Strength in Numbers
By Suzanne Walsh
The challenges of putting together a cohesive group exhibition—especially one featuring MFA students from three different programs—are expected to be seen when viewing the annual “Trilateral MFA Candidate Show” at the dA Center for the Arts in downtown Pomona. Each of the 38 artists has contributed work so strong and uncompromising that each individual piece could hold a room. Curator Conchi Sanford achieves, therefore, a nearly impossible feat in choosing works that not only speak to each other but also to the viewer in a chorus of relevant feeling on the contemporary human condition.
It is on that score an atmosphere that could be best described as vast, Sanford herself keeps her statement about the exhibit purposefully vague and dramatic. She states at one point that “never has a show’s breadth and depth spoken so profoundly to the contemporary art movement and foreshown the changing tide of artists about to envelope the contemporary art scene, bringing Los Angeles to new heights.”
It is an enthusiastic and optimistic perspective on the group of 38 MFA students, 10 from Fullerton (Kevin Stewart-Magee, Brian Johnson, Kazka Reitz McCray, Patrick Faulk, Sara Dehghan, Paco Arriaga, Christina Lee, Pat Mason, Kaitlin Evans, Steve Johnson), 21 from Claremont (Scott Jamieson, Mat Hillseth, Suzanne Gibbs, Katie Grip, Jamaal Tolbert, Adrian Culverson, Kelsey Kimmel, Christine Salama, Elizabeth Joung, Phil Kim, Johnny Guerrero, Jo Anna Zelano, Clark Latte Henry III, Dan McMullin, Janelle Borsberry, Elisa Saether, Ashley Bowman, Andrea Breiling, Vera Bauluz, Kirsten Bradford, Dominique Ovalle) and 7 from San Bernardino (Alan Van Fleet, Humberto Reynoso, Jason Dawes, Mayte Escobar, Nao Yamamoto, Price Hall, William Christensen), all of whom deserve and will no-doubt bring Sanford’s words to fruition.
A unifying aspect to the exhibit and factor in its success beyond the efforts of the curator is the strong reputations of the three participating MFA programs. The Trilateral Exchange was founded to inspire dialogue amongst artists producing work within three Inland Empire area MFA programs. The importance of building a dialogue focused specifically on student artists working in this area cannot be underplayed.
For an artist who has chosen to pursue their MFA in the visual arts the pressure can be tremendous and yet, whether they are aware of it at the time, they find themselves creating a body of work in the last truly supportive and creatively free environment they will ever know. The art world, much like the rest of the world functions on the strength of it marketability. Attempting to present itself as anything but a marketplace, the harsh reality of how well an artist can sell their work from within an art scene, will often cut deeply into their ability to express themselves freely. In essence, censorship is inflicted by way of “supply and demand.”
This phenomenon contributes greatly to the rarity of exhibitions on par with the dA Center for the Arts “Trilateral Exchange.” The artist colony of Pomona as a whole has developed a solid reputation for keeping art noncommercial and fiercely uncensored, and the dA Center is a vibrant and active force in that equitation. For many galleries and even museums that rely on ticket sales to bolster funding it is financially risky and therefore very difficult to give wall space to an emerging artist who has not proven themselves to be a viable asset. It is incredibly important for student artists to be given the opportunity to not only show their work in a professional and well-presented environment but to also begin to build a community apart from the one that exists within their MFA program.
“Trilateral MFA Candidate Show” at dA Center for the Arts, 252 S. Main St., Pomona, (909) 397-9716; www.dacenter.org. Thru April 27.