I scooted down to see the public opening of this year's Annual Student Exhibition and to walk the show and give some support of many friends and fellow students. This time last year I was exhibiting and graduating from the school.
I am glad the first year MFA students don't have to show. Its always fun to see everyone gussied up and beaming through bleary eyes after the final push of the last few weeks. Proud parents and wives, husbands, girlfriends, brothers, sisters, lovers, teachers, critics, hangers-on, art lovers, goofballs, snarks and hipsters swirled around the show. Its always an opportunity to see people you haven't seen in a while and give hugs to those you won't be seeing again, maybe ever. But if you ever went to this school, the bond will always be there through the generations. There is only one degree of separation at PAFA.
This class graduates into maybe the most unsure art world, the most crazy art world, where art is a way the wealthy can manufacture personal wealth through buying and trading art that increases in value that outstrips the stock market. The galleries, the auction houses, everybody is in on the act.
ART isn't something that maybe most people feel they need, it isn't essential to most people. I think that is a shame and wrong. I think it is essential, but America has always had a very sort of hostile or suspicious attitude towards art in general.
One thing is for sure, this generation of art students will have more debt and less opportunity, so they will really have to fight for it and be excellent as well. We no longer live in a time where "average" can ever hope to gain a foothold.
The ASE as always is a real big mix of just about anything and everything from video, sculpture, paintings, drawings, you name it. I still think the best ASE I have seen was the one from 2008, it had the best group of painters overall. There were more figure paintings this year I think than last year's show, but figuration I think is waning at the school in favor of more abstraction-which I think is a shame. I think PAFA is still trying to shun the "brown soup" school stigma it was labeled with. Lots of bright colors abound! Still each year brings a new mix, in my MFA class there are a lot of figure painters, and who knows what the next year of incoming undergrad students will be like.
In general I think there is still this battle between figuration and abstraction, or modernists vs traditionalist and there might always be that battle.
Maybe that is good as it makes people defend their stance in the work and I am of course rooting for figuration and narrative painting as well. PAFA still churns out strong painters, and with that there is hope. Good luck to the class of 2013!
Rusty Scupperton doing one of his entertaining interviews. Enjoy the rest of the Art!