“Next” At the Corcoran Gallery of Art to May 19 The Corcoran's annual student show once felt like a stopgap, but now it seems like a way forward.

Joan Oh, “Through Their Eyes: A Series of Uploaded Travels”

To the class of 2013 at the Corcoran College of Art and Design, the question of “what’s next?” must loom large. Just as with any university’s graduating class, these students face an economy that has not greeted previous generations with open arms—and as the college deliberates over its uncertain future, a question mark hovers over the paths of incoming Corcoran students. But the class of 2013 is wise to put its faith in “Next,” the exhibit that attracted many students to the Corcoran in the first place.

“Next” gives Corcoran students an opportunity to show their work to visitors of its historic galleries and tourists who happen to amble by. But “Next” also stands to bring student work to important people, including art dealers like Leigh Conner and Jamie Smith, who put a lot of stock in the work of young local artists; curators like Laura Roulet and Eames Armstrong, who cycle dozens of young local artmakers through group shows; and employers like Kaiser Permanente and National Geographic, who need a steady supply of young local artists to work as graphic designers and photographers. “Next” is equal parts job fair and art fair.

For an artist like Joan Oh, “Next” represents a significant opportunity—or at least, it should, in a marketplace of ideas. Her work is a standout in the show. For “Through Their Eyes: A Series of Uploaded Travels,” Oh investigates three snapshot stalwarts: the pyramids of Giza, Niagara Falls, and Stonehenge. For her project, she compiles whole libraries of images uploaded by users on Flickr and reprints them on a grid. She’s poking at photomontage and Photoshopping, those familiar vernacular tools, but also re-photography and appropriation—fine-art tactics. In thinking about photography as a process for aggregating and cataloging, she’s working in a relevant direction.

If “Next” is also a litmus test for trends in the world of art, though, then it says that young artists are largely obsessed with the themes that have always captured art students. First and foremost, themselves. Photos by Andy Ives-Nieczyperowicz are so staggeringly vain that they may change the mind of anyone inclined to feel too soft on millennials. “Swan” encompasses a suite of photos depicting or evoking Ives-Nieczyperowicz’s chiseled ex-boyfriends; his nude figure is draped over one of them in bed. Elsewhere in what may be the same apartment, he appears in self-portraits, brooding or pouting. It could be a caricature of art-school photography. It’s a lot to stomach.

“Next” is certainly a product of a Corcoran education. The college has always been best known for its plastic arts, including painting but especially emphasizing photography, from fine art to photojournalism. The latter category includes several typical examples of white-girl-discovers-the-world photojournalism, from Emma Scott’s photos from New Orleans seven years after Hurricane Katrina to Becky Harlan’s photos from communities along the Anacostia River. Neither set confronts the privilege that these projects exude (perhaps through no fault of their own). Harlan’s shot of a man drinking Gatorade on a roof is a compelling composition, and there are other technical highlights among both portfolios.

The Corcoran has increasingly positioned itself as a bastion of graphic design, one of the more marketable art-school concentrations, but the design in “Next” disappoints. I was initially intrigued by Daniel Redfern’s searching project on healthcare design and the handful of posters that resulted; all of them featured the same blueish palette familiar from the logos of Aetna, Cigna, Blue Cross/Blue Shield, and almost any other health insurance provider. But that’s where Redfern’s project appeared to end. There’s a poster featuring the caduceus—the familiar winged rod entwined by twin serpents, the staff carried by Hermes that represents medicine in the States—and a poster featuring the single-serpent rod of Asclepius, the actual Greek god of medicine whose staff represents healing everywhere else in the West. It’s hard to conceive of better metaphors for demonstrating healthcare disparities between the U.S. and the rest of the West, and the persistent use of blue to evoke healthcare is interesting—but Redfern doesn’t take his ideas anywhere.

Where the graphic-design art doesn’t earn an incomplete, it might warrant a fail. Travis Poffenberger’s “Search Engine, Semiotics, Culture” is standard-issue seapunk stuff: looping digital video, dissolving factory-feature video effects, snippets of pornography and animation and Based God. Max Matthaeus’ “Infection” poster uses arrows to illustrate the spread of the bubonic plague across Asia and Europe in the 14th through 16th centuries—just as any high-school history textbook illustration would.

The Corcoran’s reputation for flat, graphical work doesn’t preclude sculpture in “Next”—there’s plenty of it on view. One of the exhibit’s overall highlights is Jeremiah Holland’s untitled wood sculptures, which look much more like the work one sees coming out of Virginia Commonwealth University, the nation’s premier sculpture school, than anything else on view in “Next.” A set of four arches with four legs and an irregular top bar, the works come in the bold colors of kitchen gadgets. Holland’s sculptures hint at function: They’re not quite tables, but they could be coat hangers. He’s working in the tradition of contemporary furniture design, but injecting the works with modernist humor.

Jeremiah Holland, “Untitled”

It would be easy to view this exhibit through the special lens of the Corcoran’s ongoing difficulties and apparent resolution: to team up with the University of Maryland. That’s inescapable in “Next”: The exhibit, which is in its third year, was hatched after a brief period when students were not able to show their work inside the museum’s galleries. Gallery 31, a dedicated college space, emerged as a result of that particular student uproar. This year, it’s Judas Recendez’s “4SALE” sign—initially installed over the Corcoran’s façade as a protest and now repurposed inside its galleries as a thesis—that would appear to represent the current crisis. (I would have loved to sit in on Recendez’s crit session.)

Hanging a show envisioned from snout to tail by students of the Corcoran’s college is a boon to students—and to viewers, no question. But the museum gets something out of it, too; after all, it’s pretty smart for the cash-strapped institution to mount a significant show that comes at no cost. “Next,” a program that at first had the feel of a stopgap program, now looks like the way forward: Surely the students of nearby art programs, including at the University of Maryland, must be jealous of the venue and opportunity that the Corcoran makes for its students.

One of the biggest tests of the Corcoran’s apparently emerging deal with Maryland will come in the upcoming “Next” exhibitions, presuming they continue. (Maryland, unlike most art schools in the area, has a foundry; maybe sculpture at the Corcoran will go metal.) First and foremost, “Next” registers the state of the Corcoran, for better and for worse.

Due to a reporting error, the original version of this story misidentified artist Andy Ives-Nieczyperowicz as a woman. He is a man.

Our Readers Say

I have no issue with the value judgments you make on the work, but a particular section jutted out at me and has been sitting in my craw. "White-girl-discovers-the-world photojournalism" is a remarkably condescending, lazy, and sexist statement to make. It demeans their work/identity in such a casually dismissive fashion, compartmentalizing and then demoting them via gender/race. It's especially ironic that you follow it up with discussion of privilege, having that come from a white male that is unaware of the artist's own personal full histories. Also, unless Andy had requested to be identified as female, he is male.
Andy Ives is male. I don't know if that would make any difference in your critique, but I have a feeling that it would.
Was it his narrow waistline or the vanity that made you think he was a woman?

I would like to assume that your analysis of the Ives-Nieczyperowicz work would stand regardless of a gender correction, but easily a correction would change the content of the work. It wasn't a careless mistake, not to me anyway, seeing as there's her/she consistencies. So you saw this body of work, and even if you took the time to notice he was a man, and that this was a homosexual relationship, you simply didn't care.

Wouldn't it change your obvious "oh, no, not another vain, college, white, privileged girl and her boyfriend?" or is it all just turgid to begin with-- since at this point, you're nauseous. Either way, there's a huge problematic flaw in how you looked at his material, and most of it is that you assumed so much about his character through his gender.

What if Andy was the chiseled ex-boyfriend in the photograph? Would that change the piece? It would have to seeing as it would change the focus and the "relevant direction" which you've noted art and photography need to be favorably considered.

So you have this vain, adrogynous male's college try at an exploration of bodies, queer romance, of the aesthetically driven gay community (of which you're familiar, I'm sure, given how you snubbed him as a white heterosexual woman.) It's really difficult to try to see beyond one's prejudice when you can only see his pouty face and how he inhibits a body that society would otherwise render as feminine.

You rail him for his vanity or dismiss it so easily seeing as you were under the impression that she was just another little white girl and decided to not give it more consideration than that. You ask others to see their privilege, but are you even aware of your own or is it muddled by the disaffected white male art critic hat you were wearing?

I'll have to give it to you though-- I am very surprised a series of self-portraits by a twenty-something college student could be vain. Very astute observation.
You somehow managed to overlook a lot of wonderful pieces and focus purely on pieces you found lackluster. After seeing the show, I do agree, Daniel Redfern's piece was by far the weakest in the gallery, but one student's underwhelming effort should not and does not sum up the entire graphic design department and the other student work. For instance, Maggie Winters had a lovely set-up for her revamp of the way sexual health is taught in school. But heaven forbid you focus on a piece positively.
Especially considering how the major news sources are shamelessly running rumors as fact, I appreciate Kriston's sincere and effusive retraction (via facebook). I also appreciate that Next is receiving critical review. My review of this review finds 2 artists praised, 3 panned, and the rest receive both positive and negative comments. This seems pretty balanced and much more useful to everybody than simply doling out pats on the back, or only providing neutral descriptions of work.

The one thing I will join some others in questioning is the use of "white-girl-discovers-the-world." Why not "sheltered-youth-discovers-the-world" or some other more precise description?
The student work on exhibit in NEXT should be celebrated.

Despite any challenges, the school remains student centric. From the presentation of the exhibit featured upstairs in the main galleries – the work not only showcases outstanding talent but is also an indicator of good people behind the Corcoran, committed artists/educators nurturing the raw talent of tomorrow’s next generation. The work on exhibit is directly linked to the school’s curriculum and represents time, research, risk taking and chances of this next generation of artists.

This year marked a 50% increase in student work represented in the gallery. This is combined with tuition freeze next year and a Provost advocating for creativity in a time when the US Dept. of Higher Education is pushing for STEM education collations emphasizing Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics and providing amble grant money to art departments willing to pursue STEM. The Corcoran College of Art + Design recognizes the value of a fine arts education in today’s creative economy.

If any trends are to be noted, it’s the continued strength of the photography work noted in the press from the past (see Michael O’Sullivan’s review http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/going-out-guide/post/next-at-the-corcoran-art-in-focus/2012/04/19/gIQAk0K7TT_blog.html
and current http://www.washingtonpost.com/gog/exhibits/next-at-the-corcoran-class-of-2013,1247026/critic-review.html

The photography department emphasizes each student’s individuality and authenticity. The department does not force one way of working over the other. This is apparent from the diversity of the work on exhibit and student’s exploration of identity.

While some artists in the exhibit take an outward approach to art making, others create from within, taking a more personal approach. Such is the case in the work of photographer Andy Ives-Nieczyperowicz, who uses the camera to explore past relationships. He creates cinematic dramatizations of his personal life. His photographic series SWAN represents a period of seven years in which he repeated a series of romantic relationships. Ives-Nieczyperowicz takes a formal and cinematic approach to portraiture and image making. Vain? Perhaps. However, if I were 22, young and beautiful, I would probably work in the tradition of self-portraiture too. But, let’s not stop at vanity. Compositionally, the images are well constructed. The prints are technically precise. The photographs are painterly in their expression of space and light. Formally, the work is gorgeous. And, conceptually interesting given his back-story expressed in his artist statement of exploring the idea of romancing the “every man” represented in SWAN. Not to mention gender bending, given your assumption that he was a she. I applaud his willingness to share his vulnerability and intimate life with the viewer. This works also comes twenty-three years later after Mapplethorpe controversy in the same gallery. Times have changed. More work from this series can be found here http://www.behance.net/andyives

“White-girl-discovers-the-world photojournalism” Whoa, what is that about? Come on Capps. Did you not have your coffee when you wrote this?

Just wanted to provide another point of view to the NEXT 2013 on exhibit at The Corcoran Gallery of Art and hope the readers will have an opportunity to visit the exhibition and celebrate the next generation of artists.

Leave a Comment

Note: HTML tags are not allowed in comments.
Comments Shown. Turn Comments Off.