Magazine article Art Monthly

The Influential

Magazine article Art Monthly

The Influential

Article excerpt

The Influential

School of Visual Arts New York

26 August to 21 September

The notion of 'influence' has become unfashionable in recent art criticism. 'The Influentials: SVA Women Alumni invite artists who have shaped their work' challenges this by acknowledging the influence of mentors on younger artists. The curators of the exhibition, Amy Smith-Stewart and Carrie Lincourt, invited i9 female artists and SVA alumni to select an artist or person of influence to show alongside them. The result is a compelling array of artists who share common themes including the use of everyday materials and found objects, the notion of handcraft and an abiding interest in gender politics.

The School of Visual Arts, located in Manhattan, has traditionally been a rival to prestigious MFA programmes, including those at Yale and Columbia University. In past decades distinguished tutors--such as Eva Hesse, Joseph Kosuth, Lynda Benglis and Robert Mangold--have given the school a status that defies its reputation for running on adjunct faculty. 'The Influentials' shows the plethora of successful students who have recently graduated from the school, as well as those role models guiding their younger colleagues.

The exhibition is spread across four rooms of the SVA Gallery. Unlike other university galleries, SVA's space is off campus, on the western border of Chelsea, located on the 15th floor of the landmark Starrett-Lehigh Building, a multipurpose monolithic high rise. Except for a terrace that boasts an astonishing view, the spaces are brutal; however, the curators have refuted any architectural stoicism with their exuberant and diverse exhibition. Many works are large-scale and colourful, and there is a good balance of wall-based and three-dimensional as well as static and moving work. Artists and their 'influentials' are hung near each other, but the curators resisted any urge to hang the show in obvious pairs.

The entrance gallery is dominated by two large sculptures: Marianne Vitale's Double Decker Outhouse, 2011, and Michelle Lopez's Woadsunner (edit), 2009. Vitale's work, made of reclaimed lumber, reaches to a height of 12ft, with a structure that combines high modernist and vernacular architectural tropes. Lopez's sculpture is mounted on the wall and is formed by a discarded car chassis partially covered by leather, which both conceals and reveals the structure beneath. The contrast of materials industrial steel and supple leather--is indicative of the work's existence between two genres, straddling painting and sculpture. This is also symbolic of the gender divide. In the accompanying catalogue the artist states: 'I like to think about androgyny in art where both male and female exist simultaneously.'


Both Lopez and Vitale chose male figures as their 'influentials', whose works also correspond in their diminutive scale, contrasting with the ambitiously scaled pieces of the younger artists. Vitale chose Hungarian filmmaker Bela Tarr, who is represented by a poster from his seven-hour masterpiece Sdtantango, 1994, which was a formative viewing experience for her while studying at SVA. Lopez's mentor, Thomas Lanigan-Schmidt, is represented by three modest pieces, Chalice I, II and III, c1990. These small works belie their humble materials--foil, tape, tinsel and staples --by both their context--three plinths placed in a triangular position that suggests the trilogy--and the spotlighting, whereby the works gleam like sacred relics. …

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