Tuesday, May 25, 2010

San Francisco Art Institute MFA Show - Redux

JD Beltran over at SF Gate (one of the city brights writers) thinks that the MFA show was just great.  She's the SFAI Chair of the Post-Baccalaureate Program - where students pay upwards of $30,000 + year tuition for 12-15 units a semester. So maybe she's reluctant to criticize this work. However, I shouldn't try to second guess her. Some of the comments are (for once) intelligent. Of course, this being SF Gate, they veer into the snark, the insulting and the irrelevant pretty quickly. Now, I find that Ms. Beltran's essays are often insightful and illustrate work that I don't know much about. I am always glad to learn and I enjoy challenging myself but I must respectfully disagree with her on this one.

"The 2010 MFA graduates of the San Francisco Art Institute have their final exhibition up at Fort Mason this week until tomorrow, Saturday; earlier this week, I spent a day wandering through the installations. It is impressive. And full of surprising things - I can't really think of a better word than "things" - that you've just never seen before.

If there was a common thread that I could detect in the mood, it was that the artists at the San Francisco Art Institute work very, very hard at having fun with their ideas. I definitely could detect the aura of experimentation and pushing boundaries that decades ago inspired the Beat Movement artists at the school - and, fifty years later, I imagined these recent grads sitting in their studios, conjuring grand schemes to create things just for the hell of it, and thinking, "Hmmm. Why not?"

Read more: http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/blogs/beltran/detail??blogid=85&entry_id=64080#ixzz0oyAUINfu

As for me, I think that the first image (not put up on my blog for copyright issues) pretty much covers the "why not." Now, she's included a painting by Percy Cannon whose work I liked but I find that local artist, Kristina Quinones, has done that and done it better. To be fair, I should have included Mr.s Canon's work in my first review but I was overwhelmed by the rest of the show - and not in a good way. At least, Ms. Beltran didn't list the plant/spotlight installation among her choices, so thank heavens for something. I did not watch any of the films she mentioned, so I can't comment on that.

I have wonderful memories of SFAI, of my time there and most of my teachers. If I could change anything, I would wish that the school had provided better counseling for life after art school but this was the 60's and it was pretty much "art for art's sake." One of my blogging buddies, Pam of of the food blog, Zoomie Station, was a counselor there some years ago and I know that she gave the students good advice. That's certainly an improvement over the panic and "oh my god how am I going to make a living" that I and my classmates faced. But in those days, tuition was $50 a semester and you could rent an apartment for $75 a month (complete with Murphy bed)! I lived on $300 a month - which was pretty much what most of us made by working full time. Prices were low but so were salaries. Today's students, unless they have a major trust fund, will graduate into one of the worst economies in recent decades, carrying a whole truck load of debt.
But I still think that for a school whose alumni include artists from Jerry Garcia of the Grateful Dead to Enrique Chagoya, Manuel Nieri and Annie Lebowitz, this is a pretty sad showing.


Oh, and I should add that name calling and insulting anonymous comments won't be published. You are free to disagree with me. I appreciate discussion but just stating that I'm full of " it" does not make for intelligent commentary.

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