Department of Art and Art History Exhibition

Laurel Shear presents work in juried exhibition

Wed. April 22, 2015

abstract painting in beige, red and cream colors
Image courtesy of the artist

Work by Laurel Shear (MFA in Studio Art, 2015) was selected for a juried exhibition, Cultural Conversations, at the Korean Cultural Center in Los Angeles. The exhibition will be on view May 8 – May 29, 2015.

Visual Arts Center Director Jade Walker interviews alumnus Jared Steffensen, featured in Torque and Axis at The Courtyard Gallery

Thu. April 30, 2015

print of yellow red and green u shapes on blue hanging against wall and floor
Untitled (Quarter Pipe Doubles), 2013, photo paper

Jared Steffensen was born in Fairfax, Virginia. He earned a BFA in Intermedia Sculpture from the University of Utah in 2002 and an MFA from The University of Texas at Austin in 2006. Steffensen seemingly joins disparate realms through geometric abstraction. He was a recipient of the Joan Mitchell Foundation MFA Grant in 2006. His work has been exhibited throughout the US, as well as in Mexico, Germany, and The Netherlands. He is currently the Curator of Education at the Utah Museum of Contemporary Art in Salt Lake City, Utah.

He recently answered questions from Jade Walker, director of the Visual Arts Center, by email.

Jade Walker: After graduating, what did you do and what informed your decisions in the studio?

Jared Steffensen: I moved to Providence, Rhode Island to work for a furniture designer/cabinetmaker for a year after leaving Austin, then moved back to Salt Lake to teach at the University of Utah. I eventually started working at the Utah Museum of Contemporary Art in the education department.

I still had some things to resolve with the work I was making during school, so I focused on that until around 2011. Much of that work was centered on my relationship to place — specifically Salt Lake City and how to better understand what my relationship to the city was.

In 2011, I shifted from thinking about place in a geographic sense to place as it relates to architecture. I’d say skateboarding influenced that shift. The way in which skateboarding teaches you to see and interact with your surroundings based on how you move through or use them and the endless possibilities provided by that act. I also re-examined the objects and obstacles created to facilitate that movement. In a way, I think that I’ve always approached art making in this manner, but now I’m open to the connection to skateboarding.

JW: How do you negotiate/combine your formal ideas about art with your life-long passion for skateboarding?

JS: I think there is a fair amount of cross over between the two. I see similarities in their cyclical nature, the specific language developed to describe aspects of each community, how that language may not always be understood by people outside that community, and the learning from failure.

For me, it’s about finding the places where they overlap and using those overlaps to inform my work. Whether its constructing architectural forms that have a relationship to both skateboarding and minimalism, recording indexical marks created by skateboarders interacting with those forms, how the body informs and responds to that interaction, or repurposing found objects used for skateboarding.

image of wood ramps in corner with double blue lines showing skateboard track
Corner Pocket, 2012, wood and vinyl.

JW: Much of your past work focused on geographical places. How is the work you have created for Torque and Axis similar or different?

JS: It’s a mix of both, but geography — in a straight forward sense — is less important now or better yet, less noticeable. It’s hard to get away from it, though. I think living in the mountain west; the mountains were always looming over you, always in your field of vision. They act as walls that can keep things out and keep things in and that informs the culture and the people that exist within it.

By moving back to Salt Lake City and reconnecting with old friends that also continue to skateboard into their 30’s and 40’s, my work became focused on that all aspects of that community. It’s a community shaped by the Wasatch and Oquirrh Mountains, both physically and psychologically. The community has intense local pride and a pride in the connection to previous generations of skateboarding (some of them, including myself, are pushing 30 years on a skateboard). That connection to the past and its reemergence in the present is what the new work for Torque and Axis examines.

JW: You are a curator and an educator at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Salt Lake City. Can you talk about how your day job and your studio practice intersect?

JS: This may be a short and simple answer, but my museum education experience influences my studio practice which, in turn, influences my curatorial practice. I see crossovers in many aspects of my “separate” art careers.

JW: You're about to open Torque and Axis at the Courtyard Gallery, what other upcoming/recent projects do you have?

JS: Back in March, I had some photographs at the Spring/Break Art Show during Armory Arts Week and I collaborated with another Salt Lake artist, Christopher Kelly, on a project called It’s Going To Take Some Getting Used To. At the end of May, I’ll be in a two-person exhibition at the Kimball Art Center in Park City, Utah with Svavar Jónatansson.  

JW: What advice would you give to graduating MFA candidates?

JS: Keep making. Find a community (whatever that means to you) and actively be part of it.

Torque and Axis opens May 7, 2015 at The Courtyard Gallery. The exhibition will be on view May 7 – September 26, 2015.

Amy Blakemore receives 2015 Artist of the Year from Art league Houston

Mon. April 20, 2015

photograph of boy in white tshirt standing in dark woods
Amy Blakemore, Boy in Woods, 2010, Chromogenic Print Ed. of 10, 19 x 19 inches

Amy Blakemore (MFA in Studio Art, 1985) has been selected as the 2015 Texas Artist of the Year by Art League Houston. Blakemore will present work in an exhibition at Art League Houston September 25 – November 7, 2015.

Ultraviolet exhibition highlights artwork and curation by alumni

Wed. April 29, 2015

Ultraviolet, on view at MASS Gallery, includes work by Ezra Masch (MFA in Studio Art, 2012), Tim Schmidt (MFA in Studio Art, 2011) and Amy Yoes. The exhibition was organized by Scott Proctor (MFA in Studio Art, 2007).

Recently, Ezra, Tim, and Scott answered our questions by email.

Scott, why did you decide to include Ezra, Tim, and Amy in your group exhibition Ultraviolet? What draws you to their work?

Scott Proctor: Tim and Ezra had the studio next to mine for a couple years at Artpost on Cesar Chavez. During that time I was able to see them develop as artists while learning a whole lot from them both. Time passed and we moved to opposite sides of the country.

I started to think about the sculptures they made while we were neighbors and the new work I have seen since they’ve moved from Austin. What excites me about their work and its evolution is how both artists give movement and life to inanimate objects and spaces using sound and light and/or the suggestion of sound and light. They create sculpture that is not kinetic by nature, but avoids being still.

Then I was introduced to the work of Amy Yoes, a Houston-born NYC artist that was using light and image in a totally different way than Tim or Ezra. Alluding to the unseen or exposed, these three artists have a similar interest in creating experiential works that use different approaches to technology to activate objects and space.

silouette of person in doorway of dark room with blue projectin on wall
Ezra Masch, Speaker Projection, 2013, 4-channel sound composition, amplifiers, reflective mylar, digital projector, 11 x 20 x 12.

How has your work changed since you completed the Studio Art MFA program? Ezra, you recently did a project at the Icebox Project Space that is similar to your thesis project. Tim, you were casting concrete speakers.

Ezra Masch: I started working with sound, specifically using musical instruments, while I was in graduate school at UT Austin. We were right across the street from the Butler School of Music, and I was always taking breaks to play piano in the practice rooms. At a certain point, I realized that I was spending more time at the piano than I was in studio, so I decided to bring music into my art practice. I developed the drum project for my final review. I wanted to create an immersive audio-visual experience that connected the instrument to the performance space and challenged the musician to play with light and space, as well as sound. The project has continued to grow since then.

Tim Schmidt: The biggest difference for me between the work in my MFA thesis — specifically Historic Façade — and my current work is scale. The scale of the current work is definitely limited by the size of my studio, which I also use as a fabrication shop. Some of the work in Ultraviolet was actually made in my apartment in Brooklyn before I got a studio.

rectangle of plexi in front of flourescent lights causing black circle reflectio
Tim Schmidt, Spot Collider, 2015, found glass, vinyl, fluorescent tubes, wiring. Photo by: Scott Proctor

Tell us about your work in Ultraviolet.

EM: My project at MASS Gallery is different from my recent project at the Icebox Project Space in Philadelphia. It uses pre-recorded sound from jet engines. (The idea grew out of a previous collaboration with Alex Braidwood, a sound artist who I met at a residency in Iowa.)

The projections show the movement of a material's surface caused by air from the speakers. There's a relationship between the air pressure of the engine, the air from the sound system, and the movement of the image. I designed a two-channel audio loop that shifts the activity of sound and light back and forth from one side of the room to the other. I will continue to work with musical instruments, but I am enjoying this other approach to the audio-visual experience as well.

TS: This new work is derived, at least in part, from the work that I was making at UT, in that I’m thinking about the energetic or even metaphysical qualities of architecture and materials. The speakers were more of a muting of that energy, like Han Solo stuck in carbonite.

If I had the space, I would still want to cast everything in concrete, but living within the Brooklyn allotment of space helps to calm that urge. I do have a car, but I’m still imagining hauling bags of concrete on the subway.

Ezra, after you finished the MFA program, you moved to Philadelphia. What informed your decision and how did it impact the work you were making?

EM: I grew up in Philadelphia. When I moved back, I did so to be closer to my family. But I have found that the art scene is really strong here too. At first I was doing custom woodwork in historic Philadelphia homes, and that really influenced my ideas at the time. I had joined an artist-run gallery space called Tiger Strikes Asteroid, and we were invited to create a project at the Philadelphia Museum of Art.

We produced an alternative audio guide to the museum, with a variety of sound-based projects by different gallery members. My contribution was a non-fiction narrative piece utilizing the museum grounds as a backdrop. It was a great experience to participate in this project, because it presented a challenge to try something new. It was also a way in which I could respond to being back home.

I’ve been involved in curating shows and exhibiting my own work at the gallery for a couple of years now. And I have been teaching at the Moore College of Art & Design as well. Philly has been good because there are lots of opportunities to show, and there's a really vibrant community of people doing exciting things.

Tim, how have you been spending your time since you left Austin and how has that informed your practice?

TS: I moved first to Chicago to be close to my family and got a job as a project manager for an architectural metal shop where I made a lot of very fancy things for very wealthy people, like shelf brackets that were $1000 a piece. When I took the job, I was a person that knew how to build things. When I quit after about a year, I was a legitimate metal worker.

Then I started my own business which began as an art-handling and crating business and became more of a design and fabrication shop. I made custom furniture and had some really good clients. I then moved to New York to work for an artist, which was a great experience, though I’m more comfortable working for myself, so a few months ago, I restarted my design/fabrication business.

I’ve also traveled to Vienna a couple of times, biked from Venice to Lubljana, Slovenia, rode bikes with a bluegrass band (and all of their instruments including upright bass) across Michigan and halfway back, and hiked the Andes in Peru.

Travel and design have always been influential to me, and now that I share a shop space with several designers, I am looking for ways to incorporate furniture and design into my practice as an artist. I used to compartmentalize art and design, but I’m becoming more and more intrigued with the place where the two meet. I’ve also been influenced by all of the things to do and see in New York and Chicago.

What was it like coming back to the Austin? Do you miss anything in particular?

EM: I miss my friends most of all. And the sunshine. And the food. I had such a good time on this recent visit, installing the show at MASS Gallery. Artist-run spaces are doing big things in Austin, and I'm so happy to be a part of it. My goal is to visit more often.

TS: Austin is a special place. I hope that I always have a community there, because I probably found more justification in being an artist there than I have felt anywhere else.

It is such a talented, supportive, and unpretentious community that is filled with people who create a rad art scene that wouldn't exist otherwise. Even with all of the changes that Austin and the university have gone through since I left, it still feels like home. I do wish I could have been there to take advantage of those new sculpture studios though.

Ultraviolet is on view at Mass Gallery through May 2, 2015.

Alumna Emily Mae Smith presents work in group exhibition at DREI Galerie in Germany

Mon. April 6, 2015

black and violet painting with abstract forms and yellow teapot in middle
The Studio (Sleeping Teapot), 2014, prepared ground, acrylic, oil on linen, 38 x 27 inches

Emily Mae Smith (BFA Studio Art, 2002) presents work in group exhibition Oh, Of Course, You Were Berry Picking at DREI Galerie in Cologne, Germany. The exhibition was co-organized by Rosa Tyhurst and is on view April 10 – May 23, 2015.

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