CalArts MFA 2009 Open Studios

April 14, 2009

So the site for the annual open studios is up, with examples of work from most of the school’s students.  Visiting the site left me feeling a little conflicted for two reasons, one of which may be interesting to you.

The interesting reason is that it makes me conflicted about the kind of work that falls in the realm of what naysayers would call a “CalArts aesthetic.”  I had no idea about CalArts’ particular position in the art school world when I first went in 2003 but I was just happy to see work, all three years there, that required (but not demanded) a little bit of work on the part of the viewer.  This is not to say that CalArts Kids’ work is unapproachable or cerebral/cardboard conceptual: look here and here for just two counterexamples.  But: CalArts does get pegged as the egghead school.

Which brings me to the website, which is as much as I’ll be able to visit.  It was built by somebody who did not have a whole lot of time, evidently, and I can understand that and more power to ’em.  But it’s bare bones to the point where you wish more of the artists had provided some kind of project context for the tiny amount of work we actually get to see.  This is where and why I’m conflicted: should this kind of exegesis be required?  My answer: yes and no.

Yes, because you want to reach your audience, so you want to give them enough to hang onto.  Sometimes the work explains itself, as in April Totten’s home/bunker series, but sometimes the extra text helps, as in Allie Carr’s years-long project on the act of looking at women in 20th c. entertainment.  But the answer is also no, because the work is the work (at the risk of getting all tautological up in here) and already/always does stand on its own whether I’m in the studio talking to April or Allie or whether all I know of their work is three images on a spare website.  Being that this website has the function of introducing work to a wide variety of potential visitors, though, I would tend to say yes, situate your project, just don’t go overboard or use any big metaphors.

Which is all to say: if you’re in LA, go see this stuff in person on the 26th ’cause a lot of it looks awesome.  As usual.  Though there’s a huge proportion of folks making video work this year, which seems like a weird happenstance.

(PS The dull reason I’m conflicted is that I want to strongly support CalArts artists even though I still feel a little cheated by the school itself.)

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3 Responses to “CalArts MFA 2009 Open Studios”


  1. The first website for open studios (I think) was the year before I was an MFA-1 organizer. Art Blog LA gave them props because it allowed a preview “peek” of the work on display, and it also created a way to pair artwork with names and find an email if there was any interest in following up after. I expect that over time it might morph into a cyber gallery, depending on the time and technical skills of the class that year. One problem was that the school would take down the site every year to conserve server space, so no one wanted to go all out with some big production that would disappear in a few months.

  2. AdamFeldmeth Says:

    The first open studios website was from 2005 and is still up:
    http://artserve.calarts.edu:16080/openstudios/

    But as you can see, a large portion did not participate that year.


  3. I like the layout of your blog and I’m going to do the same thing for mine. Do you have any tips? Please PM ME on yahoo @ AmandaLovesYou702


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