Making Art a Day Job
Furnas is hardly alone in his post-MFA success. As the School of the Arts recruits more and more faculty who are central to the Citys art world (Artists Teaching Other Artists is the unofficial motto), many graduates of the last several years are now represented by galleries in New York. Kevin Zucker 02SOA, for instance, was introduced to high-profile dealer Mary Boone through two Columbia instructors, painters Ross Bleckner and Peter Halley, and had a solo exhibition at Boones gallery before graduating last spring. He will also open the fall season there, with a show of austere, large-scale interiors.
Megan Foster 02SOA, who also paints interiorsbanal domestic perspectives made complex and ominous by jagged, abstract shadow patternsshows at the Black and White Gallery in Williamsburg, Brooklyn; and Dana Schutz 02SOA, has exhibited at the LFL Gallery in Chelsea. Schutzs fictional narratives track the life of a character named Frank, whom the artist imagined as the last man on Earth, navigating his mundane existence in a hallucinatory, postapocalyptic landscape.
In a field historically populated by individuals with a powerful sense of singularity, there are more than a few team efforts operating at the moment. Lansing-Dreiden, the fictitious name of a four-artist team that includes another 2002 MFA grad (in order to maintain their group identity, the members carefully guard their individual ones), is represented by the Rivington Arms Gallery, on the Lower East Side. Like Schutz, Lansing-Dreiden engages in storytelling, but onewhich employs video, music, photography, and product designthat is considerably cooler and more graphic. Another artist team, Chan-Schatz, composed of Eric Chan 99SOA and Heather Schatz 98SOA, gained acceptance into the MFA program with one jointly produced portfolioa firstand graduated in 1998. The duo now teach a course in digital media in a new multidisciplinary arts program for all MFA students and are represented by the Massimo Audiello Gallery in Chelsea, which is showing their digital art this fall.
Art world matchmaking usually begins with stylistic affinities and mutual respect. The photorealistic watercolors of Tim Gardner 99SOA, showing regular guys expressing Spring Break mentality, clearly resonated with Collier Schorr, the MFA programs visiting artist for spring 1999, who explores similar themes of masculinity in her photographs. She recommended Gardner to her dealers at 303 Gallery, where he has since had two solo shows.
Exhibition opportunities are often limited for artists who cant forge such connections with the commercial gallery world, and over the last 20 years, even sophisticated undergraduate art students have become aware of the importance of networking. I knew that if Columbia could generate any kind of buzz, it would be an excellent opportunity to be seen by a lot of dealers, says Barnaby Furnas, the would-have-been Web page designer, who became seriously interested in the MFA program after such well-respected and widely exhibited artists as Thelma Golden and Ronald Jones joined the faculty. Furnas estimates that more than half of his own graduating class is now exhibiting in the City. I think there were a lot of artists who had gone as undergraduates to school in the City and were waiting for a really good graduate program here, so we wouldnt have to leave New York.
Photo: Courtesy The Ifl Gallery, New York