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2006 Annual Juried Student Exhibition: Juror’s Comments

Overall I was attracted to UT’s students’ intelligent fusion of content and formal concerns. Likewise it is great to see real creative vision that is the sign of a department that allows freedom within the context of an academic environment. I saw a lot of work by artists that will find homes soon in some very fine graduate programs across the country. The most difficult task was removing a lot of good work made by artists with real potential. The rest was easy because there was so much to appreciate.

Patrick Nelligan’s Untitled Best in Show questions the way we interact with the old stand-by, a painting on a wall. Is it an object unto itself or a window into another world? For Mr. Nelligan, it’s both. But he also questions subjectivity and Umberto Eco’s problem with ‘open work’, i.e. open to interpretation. The frame’s interior reflects back to the viewer, but what it reflects is unclear, or even convoluted. To add injury to insult the (somewhat) reflective surface is fabricated out of the inception of most artists’ repertoire, graphite. So he uses the essential material of visual thinking to question its worth. Another work by Nelligan, using oil on canvas, elevates its Best In Show companion when viewed as a neighbor. The juxtaposition of the vertically striped canvas and thick paint literally drips with pinkish painterly “sincerity”, until you realize that is also tongue in cheek. Gravity is the only thing that can guide an artist’s hand when faced with the kind of artistic dilemma that Nelligan questions. Surrendering to gravity after loading a brush with paint and positioning it on a canvas becomes his only act containing truth.

It was because of simple clarity and formal rigor that I awarded a 1st in Show: Special Jurors Prize to Evan Keith Holloway’s untitled lithograph of a skeleton and a bar code. Whether it is addressing the co-modification of lives, our deaths, or the existential crisis facing ones own existence, Mr. Holloway takes you through a clear window where a world of very real and accessible possibilities exist. What sold me on this work was the mimicking of the barcode lines with the rib cage and the wonderful speckled void floating above the duo that becomes a psychologically loaded space.

Amanda Durham’s single painting submission made me want to see more, and eventually Ruth Grover, the Gallery Director, granted me my wish. I was not disappointed. Ms. Durham’s untitled painting of acrylic and collaged paper numerical zeros is energetic and organized, where figurative (pun intended) subject matter becomes null (pun intended) and void (pun intended), but not content.

Evan Lacy submitted two powerful pieces under the category of graphic design. In doing so he
shows that he understands that the most important component of design is purpose. If that purpose is subversive or socially conscious, all the better. Mr. Lacy beautifully tackled the former in another piece about traceable human implants. For my money, I was instantly drawn towards the old man who lives with both pride and a humiliating secret. Both conditions were communicated with immediacy and clarity, and we see not only how the boundaries between “art” and “design” are all but gone, but also how both can be poetic and socially engaging.

In the same way feminist theory addresses the purse as being one of the few private spaces afforded women today, Stephen Nemerek’s Briefcase addresses the attaché in a similar vain. A parting in its zipper invites you to probe its contents with your eyes or otherwise. The scale associates it with its more celebrated and infamous cousin, the handbag. The lively organic tilt of its gesture animates it, liberating this notoriously fragile and rigid material.

I would also like to mention Silverene Roundtree’s outstanding Sculpture 1 project. To fashion such a powerfully elegant and spiritual presence out of such common sculptural materials is impressive.

Dana Terry’s Carved Bowl Set employs trompe l'oeil much like Nemerek’s Briefcase. I loved how they were made out of ceramics to mimic a carved wood set. Initially I questioned their purpose, but quickly surrendered because they were fun, beautiful, and felt good in my hand.

Similarly, Jessica Lowe’s cube of army men surrendered long ago. Not didactic, political or not, I was attracted to the simple approach, the use of humor, and contemporary and common materials.

Elizabeth Daugherty was just one of many outstanding lower division artists who submitted drawings to the exhibition. What distinguished hers was a personal tone and mood suggested by
universal materials and subject matter, not to mention that portraying the bulk and expanse of the human back is difficult at best. Her drawing has a quirky quality and elegance simultaneously.

Rebecca Salisbury’s Egg Study elevated a common foundation project to a heavenly presence. Jessica Langston’s 2D project showed good design containing some of the mark making, humor and perversity of Ralph Steadman’s illustrations. Ben Berry’s appropriately titled Ether for his advanced level drawing reminded me how often the potential for drawing is underestimated and not seen as an end unto itself.

Jack Dingo Ryan

Story | Juror's Comments | Gallery

January 13, 2006

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