A massive 600-pound pile of simple, shiny construction materials sits in the room. It is a physical piece of art – a hand-built coffin encrusted in nails, called “Brilliant Finish,” created by Patch Wright, a sculpture student at Claremont Graduate University.
“Brilliant Finish” is just one of the 30 pieces submitted by master of fine arts and master of artsstudents across Southern California to “Keep In Touch,” an exhibition featuring the literal and metaphorical themes of touch. Curated by UCLA graduate art students Anthony Miserendino, Erin Morrison and Frank J. Stockton, “Keep In Touch” will run in the New Wight Gallery of the Broad Art Center until Oct. 10.
“There are different versions of touch within all the pieces, such as the idea of relationships and reaching out to someone intimately, like romance and sexuality,” Stockton said. “There are also works that dealt with touch as a physical touch, with a tactile quality, such as the life-size coffin made of nails by Patch Wright.”
At the beginning of each year, graduate art students curate the Broad Art Center’s first exhibition of the year, which showcases the work of non-UCLA art students. Stockton, Miserendino and Morrison submitted a proposal for this exhibition at the end of last year and held an open call for all of the MFA programs in Southern California. Miserendino said there were more than 100 submissions, from paintings and sculptures to photographs.
“Keep in Touch” is the first exhibition that the trio has curated, both individually and as a group.
The curators evaluated their own work, and found the motif of touch to be one of the most important parts of their work. Stockton said the theme was broad enough for the curators to find pieces that fit criteria.
“We decided to look around and look at other works in search of elements we had in common with our work, and we decided that touch or a conceptual approach to touch seemed to be the most interesting and rang the most truth for us,” Stockton said.
Miserendino said that as a sculptor, feeling the material is one of the most important steps in the process of his work.
“Touch is important because I get a lot of my ideas while working,” Miserendino said. “I have a direct relationship with the materials while I’m working.”
The works of 19 artists from 11 different MFA schools were chosen by the curators to display the element of touch. The artists featured in the exhibition represent a large number of Southern California schools such as UC San Diego, UC Irvine, the California Institute of the Arts and Otis College of Art and Design.
Generally, few representatives from other schools participate in UCLA’s art exhibitions. Merendino said he was proud of the large span of schools represented in the exhibition even though the art was picked without consideration of school association.
Wright said his piece relates to the sense of feeling, not just by being a physical object, but also by relating to death.
“‘Brilliant Finish’ is a psychological reminder of the inevitable, and it has to do with a memory and the sensorial,” Wright said. “The piece is a container that represents age, wisdom and experience and overall touches on and reminds viewers of death.”
Other pieces on display include Otis College of Art and Design student Eric Sarbach’s “Tension,” made up of two-by-four wood pieces wedged between the walls, floor and other segments. Miserendino said he felt Sarbach has a very interesting approach to the theme of touch, because as a canopy of two-by-fours wedged into the room, “Tension” is a self-sustaining piece that interacts with tautness and tension.
A bowl of fortune cookies made by Alison Ho, an art student from UC Santa Barbara, is another component of the exhibition. The cookies are filled with a unique fortune: a tweet by Kanye West. As a Chinese-American dessert filled with the wisdom of a celebrity, Stockton said Ho’s fortune cookies are supposed to represent the cultural and societal influence of celebrities on citizens.
This idea of contact relates to reaching toward someone or something outside of a direct relationship, like a celebrity or a culture as a whole, Stockton said of Ho’s work.
Other pieces examine a variety of motifs, such as the reaction of an object against another, art history and combining elements of mixed media.
“’Keep in Touch’ encompasses the idea of tactility, but it also was a phrase that people use when they leave each other,” Morrison said. “Grad school programs are two or three years, and people are constantly coming into and out of your life – ‘Keep in Touch’ met that need for that physicality and the sentimental nature of the phrase.”