“Every September something truly unique happens at California State University Long Beach. The Greater Los Angeles Master of Fine Art Exhibition, GLAMFA for short. For the past ten years GLAMFA has been showcasing the work of graduate students from San Diego to Santa Barbara to Las Vegas and all points between. That is not really all that different form other annual or biennial exhibitions of graduate work. What makes GLAMFA stand apart are its consistent quality and distinct approach to curation. This year, as every year previous, the exhibition was curated by graduate students and CSULB. Peers selecting the work of peers. Coinciding with Open Studios, the CSULB graduate students present their work in their studios along side the very best of the region in GLAMFA.

It was designed this way. GLAMFA grew out of the desire for inclusion in the greater Los Angeles graduate community. In 2005, after attempting to join the then popular survey of MFA’s in LA called Supersonic, a group of students approached the Director of the School of Art at CSULB about taking over all of the school’s student gallery spaces and presenting their own exhibition at the beginning of the Fall semester. An exhibition that would be open to submissions from all graduate schools in the area and would bring LA to Long Beach.

Each Spring the student organizers visit the open studios around town where they start looking at works, generate connections, and foster community. Over the years they have shown innovative and imaginative works across genres–encompassing public projects, performance, sound, film and video, and net art and gaming.

So here we are ten years later. After passing through many hands, GLAMFA remains true to it’s original intentions. As you can see flipping through the past exhibition website archives, artists who are now making their marks on the art world have exhibited at GLAMFA. MOCA Engagement Party featured artist Liz Glynn, Writer and Director of 323 Projects Tucker Neal, and Creative Capital Grantee Akosua Adoma Owusu to name a few.

This year certainly holds the same potential as years past and features some outstanding works. Representing Cal Arts, CSUF, CSUN, CSULA, Claremont, OTIS, UCI, UCLA, UCSB, UNLV, and USC. The chosen works address many of the issues in the current cultural conversation, the shifting nature of gender, feminism, technology, and political climates, but also re-occurring themes such as the landscape of Southern California, and the state of the academy that grants the terminal degree each of these artists is seeking. What ties them all together is the strength of their voice and the location from which they speak.

Collaborative AIRP, the Artist in Residence Project, features artists Jennifer Frias and Christina Lee from California State University Fullerton. Intervening in retail environments, they create and document guerrilla compositions. Reminiscent of geometric abstractions, their installations are publicly staged unsanctioned ephemeral artworks that live on in photographic documentation. Stacked glasses and bottles on store shelving are playful in nature. Perhaps more benevolent than some of the more trickster style interventions that are regularly seen, their touch work is genuinely engaging in a conversation about art as intentional manipulation of color and form, basic academic principles that are placed into application in a banal context that is very hopeful in nature. Seeking to generate a dialogue about aesthetics more than commodity.

Noé Gaytán from Otis is engaging in a different dialogue about commodity and the academy. In a very timely project, not just because of the artist’s current status as a graduate student but because it comes at a time when student financial aid and debt load versus the earning potential and effectiveness of academic fine art education has come in to question. Using screen-printing techniques to efficiently generate multiples Noé Gaytán is printing his own money – each dollar in the cost of his graduate education in an attempt to offset the monetary burden of taking on higher-education. Considering the trend of self-funding of art projects using online platforms such as kickstarter and indie go-go, the artist takes it a step further into crowd funding a degree instead of relying upon the federal system of loans. The project elegantly and effectively points towards the problems that all of the artists in this exhibition face.

Digital manipulation of both the photograph and the printer is how Evan Trine from Claremont is creating one of a kind abstract photographs. The artist subverts the multiple nature of the digital photograph by tweaking the machines that being them into a physical state. The brightly saturated final works move forward from the glitch aesthetic into a sophisticated manipulation of information. Grain and pixel reference low light images, attempts to capture visual information where they is little to be seen. Evan Trine’s consideration of how the ease of digital reproduction and image capture can be reversed upon itself to create unique work is a reflection of the questions that have been facing art making as technology becomes better at producing and reproducing.

The Southern California landscape has inspired many. For good reason. Susanna Battin from CalArts however, layers the form of the freeway with language in her works. Merging colors and simple semiotics as gleaned from navigating nature via the unique highway system of the region, Susanna Battin highlights the impact of information expressed at terminal velocity. From staccato sign sentences to phoning the poppies to see if they are in bloom, she successfully incorporates the wonder that is inherent in the area with the speed at which it is now experienced. Her investigations are a fitting expression of contemporary life in a place where we live steps from the ocean but rarely find time to swim.

It is this environment though, this region, that cultivates creativity. Year after year, new artists enter and add to the discourse. Arguably it is the strength of the MFA programs that make Los Angeles such a vibrant art community. The exceptional artists from the eleven institutions who are represented this year are a testament to the quality of work being made across the area. GLAMFA has certainly made a contribution by bringing them all together for the past ten years and hopefully for many years to come.”

-McLean Fahnestock

View full event post here: ArtSlant


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