BABYLONE – U.S.A. at The Boiler

Rachel Marie CHALDU, Lan CHUNG-HSUAN, Evan Paul ENGLISH, Lea Patrice FALES, Jessica FORRESTAL, Tal GILBOA and Elizabeth STEHL KLEBERG, Paul GISBRECHT, Joel HAN, KJCOOKSEY, Annette KNOL, Zachary LUCERO, Teresa LUNDGREN, Joe POON, Emmalea RUSSO, Yesuk SEO, Allison YANO
BABYLONE – U.S.A.
Selected works by second-year Fine Arts MFA candidates from Pratt Institute, curated by Daniel S. Palmer
8 April – 17 April, 2016
Opening Reception:
Friday, 8 April, 7-9pm
The Boiler will be open Tuesday – Sunday, 12-6pm

Babylone – U.S.A.

Press Release

French singer Colette Magny wrote “Babylone – U.S.A.” in 1972, but its subject is more relevant than ever. This powerful song embodies its tumultuous political moment, especially the widespread call for resistance against a totalitarian, fascist political regime. The architectural metaphor on which it is based – the collapse of a hubristic Babylon establishment status quo – evokes the cracks that may have begun to appear recently in the systems of power that dominated the twentieth century. Yet, the troubling inequities of race, gender, and class remain pervasive, with continued repression and control presenting fundamental crises on an international scale.

But, why is this situation so dire and how can artists respond to the current predicament? It seems that these circumstances do not offer any hope for escape (Magny begins by describing how George Jackson was shot to death by the San Quentin Prison guards). Neither can we conceive of a utopian world after the collapse of unjust barriers and draconian controls because of how central they are to our existence. Instead, these matters become even more universal and our current political situation more fraught as globalism and the internet reduplicate and intensify conditions. While displacement prevails, we continue to fervently object and protest and resist, only able to derive our own meaning within this system in the unique ways that we express that struggle.

In the context of this exhibition, seventeen second-year MFA candidates selected from Pratt’s Fine Art MFA program exemplify the complicated process of finding a voice to articulate one’s realities in today’s moment of crisis. As these emerging artists are beginning to establish themselves within a troubled art world, they should be praised for addressing a myriad of significant subjects rather than merely producing more decorative objects for the commercial art cycle.

Artists like Lan Chung-Hsuan and Joel Han create brooding photographs that capture a lonely, melancholic view of both natural and urban surroundings in which they convey an artificial or uncertain relationship with the environment. Likewise, Yusuk Seo and Allison Yano evoke the built environment of cities through innovative photographic means that alter our relationship with its forms.

Wall drawings on an intimate scale by Rachel Marie Chaldu highlight the architectural details of interior domestic spaces (which can serve as nurturing sites or the locus of trauma), and those on a large scale by Jessica Forresal recombine diagrams from instruction manuals to produce composite forms that incisively comment on environmental concerns. Emmalea Russo’s ecological consciousness finds its poetic expression in her translation of recycled materials such as felt and packing blankets into unassuming but eloquent installations. Lea Patrice Fales’ hand-crafted steel frames emphasize the precision of assembly exemplified by the heyday of American manufacture, but transpose this mode of making and the formal nuances of concrete or canvas soaked with motor oil to a fine art context that is indicative of our post-industrial moment.

Joe Poon’s video installation culls from some of the most iconic moving images since the 1970s and builds them into a bombarding mass. Annette Knol’s “Fade into Nothing” metaphorically reveals the shortcomings of a utopian outlook of social progress and sexual freedom through the material limitations of a mass-market printer cartridge. Katherine Cooksey’s installation of hair extensions critiques mainstream female stereotypes by evoking her ambivalence toward her own pageantry successes and women’s disturbing struggle to achieve unrealistic displays of “perfected” physical beauty.

Paul Gisbrecht’s photographic composition of scrap metal portrays an ungainly individual in a society composed of remnant fragments, and Evan Paul English addresses the presentation of self and public sexual identities by confronting the ambiguous forms of traditional American hetero-normative domesticity. Zachary Lucero expresses formative experiences as well as the fragility of memory in a photograph of his poem “Tiffany Has Kids Now.”

Ultimately, this exhibition is intended as a question and metaphorical exploration of a set of urgent problems. Appropriately, Teresa Lundgren’s subtle intervention in the exhibition embodies the epistemological inquiries that we should be asking ourselves today about why we believe what we do and about art’s possibility to spark that self-reflection. Finally, as a hopeful retort to the bleakness we confront, Tal Gilboa and Elizabeth Kleberg’s “Waterfall Gate” offers improvised playfulness, spectacle, and perhaps even magic. This work, as well as other artworks in the exhibition, exemplify an encouraging collective striving to find meaning within the unimaginative hegemonic control that prevails. As we protest these systems of power and wonder for how much longer they will remain, we should look to the revolutionary potential of art to transformatively inspire individuals, and by extension, to change the world.

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