A diverse display

Eight standouts at the "RISD Graduate Thesis Exhibition 2014"
By GREG COOK  |  May 21, 2014

VIVID VISION Mahoney's "On the Edge of the Desert."

The annual “RISD Graduate Thesis Exhibition 2014” at the Rhode Island Convention Center (1 Sabin St, Providence, through May 31) is so vast — with work by around 175 graduating master’s degree students filling the 28,000 square-foot hall — that it’s not unusual for friends to tour the thing separately, compare notes afterward, and find out not only did they admire different works, but they didn’t even notice the stuff the other person saw. It’s just so big. That’s what’s impressive and a bit daunting when the national art education powerhouse opens its doors to reveal what it’s been up to. So to help you on your way, here are eight artists not to miss.

Matthew Mahoney | The exhibit opens with “On the Edge of the Desert,” a knock-your-socks-off sculptural installation of larger-than-life demons and corpses and flowers and hovering insects and beer cans made from tape, cardboard, and crepe paper. Naked ladies float into the air. A crow eats away at what’s left of a skeleton. A cobra slithers out of a faun’s eye. Look close at the details — a mouse dead in a trap, skeleton pixies, gas pump nozzles, lizards, tongues wagging, erect penises. There’s a raucous hair band, Day of the Dead party vibe. It’s the glam, rainbow bright, garbage apocalypse, but that’s just the circle of life, dude.

Hyo Jin Yoo | Watching this video can make you feel like a pervert. You perch on a stool in a dark room and peep into a window cut into the wall to see (what looks to be) a woman. String is laced through hooks adhered to her lips and pulled tight by (what look like) man hands to force smiles and grimaces. Knees are clasped together with snaps adhered to skin. When she opens her legs, the skin stretches until part of the snap peels off. Strings connected to hooks across her face twist her nose out of joint until the hooks snap loose from the skin. The script to this sort of S&M body art can seem overly familiar, but it still has a painfully visceral magnetism. Plus the added charge of questions about the relationship between gender and power.

STITCHED Detail from Narrett's "She Whispered and They Tried Things On."

Sophia Narrett | Swooning, goth, romantic embroideries depict a ballet manifesting in a dark wood, shoppers standing awkwardly around a dream-world playground-turned-clothing-boutique, and naked women crawling around a verdant midnight garden.

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