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Junior Curators' Exhibition at Albright-Knox Art Gallery

"Taking Root" by Joshua Kraft, Pioneer Central School.

Raw

I’m guessing many visitors to the Albright-Knox won’t be prepared for Raw, an exhibition of art works by high school students from throughout Western New York on view through Sunday, July 3, and curated by their peers.

Part of the continuing series of experiential art programs sponsored by the museum’s education department, the “Future Curators” program is an opportunity for high school students to expand their knowledge of what goes on inside an art museum and broaden their understanding of the art world. Now in its sixth year, the program, under the direction of Lindsay Kranz, has gathered 14 students in grades 11 and 12 for weekly meetings over the past five months to plan the annual exhibit. The students have taken part in each step of preparation, from writing texts to creating invitations, bringing their own creative perspective to a professional environment. This year’s exhibition is held in the 1905 Albright building, in the gallery for small sculptures.

Culled from more than 400 entered artworks, the pieces chosen represent students from both public and private schools . Casement display cases, recessed lighting, matting, framing, and mounting all seamlessly blend to enhance the impressive body of work. The “glass through” display cases give the viewer complete vantage of the ceramics and sculpture, while paintings and mixed media have plenty of space in the corridor arrangement.

Given this approval, the work does not appear to have been done by students, as least not by high school students; there is a strong sense of confident technical skill running through the show, especially in the crafts, where ceramics are the most original works in theme. There are examples of whimsy, fantasy, and the romantic in fired clay, all structurally sophisticated and attendant to balance of form and surface treatment. In mixed media, often the most idiosyncratic of art forms, one work is also the most thoughtfully dramatic: A figure constructed of clear packing tape lunges from his enclosure, head and one leg jut through the plex sheet fronting the display. As if hit by a strong gust of wind, the figure braces against an onslaught of pale yellow blank post notes which plaster his legs and torso in a shingle-like array. Titled Sticky Notes, it comments humorously on the slew of “raw” information that assaults the average person. Another mixed media piece covers most of one wall panel; composed of individual sheets of photocopy enlargements comprising an edge-to-edge view of railroad tracks disappearing in perspective and over laid with a heavily drawn matrix of lines that read like cracks in a glass. The references to the working process of the German painter Anselm Kiefer are clearly evident. One large figurative painting titled Restraint brings to mind the bold strokes portraiture style of the painter Alfred Leslie. A small series of photo collage titled Selfies overlaps figure image sections in the manner of David Hockney, the innovative British painter. It is reassuring that living, working artists continue to inspire talented students.

I wanted to better understand the premise of the exhibit—that the students were charged with imagining an era without “the widespread influence of technology” an “atmosphere free of the pollution of technology,” a “sanctuary from the mechanics of everyday life,” rejecting the recognizable and commercial.

The show’s title, Raw, brings up many associations; raw like vegetables, raw like weather, raw like abraded skin, raw like the cry of the wounded, but also raw like fresh, rough, natural, native, all basic to the state of creating art that is visceral, introspective, and emotional. A welcome sign from Generation Next.

j. tim raymond

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