligan made such good use of last time and like him creating another world to step into. Kate is a woodworker and the room has been completely remade into an odd little woodworkers odd little woodshop. She's laid a creaky floor, shuttered the window, fashioned an eccentric woodworker's bench, and filled the room with quirky creations, drawings, and tools. Think Keebler Elves. Think Tom Otterness people. Think Gepetto.

I love that both she and Ryan didn't just use the room to present the work but made the room a part of the work. I wasn't a viewer, I was a visitor.

Tim Devoe - I like Tim's work a lot but can't think of anything to say. He was taking pictures when I visited so I didn't study it too long.

Mike Martin - Mike is showing concurently at ADA (with Chris Norris and Buxton Midyette), I'll talk about his work later.

Matt Gamble - As stated above, it's taken me a while to come around to appreciating Matt's work, and in that time I also think he's gotten a lot better. I used to think Matt's paintings were just plain awful but I now find his work clumsy, awkward, weird, genuine, authentic, endearing, mysterious, likeable, and heartfelt. They look like they might have been painted by Fairfield Porter's sweet retarded brother.

Matt includes in his Anderson Gallery exhibition two paintings entitled Mark, both portraits which look so much like the artist they could only be a brother. Problem is, the two Marks have markedly different hairlines (also one has brown hair and the other black). Same face, same smile, same eyes, same age, and same name - but they can't be the same person. Or are they? I have no idea. I go from thinking these are self-portraits, to portraits of a brother, to just wonderment. I like that feeling.

Matt has set me to thinking a lot about artistic intention. I don't know anymore for sure, but I don't think Joan's hair is supposed to look like a yellow mop on her head. Or maybe it is. Does it matter? The painting is beautiful and full of love. I don't think this guy's upper arms are supposed to be that huge, I don't think the cereal bowl is supposed to be that tiny, or the house is supposed to look like it's falling over. Are the weird things I've come to like about this work things he'd correct out if he could?

I started to come around to liking Matt's paintings before I found out that he is one of the students who received a VMFA Professional grant, and now that he is better educated (an MFA) as well I guess I'll just have to continue playing catch-up and trying to get it. Congratulations Matt.

UPDATE: I just noticed this - Fairfield Porter here Matt Gamble here.

Do you have a favorite from this round or the previous? Or a least favorite? With students competing for and winning at the professional level (VMFA fellowships, another student who was recently awarded a $20,000 Joan Mitchell grant, residencies) I don't think there is any obligation to hold to the old "they're students, room to fail, don't criticize" standard - leave a comment. My posts on the first round are here and here.


Anonymous said...

Martin, would you mind posting some pictures from the MFA show? Out of towners want to know what the hubbub about VCU is about. Why is the school is number 1?

Martin said...

I don't have a camera but if one of the students wants to send me some photos I'll post them.

VCU's school of the arts has A LOT of money coming in from Qatar.

You know about the sculpture department(#1) because it is very well run and they make some great work. You know about the painting department(#10) because the department head is focused on it's promotion above all else.

The painting studios are excellent and at the in-state tuition rate you MAY want to consider it, but if you are thinking about attending the VCU painting department from out of state BEWARE. It's a mess.

Someone wrote a previous comment once saying that VCU is good at the bait and switch. That is exactly the case. Don't believe a word they tell you.

Anonymous said...

Martin, Thank you for the kind review. I don't believe that I have ever read a kind word about my paintings. The retarded brother comment was mean, maybe you could have written "challenging paintings" instead. Anyway thank you for spending some time with the work it ment a lot to me. Matt

Anonymous said...

Martin seems to have had a bad encounter with VCU, but he tends to be a bit paranoid and didn't know when to stop or exactly how to approach the deparment when he had a small problem. I never thought any of these so-called problems deserved the flack that Martin still gives the school. I guess that his personality just didn't click with the faculty or his peers so much. The rest of us get along and embrace our differences and in turn have created a fascinating dialogue at VCU.
I know that there must have been some confusion on funding... (he felt that he deserved more free school, but I think that we all would like that and none of us would bitch as much about it as he did and does)
I think that the department is great. We have fabulous private studios, around 400 sq. ft., In PAPR the sculpture studios are around the same size with tons of communal tools and equipment, all with 24hr access, a lockable door, track lighting and windows.
The painting and sculpture department brings in tons of visiting artists and critics for lectures and studio visits. It is easy to get in and out of Richmond via Amtrack, Greyhound, the airport, or even the $60.00 round trip to NYC via the Chinatown Express Bus. Richmond also has several galleries, a couple more interesting than others. Gregory Volk an editor for Art in America is faculty here as well as emerging sound artist Stephen Vitellio.
The quality of work here is quite amazing... I think even Martin himself wrote that to merely shut us off as students is an understatement. I'm sure that that could be true of most graduate programs.
I bet the work in Cali. is quite amazing as well.

I would love to work out an exchange show.

thanks for listening

Anonymous said...

martin was right about the CEASELESS self promotion. I appreciate your zealous enthusiasm for your school, but disparaging Martin as you do so is in poor taste. In fact it reflects poorly on you and your school.

Anonymous said...

And now you want to take advantage of this public forum, a forum which Martin has set up, to arrange for an exchange show, And this after essentially calling him bitchy.

Don't you get it? People who read Martin's blog appreciate what Martin does for the community both in Richmond and outside of it. I don't know Martin and I don't live in Richmond, but I do know that he has done more for your school than you obviously realize. Honestly you are undermining yourself.

Anonymous said...

outsider you misunderstood me.
I agree that this blog is a good thing and that ANABA's readers respect Martin. I like Martin, but his selfish attitude toward thinking that he deserved bettter treatment that the rest of the grads and disrepecting the institution that he chose to attend and I as well, disgusts me.
You here one side of the VCU story through his point of view and that is very narrow of you to only believe it. I gave you another perception. Which are my words and in no way reflects poorly on myself or VCU.
I read this blog as often as I can and I live in Richmond, so don't preach to me. I believe in Martin's blog and hope that it continues. I also think that it is a forum for open disscussion. I am not going to participate in what Martin holds in disgust. Sticking to only one decision and not speaking freely and commenting on other views. I am opening a dialogue that doesn't disguise the truth, although I know that perceptions vary between people atending the exactly same event.
So I say to you that you can read anything and take it as fact and not question it like PRE-anaba or you can except that this is an open forum where I believe that Martin should be okay with hearing opposing or agreeing views just like the ones that he posts. (i guess he could just shut off the comments section if he didn't want to read what we ALL have to say.

sorry if I offended anyone or this blog

Anonymous said...

Insider, why so personal? It would have been just as easy for you to be neutral in your first post. All you had to say was that you had differences with Martin. There was no need for you to "bitch" about it. Obviously I don't know you or Martin, but I do know the impression that Martin has made on me as a reader and I find him to be generous. It sounds like he decided to stand up for himself and not stand by for the status quo. (Something he does often and well.) Why would anyone begrudge him for that? Many people would do the same thing if they were not given the moneys promised. That seems reasonable to me. Anyway, this is really petty of you.
I wouldn't want to be stuck in an MFA program with you and obviously neither did Martin.

Anonymous said...

Hey insider, your writing doesn't make sense. How did you get through undergrad when you are so incoherent?

donald yi george said...

matt gamble. my favorite out of the paintings was the big one of the kid praying. that one had a lot of presence and the colors really worked well.

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