“Recognition By Components: RISD Sculpture MFA, Class of 2017” Exhibition

Microscope Gallery

poster for “Recognition By Components: RISD Sculpture MFA, Class of 2017” Exhibition

This event has ended.

RECOGNITION BY COMPONENTS starts with a simple idea: of disparate parts making up, but also subverting, a greater whole. In this exhibition, the five artists of RISD’s Sculpture MFA 2017 graduating class embody this theme from a variety of material and conceptual positions. Each in their own ways destabilizes conventions of component utility: use function, aesthetic purpose, and speculative excesses merge and swap. As those component parts morph, first impressions become fleeting detours: the results are objects that are not what they initially appear to be.

The title of the exhibition borrows from Irving Biederman’s theory of bottom-up visuality, in which we recognize objects only after breaking them down into discrete geometric forms. An incomplete theory, it still yields an interesting paradigm: a whole not greater or other than its parts, but greater/other/and. Conflict and multiplicity characterize the whole and its parts in perpetuity, an intriguing parallel to the contemporary cultural and political condition, of questionable but critical consensus.

In Jared Akerstrom’s semi-improvisational assemblages, each part is carefully formed and intimately motivated. From 3D-printed connectors informed by modular architecture to carved wood abstractions, each is intrinsically autonomous, stable. However, they combine precariously, physical/visual instability echoed in a greater relational recombination – a body of work made of pieces in temporary coalition against the forces of gravity. There’s a similar tension in Ellie Tomlinson’s pieces, but the axis of conflict shifts: small off-label goods become untethered from their fabricated purposes, and are re-tethered to crafted structures indexing interior body parts and entrapment. Serial systems – stacks of lobster cages, cyanotypes of grinning faces – are entities occupied with absorbing parts for no other purpose than its own integrity, extended models of a gestalt body logic of compartmentalized magical thinking.

In the bricks of Julia Betts, we see a failure of absorption – the plaster forms fall short of containing the studio trash they’re meant to contain. Minimalist aspirations implode, interior rot rises to the surface, the hoard displaces its author. Material unruliness challenges the possibility of categorization, and each brick creates an emergency of care – turning geometric seriality from resolution to organic expansion. In Bobby Anspach’s work, this last idea takes on a performative-immersive tilt, in which the white cube invites you into its interior life. And what does it yield? A solitary spectacle, an eye-tingling expanse of infinite dots – but this dreamy infinitude is branded, thus doubly contained from the inside as well as its exterior. Reduction is key to Makia Sharp’s work as well, but in the tonal spill works, there’s a slow creep: of liquid across a lightly wrinkled tablecloth, of difference of degree from one image to the next, a slow motion error of manners or neglect or worse. Minimalist aesthetics morph into maximum horror, narrative inaccessibility per near-invisibility touches an existential nerve: all manner of eclipses emerge in turn.

— Jen Liu

Jared Akerstrom
Jared Akerstrom received an MFA in Sculpture from the Rhode Island School of Design in 2017. Jared’s work has been included in numerous group shows, notably at Y2CAN at Convivium33 in Cleveland, Ohio, Prisoners Cinema at Gelman Gallery in Providence, Rhode Island and at A Sponge & A Sigh at the Museum of Human Achievement in Austin, Texas. In addition to group shows, his work was featured in Taking Shape, a three person show at FORUM Artspace in Cleveland Ohio, and a solo show Formulated Play at Survival Kit in Cleveland, Ohio. Jared has been a resident artist at Black Balloon editions in Cleveland, Ohio as well as a fellowship recipient to Vermont Studio Center in August 2016.

Bobby Anspach
Bobby Anspach is a person. He makes art. He has a background in meditation and sometimes almost starts to cry while listening to some music. That is because he finds the world beautiful sometimes and also believes that it is ending. That is why he makes art. Sometimes he wants to save the world, and tied to that thought is the idea that one might be able to use the powers that be in order to disseminate an image, which could momentarily suspend a viewers’ perception of the world as being separate from itself. He also recognizes that articulating things like that are often trite, or at the least not welcomed in an art world which is highly skeptical of what Bobby would secretly call truth.

Julia Betts
Julia Betts was born in 1991 in Mechanicsburg, Pennsylvania and is currently based in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. In 2014, Betts graduated from the University of Pittsburgh (BA), and was recognized with six awards and two undergraduate research grants. In 2017, she graduated from the Rhode Island School of Design MFA Sculpture program – with a focus on the performative aspect of her practice through performance-centered coursework at RISD and Brown University, awards including the SLH Young Fellowship. Betts has exhibited in solo shows at venues including Second Sight Studio (Columbus, Ohio) and Unsmoke Systems (Pittsburgh). In addition, she was artist-in-residence at Second Sight Studio and Bunker Projects.

Makia Sharp
Makia Sharp is an interdisciplinary artist living and practicing in Oakland, California. In her current practice, she is engaged around notions of light and space, and their dual nature as both banal and transcendent. Her work spans across different media, often existing as photography and installation. Specific and controlled conditions are established in the work, sensitizing the viewer to phenomena that exist just on the edge of disappearance. Makia has shown her work in solo and group shows across the country as well as internationally. Recent shows include Providence, Utah, and New York City. In 2017 Makia was nominated and awarded the AICAD Post-Graduate Teaching Fellowship at California College of the Arts where she will be teaching in both the Photography and Sculpture departments.

Ellie Tomlinson
Ellie Tomlinson is an interdisciplinary artist, born in 1992 and raised in Washington D.C. Currently, she lives and works in Providence, RI, where she recently received her MFA in Sculpture from RISD. She previously attended Kenyon College, where she graduated with distinction. Her work explores how fabricated, commodified objects and experiences might generate authentic feelings and memories. In her installations, domestic and industrial objects are reduced to rubber, plastic, color, and form, highlighting their potential for haptic engagement and symbolic interpretation. Most recently, her work has been shown in New York, Providence, and Savannah. While at the Rhode Island School of Design, she was a proud recipient of a Sylvia Leslie Herman Young Scholarship, and was nominated for a Toby Devan Lewis Fellowship.

Jen Liu is a New York-based visual artist working in video, performance, and painting, on topics of national identity, economy, and the re-motivating of archival artifacts. She is a 2017 recipient of the Guggenheim Fellowship in Film/Video, as well as the NYSCA/NYFA Fellowship in Digital/Electronic Art. She has presented work at The Whitney Museum, The New Museum, and Issue Project Room, New York; Royal Academy and ICA in London; Kunsthaus Zurich; Kunsthalle Wien and das weisse haus, Vienna; the Aspen Museum of Art; Henry Art Gallery, Seattle; MUSAC, Leon; as well as the 2014 Shanghai Biennale (China) and the Coreana Museum in Seoul, Korea. She has also received multiple grants and residencies, including Akademie Schloss Solitude, Stuttgart, Germany; Sommerakademie, Bern, Switzerland; de ateliers, Amsterdam, NL; the Pollock-Krasner Foundation, New York; among others. In 2016 she was a resident artist at Para Site in Hong Kong and LMCC Process Space on Roosevelt Island, in 2017 she is a resident artist at Tulsa Artist Fellowship in Tulsa, Oklahoma, and in 2018 she will be a Swatch Artist in Residence in Shanghai, China.



from August 04, 2017 to August 20, 2017

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