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The Distinctive Works of UCI’s MFA Artists

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On April 28, the first part of the MFA Thesis Exhibitions, comprised of works from artists Sasha Bergstrom Katz, Kim Garcia, Amy Mackay and Kyle Welker, went on display. Each artist brings a separate and unique presentation of their works in each of their respective showcases.

Kim Garcia’s work “is love a tender thing?” consists of vibrant, delicately balanced sculptures. The sculptures take up most of the floor, and there is an interdependency between each of their components. For example, the sculpture “Holding Hands” immediately catches the eye when one walks into the exhibit, and is comprised of smaller structural components tied together. They are tethered to each other, and the tether simultaneously offsets and heightens the tension of the scene. The scenes evoke the freeze of objects in motion, held in place by ropes that let us observe the pauses. The looping projections contribute a sense of continuity and intimacy and carry over the theme of “physical interdependencies.”

Further ahead in the Room Gallery is the next exhibition containing Kyle Welker’s work. The lighting is dim and there are two major components of note. A patch of grass like a mini lawn is directly in front, and a machine leans back by the wall, its tubing running under the patch. To the left is a magnificent structure suspended by wires. The panels individually are sparse but it leaves the impression of a gazebo with the base structural parts covered by a kind of wax derived from bees. It’s intriguing and provides a sense of scale. One can wonder just how many bees were involved in this project’s creation and ruminate on how the ephemeral existence of a worker bee was utilized in conjunction with scores of other bees to reach this sort of macroscopic structure. The machine, on the other hand, inflates the appearance of the grass, giving it a lifelike quality as it expands. The myriad of blades of grass contribute to the overall patch and further the idea of living things operating in conjunction, artificially or not.

“Effecting a Split” provides a split screen viewing experience in an otherwise empty exhibition room. After taking a seat in the Contemporary Arts Center, the projection starts playing. There is a person on screen drinking a milky white concoction and almost immediately winces over its effects. The other side of the screen is nearly identical to the left. However, there is a slight delay at points and sometimes two differing events are played at once. The depictions are visceral, and while there is no sound, one can hear the individual doubling over from the drink. One can hear the door opening and closing as part of a “Prestige” type magic trick with doubles as well. The actions during the scenes with the milky substance evoke the transformation sequence from “The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.” Sasha Bergstrom-Katz’s work disorients slightly as the actions differ slightly from the right side of the screen and the left and when both screens depict the same action, the effect of the expressions are magnified.

The final exhibition displays the work of Amy Mackay, “Dear Echo.” There are many paintings in this exhibit, each with varying color schemes and sizes. These paintings are supposedly remnants of a transient performance and the documents serve as a motive. The paintings are layered and kinetic.  They offer glimpses of representation of the events that transpired in the performance and as such, draw attention to the disparities between experiences, representations of said experiences and their memory. There is not much to go off of such as a video recording of the performance or the audio that accompanies it. This gives each painting within, an internal intrigue of sorts, making it all the more fascinating to look at.

All of the exhibits are visually engaging and provide us a glance at the type of creativity at work at UCI. From the variant media used to the different themes explored, Bergstrom Katz, Garcia, Mackay and Welker  effectively convey their messages. The first part of the MFA exhibitions tackled topics such as interpersonal connectedness, misdirection and splitting of focus, a timeless state of existence, and idea of record keeping through paintings.  The next round of exhibitions will run from May 19 to June 2 and showcase even more compilations of art from the likes of Rachel Borenstein, Niloufar Emamifar, Miranda Javid, Joshua Ross and Eva Słapa.