Judging from artist Natali Leduc's mysterious bicycle-powered sculpture at the center of DiverseWorks' main gallery, Saturday night's opening reception for the 34th UH School of Art Masters' Thesis Exhibition is gearing up to be quite the event with an impressive array of emerging artistic voices.
A sort of emerging artists' cotillion for the Houston art scene, the annual springtime exhibit is designed as a showcase for the University of Houston's latest crop of graduating MFA candidates who together offer a glimpse into the future of art in the city and beyond.
Held at DiverseWorks while the usual space at the Blaffer Art Museum finishes up its major renovation, this year's exhibition represents five departments within the School of Art, including the Interdisciplinary Practice and Emerging Forms (IPEF) program and its first graduating student, video and multimedia artist Chuck Ivy.
"Even through the outward forms of the work vary so much, there's a definite theme of collaboration and community engagement throughout the show," said exhibit curator Amy Powell from the Blaffer Art Museum.
"Even through the outward forms of the work vary so much, there's a definite theme of collaboration and community engagement throughout the show," curatoral fellow Amy Powell from UH's Blaffer Museum explained to CultureMap on a preview tour.
"One student, Ted Closson, is staging a mini comic convention with a group of illustrator friends while upcoming graduates Danilo Bojic and Sebastian Forray have commissioned additional artists to help build these large curated installations."
At the gallery's edge, Rosine Kouamen draws viewers into an engaging partitioned space reminiscent of a half-furnished apartment that explores the experiences of Houston’s African diaspora through a fusion of memory, cultural nostalgia and images of the city's first-generation immigrants. Fabric hangs from the wall featuring a pattern of product wrappers from long-extinct candies. A flatscreen television shows a video piece showing the artist preparing a large meal of traditional Cameroonian comfort food and then eating it by herself.
"You become aware of the differences between places when you leave one for the other," Kouamen explained, motioning to a set of images showing personal trinkets and ephemera from West Africa. "For example, little objects from home that were once so insignificant suddenly become so important. People end up holding onto these things to create a personal culture for themselves that makes sense in this new place."
Also on display will be canvases by Emily McGrew and Steven Hook, who also will include video work that relates to his paintings. Abi Semtner examines family history with obsessive arrangements of fabric and paper. M’Kina Tapscott’s experimental ceramic assemblages approach questions of race, class and identity. Lisa Garrett’s neon sign creations light up the gallery space on several prominent walls.
The 34th School of Art Masters Thesis Exhibition opens with a large reception at DiverseWorks on Saturday from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. The exhibit will be on view through May 12.