Published: August 28, 2012
School of Visual Arts (SVA) presents “Myths & Realities,” an exhibition that brings together 16 notable alumni who create powerful visual narratives that reflect a shared interest in exploring the porous boundary between actuality and illusion and in deconstructing the innate strangeness of the everyday. The artists in the exhibition engage two centuries of popular culture, from archaic formats like the pinhole camera and daguerreotype to the museum diorama and wide-screen Hollywood film with resulting works that are potent reminders of how images can reshape perceived reality.
Co-curated by New York Times Magazine director of photography Kathy Ryan and VII Magazine editor Scott Thode, “Myths & Realities” is on view at the Visual Arts Gallery through September 29. There will be a reception at the gallery on Thursday, September 6, from 6 to 8 pm.
Participating artists are Ina Jang, Brendan Austin, Kevin Cooley, Jeff Chien-Hsing Liao, Debbie Grossman, Noah Kalina, Sean Hemmerle, Simen Johan, Mark Kessell, Justine Kurland, Dinh Q. Lê, Vera Lutter, Domingo Milella, Aïda Ruilova, Matthew Pillsbury and Collier Schorr.
While some of the artists in the exhibition consciously twist reality, others employ a heightened realism through which images transcend their times and places of origin.
The language of film serves as a touchstone for several of the artists in the exhibition who explore the mythic iconography of cinema. Dinh Q. Lê (MFA 1992 photography, video and related media) revisits mass-entertainment accounts of the Vietnam War such as Apocalypse Now and Full Metal Jacket in a video of American military helicopters crashing into the South China Sea. Drawing on the type of visual staging typical of large-budget filmmaking, Sean Hemmerle (MFA 1997 photography, video and related media) takes viewers inside the general staff meeting of US Central Command in Tampa, Fla., in a scene that is reminiscent of Stanley Kubrick’s landmark film Dr Strangelove, but happens to be real.
Several of the artists in the exhibition reflect on the natural and built environment. Whether the locale is the Muslim cemetery in Monastir, Tunisia, or the ancient trees in Methuselah Grove, Calif., Domingo Milella (BFA 2005 photography) explores the layers of history in his work. Jeff Chien-Hsing Liao (MFA 2005 photography, video and related media) creates views of the Flatiron Building, Coney Island and other New York City landmarks that elude the naked eye by layering up to 200 exposures to produce a single photograph.
Many of the works in the exhibition remind viewers of the subjectivity of narratives, offering fantasies shaped from both documented and invented realities. In her series “My Pie Town,” Debbie Grossman (MFA 2010 photography, video and related media) reinterprets images of Depression-era homesteaders by creating a world inhabited exclusively by women. A rural American setting also appears in the photographs of Justine Kurland (BFA 1996 photography) featuring nude women and children, including her son, Caspar.
The Visual Arts Gallery is at 601 West 26 Street between 11th and 12th Avenues, 15th floor. For information, 212-592-2145 or www.sva.edu .
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