The MFA Grads at BAM

In the back, the work of Brett Walker; in the front, of Amy Rathbone.
Readers of 94708 may remember a visit I made to the Richmond Field Station in the fall to see the work in progress of the 2012 MFA students at Cal. Two weekends ago, I went to BAM to see the 42nd annual MFA graduate exhibition.

Kari Marboe in front of one of her text-integrating works.
While there, I ran into one of the artists, Kari Marboe. The work she showed in the fall drew on her family, but she told us she was interested in a book by Roland Barthes, A Lover's Discourse. At BAM, she explained that the challenge of exhibiting her work at museum scale affected her MFA work. It led her to work at two different scales - the micro-scale of newspaper display ads and the macro-scale of billboards, for example, rendered in wall-mounted photos like the one above. Here's a display ad:

Display ad by Kari Marboe.
To give them museum-appropriate heft, Marboe exhibited these ads as a series of Donald Judd-like stacks of newspapers (in this case, the East Bay Express):

Kari Marboe: stacked newspapers with display ads.
The narrative her MFA project incorporates began at the museum entry:

Kari Marboe: introductory text, BAM entry.
When I visited her in the fall, Amy Rathbone had taken over an entire room at the field station, where she was experimenting with malleable materials that could be compressed and that would make sounds as they expanded and with light and shadow along the walls and ceiling. These elements were also present in the BAM gallery, no small feat.

Amy Rathbone: BAM installation, mixed media.
Even more conceptually ambitious, the sculptor Frank Emilio Marquez-Leonard used duct tape to outline the volume required for his piece, 20/20, and then published a PhotoShop image of it, along with instructions for its construction, in the exhibit catalogue. 

Frank Emilio Marquez-Leonard: denoted volume for 20/20.
Rodrigo Ojeda-Beck works from old amateur family films to create tableaux that have a narrative quality that's either all appearance or perhaps makes the point that anything figurative is inherently if inadvertently a narrative. I didn't meet him at the field station, but was struck by his bookcase-full of metal-encased film reels.

Video installation by Rodrigo Ojeda-Beck.
Jennie Smith is an accomplished, graphically facile artist who rose to the occasion of the exhibit by making a wall-size piece that riffs on he Pacific garbage patch in a composition that, to me, simultaneously invokes Chinese and Japanese paintings.

Jennie Smith: Untitled, watercolor, graphite pencil on paper.
One of the most interesting presentations at the field station was Kari Orvik's discussion of tintypes, a 19th-century form of photography that she used to document the aftermath of the San Bruno gas-pipe explosion. A photographer of neighborhoods, she exhibited video stills she made using a camera obscura and other photographic processes.

One of Kari Orvik's photographs.
Behind hangings from Amy Rathbone's This, That and Other are the photos of Brett Walker, an artist who, as I noted in my earlier post, often makes himself the hero of his images. Although they sometimes depict domestic scenes involving his family, others take on the aggrandizing, cult-of-personality aspect of propaganda. I believe this is meant ironically.

On the walls and table: photographs by Brett Walker. In front, hangings from Amy Rathbone, This, That and Other.


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