MFA First-Year Show Explores Art Traditions and Makes Statements


Ryan Quan

Work from the Steinhardt MFA Studio Art Program’s First Year Show, running until March 25. The exhibit demonstrates the diverse and interdisciplinary work of the students in the first year of their graduate studies.

Maria Jose Lavandera, Contributing Writer

Steinhardt’s MFA Studio Art program unveiled its First-Year Show on March 9, including a broad set of student artworks. The exhibition — on view at the 80WSE Gallery through March 25 — demonstrates the use of different materials and interdisciplinary development of student skills in the program.

Conceptually, the first-year artists explore poetics through the use of different shapes and an array of aesthetic possibilities. While some pieces elaborate on the more traditional inquires of contemporary art with renewed perspectives, others make more direct political statements. For instance, “All Different Flowers from My Apartment to the Gallery” by Nick Doty investigates of the importance of context in art’s perception while Jessica Lancaster’s “Une introduction (An introduction)” uniquely uses a seven-minute digital projection and stereo-audio installation to tell different stories of miners affected by asbestos intoxication.

Other ideas verge on the cryptic, such as in Omer Ben-Zvi’s “Thank You Mary,” a conceptual piece portraying hair glued in paper. An installation by Biraaj Dodiya is similarly confusing — her piece “untitled (Ramp)” is a ramp made of wood and concrete that seems to lead the way up to another work, “Fuzzy TV,” which consists of concrete painted in acrylic. Dodiya seems to suggest the obscurity and ideological rigidity of “the box” in this set of works.

Lara Saget’s abstract pieces of acrylic gel and varied material combinations — “sump a,” “sump b” and “sump c” — follow her reflections on “the sensory analysis of the human body,” as she said in her artist statement. Her conceptualization alludes to Merleau Ponty’s phenomenological approach towards perception, which frames knowledge as a consequence of bodily interactions.

The poetic use of language reveals itself as a compelling resource for Luca Molnar’s “untitled” installation. Drawn on the wall, Molnar guides viewers through her thoughts about life with personal anecdotes. However, the viewer’s space for approaching the artwork is limited by a tile square platform which appears to safeguard these sensitive confessions.

Also captivating are Jessica Lancaster’s extensive piece “Y t’ont tu cogne? (Did they knock you down?)” and Martian’s mythological paper installation “The Divine.” Each constructs riveting narrations born from the relationships between particular micro-elements that compose each piece. Lancaster’s 66 paper drawings of the silhouette of an armed hunter — reproduced in a different setting with each drawing — evoke resilience. The latter presents a tragic religious scene, elaborating on the themes of the Final Judgement.

The MFA First-Year Show features work by Jerry J. Adams, Omer Ben-Zvi, Biraaj Dodiya, Nick Doty, Alex Heffesse, Jessica F. G. Lancaster, Luca Molnar, Martian (Komikka Patton), Lara Saget and Erin Schiller. The exhibition will remain on view at 80WSE Gallery through March 25. Admission is free with an NYU ID.

A version of this article appeared in the Monday, March 20 print edition. Email Maria Jose Lavandera at [email protected]