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.
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.
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.