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New Knowledge: The 32nd Annual University of California at Berkeley Master of Fine Arts Graduate Exhibition

May 17 through July 28, 2002

On May 17, 2002, an exhibition of works by candidates for the Master of Fine Arts degree at the University of California, Berkeley, will open at the UC Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive. New Knowledge: The 32nd Annual University of California at Berkeley Master of Fine Arts Graduate Exhibition continues the tradition of collaboration between the University of California Department of Art Practice and the Berkeley Art Museum. Every spring for the past three decades one of the museum's galleries has been devoted to a selection of new work by Master of Fine Arts graduates. The students are provided with the valuable experience of participating in a museum show, while giving the community an opportunity to see work by some of the most exciting and promising new artists to emerge from the Bay Area. New Knowledge brings to the museum works by artists Eric Amoy, Gary Blum, Jo Ford, Desireé Arlette Holman, Susan McMahon, John O'Malley, and Brett Simon. These students will present work in a wide range of media, including painting, found-object sculpture, and video.

"This annual exhibition of work by MFA graduate students is a highlight of the strong relationship between the UC Berkeley Art Museum and the campus," says Heidi Zuckerman Jacobson, Phyllis Wattis MATRIX Curator and curator of this exhibition. "New Knowledge provides an exceptional opportunity for MFA students to present their work within a professional museum context, and to a wide and diverse audience that includes their fellow students."

The Master of Fine Arts degree at UC Berkeley is a two-year course that emphasizes concentrated studio work in the areas of painting, drawing, sculpture, printmaking, new genres and digital media. The program's aim is to broaden the visual, intellectual and aesthetic faculties of students in their pursuit of careers as dedicated and serious professional artists, instilling in each student a creative vision rich enough to transform common sight into uncommon insight. Only seven to nine students are accepted into the course each year from over one hundred applications.

This year's MFA exhibition offers a remarkable array of work. Eric Amoy presents photographs, drawings, and videos that document his unauthorized entry into a variety of suburban spaces. Interested in the intersection of the public and the private, Amoy stages conceptual performances in partially built homes, car dealerships, and churches.

Realism and abstraction, spontaneity and cognition, Christian and Eastern religion mingle in the paintings of Gary Blum. The centers of Blum's works feature exceptionally convincing natural objects painted in tromp-l'oeil, which introduce an element of lived experience into the meditative space of his subtle, monochromatic backgrounds.

Jo Ford's paintings tackle serious issues with a wryly humorous style that points to the absurdity of the human condition. Her works are illustrational in nature, often incorporating text and dialogue in the manner of traditional product advertisements. The inventions touted by these ads—for example, a "Genetic Eye" designed to scan someone's DNA through their clothing—are both preposterous and provocative.
For her MFA project, Desireé Arlette Holman has received a grant from the American Association of Marriage and Family Therapists in order to do an analysis of a family that she saw on a daytime television talk show. In her desire to help them, Holman has made life-size dolls of each family member and videotaped her "therapy sessions" with them. The audience has an opportunity to serve as voyeurs in the developing drama.

Susan McMahon creates deeply personal paintings that explore the artist's own relationships. Her works read as palimpsests, with images layered on top of one another, as though some are too painful and raw to exist on the surface. Potent visual symbols such as gaping mouths and groping hands recur frequently in these works, conveying a palpable sense of anxiety, entrapment and betrayal.

John O'Malley works on an extremely small scale that invites the viewer to come in very close to see what can be perceived. California landscapes, underground cities, and highway mountain passes are carved out of found wood or bricks. Standing only an inch or two tall, these dioramas pose a strong but open narrative that elicits both wonder and interest.

Brett Simon is a filmmaker whose short films and video works stylishly send up our collective preoccupations with money, success and beauty. Simon blends dazzling visuals with compelling narrative, creating works that are as attractive as they are intelligent. In his recent work, The New Step, Simon uses fragmentation to portray the bizarre contemporary phenomenon of the exercise video.

Public Programs
On Sunday, May 19, at 3pm, each of the artists featured in New Knowledge will give a brief talk about their work in the exhibition, offering visitors the opportunity to hear from and converse with these exciting and varied artists. These presentations are included with gallery admission.

Also on view
Komar & Melamid's Asian Elephant Art and Conservation Project
Through JULY 14
The endeavors of Russian-born artists Vitaly Komar and Alex Melamid invariably question our presumptions about art—about who is an artist and who is not, and about what serious art actually is. This exhibition presents more than 50 paintings created by 16 accomplished Asian elephants formerly employed in the Thai logging industry, and directly questions the concepts of individual creativity, abstract expressionism, and the workings of the art market in general.