This Scalar Page celebrates the truly incredible Final Projects of Chapman’s Studio Art Class of 2020. They have been realized in spite of the obstacles the students had to confront this past Semester.
When in mid-March, it became clear that the university was going to close and we were going to continue our classes remotely, I remember the seniors, colleagues and myself trying to grapple with the unusual situation. The sudden realization we would not be back together in our classrooms came as a great shock and a disappointment that was hard to accept. The fact that virtually all art programs and senior exhibitions nationally and internationally had to cope with this new situation created a sense of solidarity but was only a minor consolation.
Shops were no longer accessible; studio space and equipment no longer available. The students were wondering “What is my project going to look like when it won’t be seen in a physical space?”, “How am I even going to realize it?”. For them it meant to go back to the drawing board in the middle of their final semester at a point at which they had been working on these projects for a good nine months. Small and large quantities of material had already been researched, organized and purchased. Quarantine put a literal stop to going any further with projects that involved travel or close contact with people. The list of what could not be done is long, but these examples are enough to illustrate how profound the changes to the original proposals would have to be, going forward. This experience, inadvertent and sudden as it was, had the students emerge more thoughtful, and richer by an experience that while uncalled for had so many lessons to teach.
Bruce Nauman said words to the effect that an artist shouldn’t wait around until they have the means, money or material to realize their grand project. Instead they should work with what they have and engage with the materials that are available, that immediately surround them. In this spirit the students were exemplary trouble shooters, inventors and originators. Thinking on their feet a few weeks after we had left school, they began to come up with alternative scenarios and were altering the projects to fit the new circumstances. They created improvised painting-, photo- and video-studio spaces (some of which you can see on the index page of the exhibition), and used whatever materials they could get ahold of, testing new methods to push original ideas. They developed preliminary material further into final projects, condensing large scale sculptures and installations into videos and collage environments, and created YouTube channels and alter egos on Instagram - the speed, intensity and the focus with which these changes were made while always keeping the original ideas in mind is absolutely remarkable.
The unavailability of material and the isolation we found ourselves in had another effect: Great attention was directed to the motivations behind a project, the thinking about it, and a deep inquiry into the changing nature of each work was the result. What are essential parts of the work and what can be omitted? Who am I addressing when the White Cube and all its art internal connotations are not framing the work? How can I use site specificity to further emphasize aspects of the project? The studio faculty engaged in an intense exchange of ideas with the students, and ten weeks of Zoom one-on-one meetings and many critiques the students organized among themselves later we see the outcome of this engagement. The exhibition we open and celebrate today is not in a physical space, but it is every bit as sound in concept and thorough in execution as if it had been in the gallery. In some cases, the works surpass what was originally planned both in scope and depth.
And so, what was initially a restriction turned out to be a catalyst for innovation. Necessity they say is the proverbial mother of invention. And while nobody planned or wished for it, we can now see some positive impacts on our situation. The students surprised us, their parents and I want to believe themselves. With great ambition, resilience and ingenuity, they tapped off their proposals for possibilities not considered prior and subjected them to the most radical testing. I want to thank the graduating students from the bottom of my heart for staying more than engaged and lifting their spirits to the heights that gave rise to the works in this show and I want to congratulate them to the completion of their thesis exhibition.
On this page you can see the very first online publication of a Chapman graduation exhibition and I am absolutely thrilled that beginning with this show we have started to use Scalar, as a digital outlet for the Studio Art Program’s Student Shows. This exhibition will live indefinitely on the Chapman server and will be accessible to future generations of students and professors and anyone interested. And of course, by including links to personal websites our fabulous, amazing graduates of 2020 remain connected to our department and the university.
And so, while I am a little wistful, I am also incredibly happy to open this exhibition on Scalar and hope you will find it as enjoyable, interesting and educational as I and my colleagues do. Have a great time when browsing through the installations, sculptures, paintings, collages and collaged installations. Also remember to visit the individual pages of the students where you can see their work from the past four years. And so, I close my short remarks citing the exhibition title which could not better sum up the impact of the situation and the vitality and resilience it was met with: The Show Must Go Home.
May 23, 2020
Guggenheim Gallery Coordinator
Lecturer Studio Art