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2009

 

 

The Searchers

 

Soho Gallery Showcases Four Recent Visual Art Grads

By Ulrika Brand

Just a year out of the MFA program in Visual Arts, four young graduates—Michelle Elzay, Sue de Beer, Eric Schnell, and Colin Hunt, all MFA'98— are being featured in a group exhibition of nine at Artists Space in SoHo.

An alternative gallery that has launched the careers of many of today's most influential artists, Artists Space frequently invites established artists to come back to curate shows of emerging artists. In this instance, Robert Longo, the artist who rose to fame in the 1980s with his large works depicting corporate man, is the curator of the show, which he calls "The Searchers," inspired by the John Ford movie of the same title. When asked about this, Longo said that the eclectic artists assembled for the exhibition "are people who are searching for something, not trying to play a game that will further their careers as artists."

The four young artists trained at Columbia's School of the Arts work in different mediums. Michelle Elzay is represented in the exhibition by a series of color photographs of her sleeping boyfriend; Colin Hunt's large-format lyrical drawing in charcoal depicts an ambiguous landscape; Eric Schnell has created an installation constructed of plywood that incorporates drawing and photography, and Sue de Beer's large, color photographs of women contain manipulations that shock the viewer.

Asked to comment on the work of his former students, Ronald Jones, professor of Visual Arts at Columbia, said, "What is common amongst them is that their work grows out of an interdisciplinary education. Michelle Elzay came to Columbia as a painter and left as an accomplished photographer. She uses a variety of different settings and her images are luscious and beautiful but also eerie and undecodable and mysterious. Eric Schnell creates his own mythology in drawings and brings it to life in bizarre and complex installations. He is building his own iconography from scratch. Each of these artists has a distinctive voice and each embraces interdisciplinary practice."

Longo explained his inspiration for organizing the exhibition: "About a year ago Troy Brauntauch and Jon Kessler (both artists who were teaching in the Columbia program) introduced me to a few young artists whose work I was not familiar with. Out of this group I first became acquainted with the work of Eric Schnell. My initial reaction to his work was one of the primary reasons that I became involved in curating this exhibition. It caused an immediate short-circuiting of my usual and perhaps jaded way of reading work not known to me. I would normally scan a work looking for categories, influences, styles, rip-offs, etc. But what happened when I was confronted by his work, it caused a breakdown of these viewing tools that I had in place to experience unfamiliar works. It simply made me realize I did not understand it, but at the same time I was experiencing 'it' for 'itself.' This was extremely exciting to me. The freshness of this experience made me want more of it. So I began looking for other new works of this kind that I found so baffling and seductive."

"The Searchers" continues through Nov. 6. Artists Space is located at 38 Greene Street at the corner of Grand Street and is open Tuesday through Saturday from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. (Phone 212/226-3970). Admission is free.