Gallery 31 is back. Pilot opened October 15th and is the best look at what Corcoran’s BFA Fine Art Seniors are scheming, manufacturing and dreaming. The culmination is NEXT, the Corcoran’s yearly showcase of graduate and undergraduate grand denouements. As they finished installing, we spoke with Eliot Hicks and Ashley Van Gemeren on the impetuses that got their works to where they are and what changes are still to come.
Eliot Hicks is working through car culture to make material objects, and, further, to show the materialism of the automobile itself. It’s a fascinating parallel that can be drawn to the excesses of canonized art makers. Instead of the glossy car-paint boxes of Donald Judd, Hicks is completing a full-stop reduced to minimalism. Actual parking stops. Like one finds at the lot before her car hits the wall.
The non-marked object, the nakedness, the perfection of a minimalist work are there: his forms are geometric, clean, without adornment or superfluity. This makes the artist’s hand disappear, magically absent. Though the work is in cement, it is not a perfect mimesis of the thing itself: these parking girders don’t have a mold line and they are unusable, with no holes to bolt to a garage floor.
Hicks sees the romance of car and racing culture to mirror so much of the grandeur in the art world–equal parts illusory and genuine. Earlier on Instagram, his experiment in latex license plates fall over themselves like shorn pelts in grey (again). They, like the stops, and wholly recognizable but other worldy, and Hicks visually infers this may be the grey that covers them as cars remain in the world while oil doesn’t.
Ashley VanGemeren declares forthrightly, “we’re in control of our thesis, we’re in control of this year.” It’s her take on what the show’s title, Pilot, might mean to the students steadying the rudder of their practice as the commotion of a new partnership continues to reverberate through the Corcoran. And it could describe the way she’s tackling paint. She’s discarded traditional oil and acrylic and picked up something she uses every day on her own skin: make-up. Done with her work being on the wall, she props it with another polymer-based product: sheets of perspex jutting perpendicularly from the surfaces. The perspex is translucent, so the painted sides appear muddy, while the see-through sides “can be seen as microscope slides.”
Van Gemeren “has to show all sides,” and is telling you the same about her own perceptions of her body by using makeup as a medium on her panels–this is skin. Here she still maintains control, asking one to contort oneself in the spaces between her works so that you can be surrounded by her work and by her. It’s unsettling, and the palette matches. Flesh-toned, it is–but also harsh magentas and off-teals that add to the experience’s unsettled claustrophobia rather than a warm closeness. Maybe she agrees, “interacting with them, I want to squeeze them and touch them… I’m ready to fight them.”
Pilot is on view at Gallery 31 at the Corcoran School of Art of the Arts & Deisgn through Sunday, October 26th.