SAIC Graduate Thesis Exhibition at Sullivan Galleries
The School of the Art Institute of Chicago's (SAIC) "Graduate Thesis Exhibition" at Sullivan Galleries (SAIC, 33 S State St, seventh floor) highlights more than 120 graduating M.F.A. students' final projects, and they're worth seeing before the show closes May 21. Sure, it contains some bad painting and pretentious performance art captured for posterity on video. There are plenty of original ideas on display, however.
The M.F.A. show has been in the news this week for an unfortunate reason: On Tuesday 11, SAIC student Anida Yoeu Ali discovered that her installation/performance 1700% Project, which addresses the increase in hate crimes against Muslims after September 11, 2001, had been defaced by vandals. Ali will respond to the defacement in a performance Saturday 15 at 12:30pm; her closing performance is May 21 at 4:30pm.
Elsewhere in Sullivan Galleries, Samantha Hill finds a worthy use for cheesy digital picture frames in The Collection: The Narratives of Patric McCoy, arranging 16 of them so that they display images of artworks belonging to South Side collector Patric McCoy, as well as quotes in which McCoy discusses his acquisitions. Though I think Hill could have pushed her concept further, her project's unusual focus on a collector and the connections he creates between different artists is refreshing.
The show features surprisingly few new-media works, but Kangbum Lee's I need a fast car is a funny standout. Inspired (according to his accompanying text) by his losses in an online racing game, he Googled "fastest supercar in the world." A screen depicts that search and the Bugatti it yielded; a slightly robotic voice utters the title every few seconds, suggesting a single-minded obsession. But Lee's real interest seems to be, as he puts it, "Why do our minds wander while we surf the Internet?" The screen's buried among snippets of text: musings in computer fonts about how much the Bugatti costs, how much money one could expect from a kidnapping or bank robbery, the penalties for those crimes in Illinois and more—moving further and further from Lee's original question until they reach Michael Jackson and Angelina Jolie. The cloud of phrases comes off as a good representation of the wired world's warped thought process.
Some students find powerful ways to engage seemingly old-school media. Emily Hermant bends several narrow wooden boards to create an undulating untitled sculpture with a remarkably organic appearance. I dare you to stand inside Brookhart Jonquil's Never Odd or Even (2010), which presents a small workspace's mirror image—floor and all—at a 45-degree angle, for more than 30 seconds; it reminds me of a Bruce Nauman sculpture. But such discrete works are outnumbered by mixed-media installations that sprawl across the gallery walls and floor. The best draw intriguing connections between disparate elements, and the "Graduate Thesis Exhibition" does the same.