Installation view, “Stranger Than Fiction.” All photographs by Keith Lew.
Last Friday, June 4th, ArtObserved was on site for the opening of “Stranger than Fiction,” the MFA thesis show of photography students of the Yale University School of Art. Curated by the co-founders of Helac & Wirth Art Advisory Soraja Helac and Sabrina Wirthand, the show is hosted at artist-run gallery space 25CPW on the Upper West Side. The opening was packed with dealers, collectors, and art students alike. The MFA program is directed by Tod Papageorge and taught by artists Gregory Crewdson and Richard Benson. The nine graduates come from eclectic backgrounds and are working with diverse subjects and distinctive styles.
More text and images after the jump…
Lucas Foglia presents exquisitely empty Steinbeck-esque landscapes with figures peeking in and out of windows, running in and out of the frame. Reminiscent of dust-bowl era portraiture, Foglia’s photographs capture working class Americans interacting with their landscape. He shares, “I am interested in the tension between the idealism of my subjects and the hard work that is necessary to maintain their lifestyle.” Devoid of any figures, the most striking image is “Pavement at Sunset, Farson, Wyoming” in which the rocks themselves become the subject, and the cast shadows tell the stories. Foglia, a graduate of Brown University, grew up in Huntington, Long Island. His works are in the collections of the Museum of Fine Arts Houston, the Rhode Island School of Design Museum of Fine Art, the Margulies Collection, the Woodstock Center for Photography, the David Winton Bell Gallery of Brown University, and the Starr Foundation.
David Bush, a graduate of Bard College, presents a series of people in their cars. In their own environment, he explains, people can exist without a trace of self-consciousness. “Observing people as they exist in their own world, unaware of anyone watching is totally thrilling for me. It’s a voyeur’s dream.” Formally, the images read as studies in chiaroscuro; the light from head- and streetlights cast across their face in horizontal and diagonal lines. Although we see diverse drivers, passengers, and different qualities of light entering the windshield, the viewer’s consistent position as voyeur creates a cohesive series of portraits.
Kate Greene, who possesses a BFA from Massachusetts College of Art, hails from Boston. Her works are highly composed to read like CSI-inspired crime scenes; the viewer being actively forced to participate in investigation. Greene is “obsessed with visions of nature as a character that is both seductive and a threat.” In a lake scene, we see both the trees above and the catfish below. We are immersed in the scene, but the perspective is unclear, and contributes to a sense of disorientation. In another, we see what appears to be a cinematically-lit glacier. Upon further inspection we notice tire tracks going up the wall, and the scene reveals itself as a salt mine photographed with a long exposure at night.
Tatiana Grigorenko, who began her career as a professional ballet dancer, received her BA in Fine Arts and French from Amherst College. Her works are mixed-media, using paint or cut paper to block the focal point of the image. Grigorenko shares her process: “Inspired by Soviet-era photographs that were modified to erase ‘undesirable’ individuals from history, I use collage and paint to remove myself from my family’s history, physically modifying the tangible proof of an existence.” These haunting images of redaction eliminate intimacy. “Interactive gesture becomes meaningless,” she relates.
Curran Hatleberg, a graduate of the University of Colorado Boulder, grew up in Washington D.C. In these portraits, we see Americans engaged in daily life, their emotions raw and relatable. “My aim is to understand the way Americans deal with these threatening times,” the artist shares. “My pursuit is in pictures both empathetic and life affirming in the face of our shared adversity.” Formally, Hatleberg’s photographs also deal with the gaze: we gaze at subjects who are gazing at something else, completely unaware of their audience.
Tiffani Hooper was born and raised in the Bedford-Stuyvesant section of Brooklyn, NY. She received her BA in Fine Arts and Black Studies at Amherst College. Her works feature corpses as their subject: perfectly unmarred skin lying in hallways and living rooms, half out of frame. “Issues of identity are at the core of my work. The project initially sought to respond to a tradition of objectification of the black female figure in photography. It has since evolved into a narrative of alienation in domestic and institutional spaces.” The photograph is a nod to Death of Marat, a 1793 painting by French Neoclassical painter Jacques-Louis David. In both paintings, the subjects are saturated in political context. In David’s piece, the subject is a radical journalist and politician; in Hooper’s piece, newspapers advertising Obama’s new presidency hang prominently in the background.
Monika Sziladi was born in Budapest, Hungary, and studied art history and archeology at the Sorbonne. Her photographs are shot at public relations and networking events, where her subjects are young, beautiful, and eager to have their image captured. Yet Sziladi positions herself behind the “real” photographer, documenting the process of documentation itself. The photos are studies in posing, self-consciousness, and group dynamics. She shares, “I am interested in how society and human behavior are becoming simultaneously ‘tribalized’ and atomized amidst the ever increasing noise of mass (over)communication, digital media, and electronic hand-held devices. My photographs are panoramic fictions that seduce the viewer into exploring observations I draw directly from the world – a process possibly similar to both caricaturing and reinvention.”
Rori Mulligan was born in Bronxville, NY and received his BA in Visual Arts at Fordham University. His black and white silver gelatin prints are composed of architectural lines and soft figures. He is interested in his “role as pedestrian, participant and director, investigating the looming presence of masculinity that simultaneously fascinates, threatens, excites and excludes.”
Hrvoje Slovenc’s domestic diptychs have wallpapers as their protagonist. The images read as pages in I-Spy books, urging the viewer to absorb and explore each detail of the scene to uncover a hidden meaning: who do these rooms belong to? who are their inhabitants? for what use are these spaces intended? “I am interested in life as a form of theater,” Slovenc relates, “particularly in ways domestic space has been acted in and acted upon. I am intrigued by the ‘scenes’ that people construct in their homes with all their semiotic referents not just to their individual pleasures but, more importantly, to the ones that are socially prescribed.” In one scene whose details unfolds as an artist’s studio, the blinds hang crookedly and stools are set up around a critique wall. The one mysterious clue: a banner reading “It’s a Girl.” The meaning is not to be found. Slovenc received his MS in Biochemistry from University of Zagreb. He is a recipient of several awards, including a London Photography Award, International Photography Award, Golden Light Award, Photography Now Award, and American Photo Magazine Images of the Year Award. His photographs are also included in the collection of the Museum of Contemporary Photography in Chicago.
– J. Lindblad