On View May 11, 2018–June 17, 2018
48th Annual MFA Exhibition Showcases Emerging Artistic Talents
(Berkeley, CA) May 10, 2018—The University of California, Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive (BAMPFA) highlights the work of six exceptional graduate students from UC Berkeley’s Department of Art Practice in the museum’s 48th Annual Master of Fine Arts Graduate Exhibition.Each of the graduates—three of whom are receiving their first museum presentation—have created new work for the exhibition that goes on view for the first time beginning May 11.
For the past two years, Sarah-Dawn Albani, Nicki Green, Maggie Lawson, Nancy Sayavong, Rachel Cardenas Stallings, and Olivia Ting have advanced their artistic practices as graduate students in UC Berkeley’s highly competitive MFA program, which has previously produced such internationally established artists as Enrique Chagoya, Shirin Neshat, and Theresa Hak Kyung Cha—herself the subject of a recent BAMPFA solo exhibition. Working with Curatorial Assistant Valerie Moon, the graduates are presenting works that reflect their own unique creative perspectives on topics ranging from gender and identity to technology and historical memory.
“It’s a privilege to be among the first institutions to present the work of these talented young artists, whose accomplishments as UC Berkeley MFA students indicate tremendous promise for their careers ahead,” said BAMPFA Director and Chief Curator Lawrence Rinder. “Our annual commitment to showcasing the work of UC Berkeley’s MFA graduates reflects the continuing vitality of BAMPFA’s relationship to its vibrant university community.”
“The artists in this exhibition are driven by questions of utopianism, transgender mythologies, cyclical violence, erasure and gentrification, material and creative process, and spatial and mnemonic perception,” said Moon, who organized the exhibition. “Though working across diverse mediums and themes, they have pursued their inquiries through the intricacies of materials: how they behave, their historical associations, and their social and political underpinnings. The resulting works are deeply sensorial and thought-provoking.”
The opening of the MFA Graduate Exhibition includes an artists’ talk with the six participating students on Friday, May 11 at 6 p.m. The talk is free with museum admission and is followed immediately by a reception for BAMPFA members from 7 to 9 p.m. Descriptions of each artist’s work, adapted from a brochure that accompanies the exhibition, follow below:
Sarah-Dawn Albani’s sculptures gleam with an alien-like pathos, and possess the uncanny textures of nightmares and hallucinatory mindscapes when seen up close. They embody the artist’s concerns with apocalyptic anxieties, utopian ideologies, authoritarianism, and myth, and her interest in how such drives gain traction and shape. Her portraits of Heaven’s Gate cult members are rendered from video stills of “exit interviews” the members produced just prior to their much-publicized mass suicide in Southern California in 1997. (Still from The Loneliness of the Guru, 2018; video; color, sound; courtesy of the artist.)
Nicki Green’s oblique ceramic sculptures and platters open phallus into orifice and display deep, variable grooves alongside extensions of clay as a means to overtly toy with binaries of presence and absence, interior and exterior, and figuration and abstraction. Referring to her sculptures as figures, she extends the limits of corporeality, queering the parameters of embodiment and stretching the limits of what a body can be. (Texture study (gills), 2018; glazed stoneware; 17 × 17 × 3 in.; courtesy of the artist.)
Playing in the realm of familiarity, Maggie Lawson relies on symbols of the past—red-and-white patterned fabric, an antique terrace bar cart—to entangle the viewer in the sudden and involuntary presence of the seemingly disregarded. Centralizing found objects, the artist blurs the lines between mechanisms of display and instruments of function to commingle personal, social, and mythic acts of remembering. (Still from Spirits, 2018; two-channel video projection; color, silent.; courtesy of the artist.)
Nancy Sayavong’s sculptures pull apart sites of home renovation and urban renewal to uncover their vocabulary of taste and socioeconomic desire, and how they reveal our compulsive social need to maintain certain appearances of our spaces. Sayavong’s work mimics familiar constructions that form the foundations of urban and domestic sites, such as flooring, walls, and frames. Though precisely modeled on utilitarian structures in both scale and construction, the sculptures are instilled with elements of structural or material contradictions that render them deliberately nonfunctional. (Foundation II: Flooring, 2017; handmade ash hardwood, laser burned Persian rug pattern; dimensions variable; courtesy of the artist.)
Rachel Cardenas Stallings
In Stallings’s multifarious sculptures, objects are swept into a relentless cycle of rhythmic improvisation. Working in forms as variable as clothing, ceramic utensils, textiles, and paintings, she explores the tactile, sonic, and visual capacities of her mediums and the impressions they leave on the body. Stallings’s gesture to the utilitarian further manifests this embodied sensory practice, reorienting the viewer’s relationship to familiar and familial objects. (Getting Ready for Installation 1, 2018; photo documentation as artistic process; 8 × 1 1/2 in.; courtesy of the artist.)
Ting’s videos and photocollages stitch together images of landscapes and urban environments that capture different paces of time as experienced by the artist in distant memories. These works are often meditations on the fragmented and playfully generative process of recollection. Ting’s work is preoccupied with nonlinear time and space, and her transition to working in virtual reality enables her to provoke a dimensional shift by pulling the viewer directly into digitally rendered, idiosyncratic constructions of space. (Still from HEAR NOT HERE, 2018; virtual reality headsets and 3-D simulation; color, sound; courtesy of the artist.)
The 48th Annual University of California, Berkeley Master of Fine Arts Graduate Exhibition is organized by Curatorial Assistant Valerie Moon. The annual MFA exhibition is made possible by the Barbara Berelson Wiltsek Endowment.