BERKELEY -- An exhibit at the Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archives spins an ancient-but-technologically astute portrait of expression from six graduates of the UC Berkeley Master of Fine Arts program.
This year's artistic six-pack reveals contemporary concerns, looking beyond hype to history and delving back to a time when art explained the gods, the universe, dreams and evolutionary processes. Interaction -- meaning honest-to-goodness, physical action -- while not a part of all the work, is a dominant theme in the conceptual and actual approaches to the works on display through June 16.
Curator Dena Beard has performed her customary wizardry -- finding cohesion in a mad tangle of individual expression and presenting something other than a knot or a puzzle. An artist in her own right, Beard's flair arrives through juxtapositions: one artist's somber expression sets off another's flight of fancy, and so forth.
Dru Anderson is the ultimate in volume, capable of cranking out three or more works a day. Her elaborate, feathered, feminine dreams arrive with details denying gender classification's too-easy boundaries. Even dimension is not allowed a dictatorial position, as "Dreamality River, 2013," attests, with a "dimensions variable" display note.
Coming to grips with Dusadee Pang Huntrakul's scatological and anatomically specific works sounds more challenging than it is. In fact, it's ofttimes humorous and irresistibly suggestive of all manner of prickly social and cultural tendencies. With life in Bangkok, Los Angeles and Berkeley simmering on his creative boilerplate, his 3-D clay "maps" provide counterpoint to a 21st century phenomenon he refers to as "surface logic."
Erin Colleen Johnson time-travels to human being's earliest, non-pictorial symbols: written language. Through storytelling, as in the response to handwritten sermons by her grandfather in her "Hole #1," she fans a narrative ember and establishes dialogue. And like a neurological synapse, vibrancy is found in the void between two not-quite-united parts. Meaning, learning or possibilities for good or evil lie in the gap, allowing the viewer to leap across the chasm.
Sean Talley, too, goes to language. Composed like happy accidents, his work is filled with lines: bold and blocky, aggressively tangled, hesitantly meandering, broken to bits, striving for geometric identity -- and every one of them, immediately informative about its surroundings.
What fills the work's empty spaces isn't nothing. It's the absence of something.
Construction and destruction are often elements of artistic processes. Sahar Khoury claims the instability of potential change and directs it to intimate, ephemeral purpose. Simple forms -- a sphere, a cylinder, a convex curve -- adorned with subdued tassels or cast into a corner of an installation, attract prolonged consideration, but suggest impermanence.
One of the pleasures of an MFA show is finding the unexpected, this year represented by Jess Rowland and her speakers. Flat audio speakers resembling honeycombs and other organic novelties invite the viewer to see sound.
Photos, overlaid by a grid-like back-and-forth copper foil mazes, or spiral, parallel and sparse topologies, create looping patterns for the eye and ear. Animated to respond to a viewer's movements, Rowland merges music and muscularity. Plus, there's the work's sheer, visual pleasure, found in its glimmering, engineered presence.
A brochure by Ph.D. history of art candidate Yasmine Chtchourova-Van Pee, available to gallery visitors, provides stimulating perspectives on the artist's work and the 43rd annual MFA exhibition.
What: 43rd annual UC Berkeley Master of Fine Arts Graduate Exhibition
Where: Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive. Gallery entrances are at 2626 Bancroft Way and 2621 Durant Ave.
When: 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Wednesday through Sunday. Open selected Fridays until 9 p.m.
Cost: Free for BAM/PFA members, UC Berkeley students, faculty, staff and retirees, and children 12 and under; $10 adults (18-64); $7 Non-UC Berkeley students, seniors 65 and over, disabled persons and ages 13-17; $7 after 5 p.m.
Details: 510- 642-0808 or visit www.bampfa.berkeley.edu