Category Archives: Exhibitions


Packed house at Hunter College / Times Square Gallery

Now that the conference is over processing what has transpired and the weight of some of the events is now being felt. One really wonderful event was participating in the Regional MFA Exhibition (please see Patricia Flores earlier post regarding the opening). In the expansive Hunter College / Times Square gallery space was at a premium with 20 institutions participating, and that was just concerning the artwork; the minute the reception began the gallery goers packed the space, making it an athletic feat to snake through the galleries, weave through the people and not bump into the artworks.
Patricia mentioned that the exhibition, between all of the schools, the artwork included feels very in tune with the currents of contemporary trends in New York work. I felt similarly when viewing some of the work and a comment that I overheard months before in a gallery came to mind: “it looks like MFA work.” This has passed through my mind quite a bit since first hearing it. Is there a MFA aesthetic? If so, what does it mean; a derogatory comment or some phase of artistic development that everyone goes through?” My thoughts and comments aren’t meant to be a defensive response to Patricia’s post, but a search for other people’s perspective on the MFA period of artistic development. Please discuss if you feel so inclined.

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CAA MFA Exhibition Opening Reception, February 11, Hunter College, Times Square Gallery

scene from CAA MFA Reception, Hunter College, Times Square Gallery, 2011. Photo courtesy: Patricia Flores

scene from CAA MFA Reception, Hunter College, Times Square Gallery, 2011. Photo courtesy: Patricia Flores

The bodies were packed into the galleries, and the atmosphere was electric last night at the opening reception of the CAA MFA Exhibition, held of the Hunter College, Times Square Gallery, representing 20 MFA programs of the greater New York area. Each school was granted its own gallery space, and was curated to showcase the talents of the students in each program. It was refreshing to see that all the schools, and their current crop of graduate students, are equally fluent and knowledgeable in the language and trends prevalent in the NYC gallery world.

I’m not so sure if that’s good or bad, because it’s difficult to differentiate the work between each school; each of the presentations by each represented school looked almost the same. This could be the condition of the instructors today in NYC academia—the widespread sharing of faculty (adjuncts and visiting artists) between several institutions—create one big NYC aesthetic. That being said, it’s good in a universal sense, because it gives an identity. Or, as Jerry Saltz would say, a regional identity. However, one wishes each program would distinguish themselves from the others.

While they all stand together as really hip, up-to-date, and as each parts of a larger tribe, one wishes each program would stand out and apart, and create a unique statement highlighting its particular strengths. They each have the opportunity to distinguish themselves by their exciting areas of development, whether they are social practice, radical craft, transmedia, research-based practices/new knowledge, and other forms of new products and processes in practice.

Something to ponder for next year….

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Clayton Merrell

Clayton Merrell grew up in Pittsburgh, PA, and Puerto Ordaz, Venezuela. He studied painting and printmaking at Brigham Young University and the Yale School of Art, where he earned an MFA in 1995.  He received a Fulbright Grant to Oaxaca, Mexico in 1996-97.  His work is exhibited and collected widely, with recent exhibitions at: The American Embassy in Belmopan, Belize; Slow Gallery, Chicago; The Roswell Museum and Art Center, Roswell NM; Concept Gallery, Pittsburgh PA; the A+D Gallery, Chicago; and the Chautauqua Institution, Chautauqua NY.  He was the 2005 Artist of the Year at The Pittsburgh Center for the Arts, Pittsburgh PA. He has received awards and grants from the Pro-Arts Foundation, Skowhegan, the Millay Colony for the Arts, the Blue Mountain Center, the Vermont Studio Center, Artists Image Resource, and the Center for the Arts in Society.  During 2004-05 he was a fellow at the Roswell Artist-In-Residence Foundation.  He is currently an Associate Professor of Art at Carnegie Mellon University.

Dwayne Butcher: What brings you to CAA this year? Any particular panels, sessions or is it just a good reason to come to New York?

Clayton Merrell: This year for me, it is mostly a good excuse to come to New York? (Carnegie Mellon) is conducting preliminary interviews for our Sculpture position. It is always good to come and see people, people I have not seen in a long time.

DB: Can you talk about your experience of interviewing at CAA?

CM: I interviewed for many positions at CAA, back in the day. But, not for the position I have now. We actually just had a discussion in our department that we do not like to conduct interviews at CAA because it is such a weird environment. The amount of stress that everyone is under, it is almost unfair to the candidates, because of the pressure cooker quality of the conference. We find that people are more relaxed under different circumstances. That was certainly the case with my interviews.

DB: So, what kind of things are you working on in the studio?

CM: Right now I am working on these medium scale drawing/paintings that are prepatory works for large-scale paintings. I just bought a bunch of giant stretcher bars, 8′ and 6′ in length, to get ready for this summer. So, now I am working on these 22″ x 30″ sketches for the larger paintings, working through a lot of ideas. I am painting a lot of explosions, actually. Explosions are on the brain, exploding landscapes, combing very pretty, very delicate elements with some chaotic imagery.

DB: Talk about some of your upcoming activities? Do you have any future exhibition or travel plans?

CM: I am taking a sabbatical next year, so, I am looking forward to doing a lot of stuff, travel wise. I have a show this summer at the Chautauqua Institute in upstate New York. I have an exhibition at the Caseworks Project in Memphis, TN….

DB: Which will be the highlight of the year for Memphis.

CM: Oh, I assume so. I am also applying for several residencies and will probably head down to Mexico for a couple of months. I used to live in Mexico and look forward to going back for several months. I will do that and set up a show (in Mexico) for the work I will make while visiting.

DB: Is there a particular region or scenery that you prefer to visit that will benefit the work?

CM: I don’t know about for the work, really. Being in different places in general make there way into the work. I am not one of those people that travel around looking for inspiration.

DB: So, your landscapes are invented?

CM: They are totally made up. I do not use any photo references. I tried plein air once and it was a disaster. I took a large canvas outside once and hung it upside down on these two large posts and painted it like it was above me, like it was the sky. I thought it would be a funny twist on plein air painting, but it was a terrible painting.

DB: What is your favorite artist, book, color, smell and food.

CM: I hate these questions. I will do book first, Let’s Talk About Love by Carl Wilson. Artist? It depends on who I am looking at, at that moment. Food: Extremely spicy Mexican Food. Color: It is not an individual color but I combination of colors. I will have to show you swatches. Smell: Ha, I have no idea.

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Sabina Ott Talks Media Lounge & “Band of Outsiders”

Still from Jean Luc Godard's Band of Outsiders. Included in publication for Media Lounge program. Februray 10, 2011. (Image Courtesy of Sabina Ott)

Previously I posted about the Media Lounge located at the Hilton on the Concourse Level. As part of an initiative to have more artist participation in the CAA Conference, Sabina Ott and Cindy Smith of the Services to Artists Committee worked back and forth between Chicago, New York and several other parts of the country to bring together nine artists and curators and create a video display to be seen by CAA attendees as well as the entire city of New York. To get more information about the project I sat down with one of the organizers, artist and educator Sabina Ott.

Tempestt Hazel: What is the Media Lounge?

Sabina Ott: The Media Lounge is a project put on by the Service to Artists Committee of the CAA. That was formed because the CAA felt that there wasn’t enough events and services for visual artists. It’s a group of people that aren’t necessarily on the board–there are a couple of board members, but it’s people from all over who have volunteered to be on the committee.

The Media Lounge at the Concourse Level of the Hilton. February 11, 2011. (Image Credit: Tempestt Hazel)

I volunteered to do the Media Lounge this year with Cindy Smith, and excellent New York based installation and video artist. And we decided to try and cover as much territory as possible and really expanded the program. We invited nine curators–and I say curators broadly. Some are curators, some are artists or designers who we asked to create one-hour video programs to their own discretion. They came up with incredible programs. Really beautifully designed, conceptually rigorous programs of video art.

TH: Where else will these videos be screened?

SO: We were offered the opportunity to screen our work at the Big Screen Project here in New York. It is an outdoor screen project where you basically sit at a bar across the street with headphones and watch the big screen video. You can also see it from the street but for sound you must be outside. The Big Screen Project edited the nine hours of work into a two hour program, taking at least one piece from each curator’s vision.

The Center For Book Arts is having a reception on Friday from 5-8pm for [Band of Outsiders]. Everyone should come. Alex Compos, the director of the Center for Book Arts also curated a program [for Band of Outsiders] and will be running the Media Lounge program for the entire month. So, people will be able to see all nine hours if they like.

TH: Where does the name of the program come from?

SO: This is called Band of Outsiders, which is based on a film by [Jean Luc] Godard. We felt that it really encapsulated the spirit of what we were really trying to accomplish and inviting people who are somewhat on the periphery of art production in some way or another.

It’s a brilliant program and brilliant curators! What I’m also very excited about is one of the curators I know, Debra Riley Parr, has curated a program based on design, which isn’t usually represented in these programs.

"Band of Outsiders", a book produced for the exhibition. February 10, 2011. (Image Credit: Tempestt Hazel)

Invited Curators:

Boshko Boskovic, Program Director at Residency Unlimited
Alexander Campos, Executive Director of the Center for Book Arts
David Familian, Artistic Director at Beall Center for Art and Technology
Claudia Hart, Associate Professor in the Department of Film, Video, New Media, and Animation at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago
Martha Kirszenbaum, Research Assistant at the New Museum
Karen Moss, Professor of Art History, Critical Theory Otis College of Art and Design and the University of Southern California’s Roski School of Fine Arts.
Aily Nash, Film Curator, Filmmaker and Writer
Debra Riley Parr, Associate Dean and Associate Professor of Art History at Columbia College Chicago
Catherine Sullivan, professor of art at the University of Chicago

Band of Outsiders will be on view at the Media Lounge in the CAA Conference now through Saturday, February 12th. The publication is available in limited numbers at the Media Lounge.  If you want more information about this project and the Big Screen Project, click here.

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ARTspace Media Lounge “Band of Outsiders”

The publication created for "Band of Outsiders" at the ARTspace Media Lounge at the CAA Conference. Feb. 10, 2011. (Image Credit: Tempestt Hazel)

If you have not had the chance to see the ARTspace Media Lounge, there several opportunities to.  This Jean Luc Godard inspired collaborative exhibition brings together artists, curators and more to create a special conference and city-wide multi-media installation in honor of the centennial College Arts Association Conference.

The College Arts Association presents

Band of Outsiders

Organized by Sabina Ott and Cindy Smith of the CAA Services to Artists Committee

ARTspace Media Lounge
7:30am-5pm Feb 10-12
Concourse F, Concourse Level
Hilton New York
1335 Avenue of the Americas
New York, NY 10010

The Center for Book Arts
February 1 – April 2
Weekdays: 10am – 6pm
Saturdays: 10am – 4pm
28 West 27th Street, 3rd Floor
New York, NY 10001

The Big Screen Project
Selections from Band Of Outsiders
Feb 9-12, 5-9pm
Public Plaza behind Eventi Hotel
6th Avenue b/w 29th and 30th
New York, NY

The following are some photos of the collaborative publication made in honor of the ARTspace Media Lounge and Band of Outsiders.

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