Graduate Thesis shows at MICA by Amy Boone McCreesh
The thesis exhibitions for Graphic Design and Illustration practice opened March 27 across the Maryland Institute College of Art campus. Both programs boast an awareness and understanding of visual communication and cultivating consumer interest. The Graphic Design exhibitions are held in the Decker and Meyerhoff galleries in the Fox building at MICA. The exhibition opens, appropriately, with a large collection of Typography from Iris Sprague and Shiva Nallaperumal. Sheets of printed type and mock posters display their collaborative creation of conceptual typography.
Also in the Meyerhoff gallery is Sally Lynn Maier. Maier has displayed a clean, yet aesthetically interesting arrangement of infographics titled Design Dissection. In this series, she offers information connecting the median household income of readers of magazines such as Wired ($91,083) and The New York Times ($175,968) through the use of simple black and white shapes. Maier’s personal website also reveals a history of research into the amount of white space in a magazine and how it relates to readership average household income. The New York Times, for example, held the most “white space” and Ok Magazine held the least. Maier suggests through this work that “white space” is a Luxury Good.
Amanda Buck’s thesis work titled Designer as Journalist focused on Baltimore with an emphasis on the Station North Arts and Entertainment District. Buck created a ‘zine titled Track, which features small bios and images of many of the businesses, people, and art located within Station North. The lifeblood of Station North is also illustrated in a large map, created by Buck, holding the names and information of key people and places within the state-designated Arts and Entertainment District.
In the adjoining Decker Gallery Daniel Khang interprets traditional Korean proverbs into contemporary posters. The Hangul Proverbs are traditionally type or calligraphy. Khang has maintained the Korean language while adding poppy and comical images to illustrate the proverbs. The text is also translated into English to ensure proper appreciation. Remember, even a worm squirms when stepped on.
Yushi Luo’s Escape series is rooted in a simple idea but manifests as color coordinated patterns that were used in textiles, utilitarian objects, and works of art. Luo explains this series as providing the retreat for which we all so often yearn. Luo describes, “When it’s raining, we seek the sun, white at work we long for trees and nature.” The landscape patterns are applied to clothing and umbrellas; often with a color palette corresponding with the appropriate escape fantasy.
Lolo Zhang offers up a pragmatic and humorous answer to the Western pressures of time management. Zhang has presented a dystopian future that solves the problem of not having enough time to read! Read by dates, shown in a projected video, forces a reader to complete a book that has been following them around with a looming deadline that promises to never let you borrow, buy, or look at the book ever again if not completed. Another tactic is “Broadcast Guilt” which monitors daily reading activities and humiliate slacking readers on social media. Zhang’s design of the future, while fictional, seems eerily close to our current existence. Pick up the Captivism postcard near Zhang’s exhibition for a paper takeaway and a reminder of things to come.
Dynamic Cartography by Michael Bonfiglio is the work of a designer turned cartography enthusiast. Maps, videos, and text show rising sea levels, storm surges, and the relationship between land and sea. All are approached from a design point of view, which highlight the beauty in linear information and mapping through subtle changes in color and animation.
The Leidy and Sheila & Richard Riggs galleries in the Graduate building on North Avenue are currently home to the Illustration Practice thesis exhibitions. The two-floor show covers everything from children’s clothing to ceramic creatures with light bulb butts (yes, that is true.)
Downstairs in the Leidy gallery Diana Flores Blazquez has taken over the space under and around the stairs. Like nature itself, Blazquez has born botanical prints, vinyl, and faux grass that creeps in ever corner. Plantae, a book of digital botanical prints sets the tone for all of her work. Blazquez presents a series of framed botanicals on a black background; they feel scientific but delicate. The addition of the fake grass lining the gallery reminds me of the strangeness of something of the earth depicted with technology. Nonetheless, the work is visually pleasing and culminates in with a large embroidery. The pale blue and green threads look like a microscope slide of germs that are rendered harmless by their color and medium.
Catherine Ho, also downstairs in the Leidy Gallery catches attention with her yellow wall and larger than life illustrated foxes. The area undoubtedly appeals to children but holds my attention with exaggerated animals and patterns. Ho shows the versatility of her imagery with tote bags, pillows, and wall prints. All are fit for the home and hold a mass appeal without becoming generic. The work is executed professionally and the exaggerated qualities of many of the animals had me coming back for a second look.
Upstairs the Sheila & Richard Riggs gallery held the majority of the illustration MFA work. Izzy and Ferd, described as kidswear for the curious, by designer Liz Pulido was a collection of tiny-sized clothing with a story. One collection titled 20,000 leagues (fall 2014) pulled visual associations from story telling; patterned leggings with coral, sweatshirts with jellyfish and t shirts with submarines could all be mixed and matched without losing the story or theme. I appreciated not only the well-developed textiles but also how they were playful and smart. This attention to detail appealed to my adult sensibilities while the colors and patterns must be irresistible to children. The loose yet organized visual associations are conducive to both those getting dressed and those doing the dressing.
Jasu Hu created Project Fabrica, a series of theoretical fashion illustrations inspired by architecture. The collection was complete with illustrations of fashion, iconic architects and an actual dress. The combination of fashion and architecture feels natural in Hu’s pairings. The blue and yellow illustrations economically describe aspects of the chosen buildings and translates them into chic garments on geometric and dainty models. The project also provides an interactive website that gives more information on the architects and buildings, providing a more complete understanding of Hu’s vision. Visit projectfabrica.com to see more and shop prints.
Il Sung Na displays an understanding of many materials and uses this knowledge to build a convincing visual world. Na’s characters exist in two and three dimensions and even act as functional objects. Na’s endearing ceramics include simplistic monkeys and bears. Many double as planters and lights, but could easily exist as mere objects. The ceramics are presented in a glass case that mimics a village, furthering the existence of Na’s universe. This exhibition also includes a picture book and other illustrations with a similar simplistic aesthetic fusing of East and West.
Night/City is a series of works by Sarah Schneider. The paintings are rendered with the utmost detail but lack the bore that comes with many paintings of interior spaces. Schneider’s bathrooms and bedrooms look general and very specific simultaneously. The tile on the floor of the public bathroom painting took me to a place so real I could feel my presence in the room. The funny thing about these paintings is that they are not hyper-realistic in a photographic sense. There’s actually a flattening of the space that doesn’t jive with reality, but these deliberate errors create visual interest. The specifics of the objects in the room tell a story that is always absent of the figure but creates a strong sense of human existence. The quiet paintings are relatively small and colors are muted enough to encourage an intimate viewing experience.
All of the works described above and many more are currently on view across the MICA campus until April 12. Visit micagradshow.com for more information and images of work created by current MFA candidates.
Author Amy Boone-McCreesh is a Baltimore based artist and professor.