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MFA students show their work at UB Center for the Arts gallery

Vignette Corridor by Gary Sczerbaniewicz.


A couple of themes emerge from the array of master of fine arts student works currently on show in the UB Center for the Arts gallery. Experiment, in an artistic sense but also in a scientific sense. Myth, including personal myth and general cultural myth. And artwork and audience interaction.

Experiment in the artistic sense applies pretty much across the board for the seven artists on exhibit. Scientific experiment is the subject matter of two works by Byron Rich and one by Ruby Merritt. One of Rich’s works, which he calls a biosculpture, consists of a biology lab-type experimental set-up apparently to test the effect of high-frequency sound, controlled by a motion sensor, activated by audience movements, on the growth of algae in Petri dishes (one primary experimental dish, and one control dish). High-frequency sound is said to have an inhibiting effect on algae growth. The set-up includes apparatus for real-time video of the activity in the Petri dishes—so you can watch algae grow, or be inhibited—as well as any audience interaction. The science aside, the video, projected on a background white wall, is visually very lovely.

Another work by Rich consists of a series of multiply superimposed, it looks like, printed sound wave patterns on large translucent plastic sheets, visually, but not aurally, representing a conversation between the artist and another person.

Ruby Merritt’s piece is a kind of sculptural screen consisting of a large collection of Petri dishes, test tubes, laboratory flasks, and the like, containing a variety of natural and synthetic materials the artist is said to work with, evoking the world of science, as well as providing, again, an unusual and beautiful artistic work. Of many and exotic forms and colors.

Personal myth, including adolescent clandestine rites of passage, is the subject matter of Alexander Derwick’s series of collagraphs/collages entitled Me and My Brother, My Brother and I. Vignette scenes in a woods, away from meddling adult supervision, of dare actions involving decapitation of the occasional small animal—a chicken, a snake—and amateurish endeavors in the art of tattoo. Copious fetish human skulls, that is, images of skulls, drawings, from realistic to puerile maladroit.

Gary Sczerbaniewicz’s work comes across as personal mythology edging into archetypal. With serious demands by way of audience interactivity, like requiring floor exercise body contortions just to have a look at a piece. Thinking of the piece for which you need to get down on the floor and slide into a little alcove—there are handgrips installed in the alcove for the purpose—to look down a kind of constructed cave corridor at something—it’s not clear just what—the artist wants us to see. Something significant, though we may not understand the significance. Vaguely reminiscent, evocative, of the myth story of the labyrinth, the Minotaur, the ineffable monster.

Another interactive with the audience piece is Anthony DiMezza’s sculpture which looks like a huge silver coin in the middle of the gallery floor, but not of silver metal but some rubbery impressionable material, and bearing imprints of numerous shoe and sneaker bottoms of gallery patrons, presumably, who stepped onto the piece either inadvertently or more likely specifically at the behest of the artist. Enough footprints to almost obscure the original design on the coin, a Celtic two-headed snake, one head at each end, such as you might see in the artwork on an Irish medieval manuscript.

David Leightly has a series of exquisitely diaphanous minimalist drawings and paintings—diaphanous and minimalist to the point sometimes of nearly invisible—and a potentially audience-interactive work consisting of sheets of writing paper with cryptic handwritten words or phrases, and similar blank sheets on which it seems audience are invited and encouraged to add their own cryptic messages. (But as far as I could tell, no one has. The writing seemed to be all in the same hand.)

Other excellent paintings and drawings in a more or less traditional painterly style—including one of variations on the theme of a dead bird—are by Luke Daugherty.

Hurry. The MFA students’ show ends April 29.

Meanwhile, the UB Bachelor of Fine Arts students will be holding a one-night-only show of their senior thesis work on Saturday, April 28, 6-10pm, on the fourth floor of the Hi-Temp Fabrication building (79 Perry Street, across Illinois Street from the hockey arena).

Part of the idea of the BFA students’ exhibit was to show off-campus in a city downtown venue. The exhibit will feature work in a wide variety of genres and media by 29 graduating BFA students.

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