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Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Richard Klein Curates UConn's Inaugural Alumni Biennial

Contemporary Art Galleries
University of Connecticut, Storrs, CT
(860) 486-1511
Alumni Biennial (One)
September 8 - October 10, 2008

The Benton Museum of Art
University of Connecticut, Storrs, CT
43rd Annual Art Department Faculty Exhibition
September 2-October 12, 2008

I stopped by my alma mater (MFA 1994) today to check out the inaugural alumni biennial in the Contemporary Art Galleries at the University of Connecticut. Selected by Richard Klein, exhibitions director at the Aldrich Museum, the show brings together a painter, a graphic designer, two performance artists, and an organizer of interdisciplinary public projects. “UConn has an incredibly strong program and the challenge of the selection process was in choosing a small group of artists who could represent the range of accomplishment exhibited in its alumni," Klein writes in his curatorial statement. "The five artists I selected also represent a cross-section of contemporary practice, including painting, sculpture, graphic design, video, and performance. If there is a thread that ties these artists together, it is their willingness to experiment and not be tied down to a particular medium or genre."

Wandering down the hall of the Fine Arts Building, I ran into Professor Ray Dicapua, who was overloaded with teaching materials and an unwieldy, oldstyle boombox. Earlier in the day I had taken my ECSU Visual Arts class to see the annual UConn Faculty Show, which highlights Ray's new large-scale figure drawings (Avedon's "American West" meets Chuck Close) and Deborah Dancy's paintings. Dancy, who is well known for her evocatively leaden use of grey, brown and black, seems to have turned a page: the new paintings are light and open, featuring layers of (gasp) pastel color. I would have posted some images, but the Benton has one of those award-winning no-photo policies. So instead, here's a picture of my excellent class outside the museum.

But back to the Alumni Biennial. The selected artists include:

Afarin Rahmanifar (MFA 1996) is based in Connecticut and is a faculty member at Eastern Connecticut University. Her small mixed-media paintings suggest hierarchical systems of beauty and culture by juxtaposing and combining images from mainstream American popular culture with images from Persian paintings. Gendered, provocative and ultimately indefinable, Rahmanifar’s paintings investigate the role of “bodies,” apparatuses and vessels both infinitely unique and infinitely universal, as it exists in worlds miles apart. Her work has been widely exhibited and collected internationally.

Apirat Infahsaeng (BFA 2003) is a artist and designer based out of Brooklyn, New York. He is constantly absorbed in a wide range of projects, ranging from self-initiated, collaborative and client driven. Apirat’s conceptual framework can best be described in somewhat of an oxymoron: organic digital images. His design delicately balances bipolar modus operandis: navigating technology in order to create images rooted in romantic ideals of universality, integration, and interconnectedness. His aesthetic and interests oscillate somewhere between technological constructions and hand crafted visions that easily translate into dimensional worlds. Infahsaeng, a Senior Designer at BIG has developed projects for companies such as: AT&T Wireless, Coca-Cola, Kodak and Yahoo.

The content of Emcee C.M., Master of None's (Colin McMullan, MFA 2005) work is people: people working, living and struggling. His projects employ spontaneity, teamwork, play, intuition, efficiency, chance, adventure, difference, language, volunteerism, problem solving, recovery, sustainability, comfort, learning, discovery, and attainment: all of these, all at once. After graduating, Colin relocated to New York and has presented projects in Germany, Spain, South Korea and Serbia. He has also presented unofficial and collaborative projects in public spaces and has shows this year at the Bronx Museum and Artists Space in New York. Emcee C.M. and Ted Efremoff (MFA 2006), with participation from the citizen shipwrights of Willimantic and the K.I.D.S., collaborated to organize "Pulling Together: The Legends of Willimantic," an interdisciplinary project that centered around building and sailing a large wooden boat, and the stories and relationships that came out of the process.

Ari Tabei and Rebecca Parker, (both MFA 2007,) are performance artists already receiving positive career recognition. Tabei, currently based in Brooklyn, won residencies with New York's Lower Manhattan Cultural Council and the Vermont Studio Center. Tabei's dress sculptures, meticulously hand-constructed garments within which she performs, have been gaining recognition. For Alumni Biennial (One), Tabei presents "Dress for Today #5." Made of Japanese newspaper, staples, and black cloth, Tabei’s fifth project in her series is fragile, delicate, detailed and intimate. Simultaneously, however, it is difficult, overwhelming and baffling. The dress, itself a sculpture in its own right, acts as the vessel through which her performance is carried out.

Parker has also had significant professional success. Her work has been included in several juried and invitational exhibitions and was recently performed in New York and Philadelphia. Aside from art-making, Parker curates exhibitions for the Connecticut Commission for Tourism and Culture. For Alumni Biennial (One), Parker showcases two performance projects: the first, "What Girls do in White Dresses," investigates the transitional experience of growing up and the games we play. Through the reenactment of childhood activities she questions the way in which experiences become gendered as we move away from childhood and mimic activities of adults. Parker will also be exhibiting two new collaborative performances, one with Emcee C.M., Master of None and the other with fellow friend and artist Ted Efremoff.

Note: Artist info is from the gallery press release.


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