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MFA students and faculty put their twist on contemporary art

ASU art exhibition at Phoenix College showcases the work of the ASU art graduate program through Oct. 28

Phoenix College hosted a Third-Friday art gallery on Friday, Oct. 21, 2016.

Phoenix College hosted a Third-Friday art gallery on Friday, Oct. 21, 2016.


Third Friday in Downtown Phoenix has quickly become a third cousin to the popular First Friday events, but with more focus on art galleries and the local artists that inhabit them. 

On Oct. 21, Phoenix College hosted a Third Friday artist reception with two concurrent art exhibitions featuring the contemporary work of ASU graduate students, “ELEVEN,” and faculty, “PESSLER, SCHOEBEL, SOLIS.” Both of these exhibitions are open until Oct. 28 in the Eric Fishel Gallery at Phoenix College.

The exhibition “ELEVEN” showcases artwork by 11 current Masters of Fine Arts students from ASU who take Associate Professor of Art Anthony Pessler’s graduate painting/drawing seminar class.

“Part of what I asked them to do for the class was to conceptualize, frame and figure out how to mount a cohesive exhibition,” Pessler said.

From Texas, to Florida, to even Columbia, these artists have chosen ASU to further their education and hopefully become college educators themselves, as many of them said. Despite their diverse backgrounds and interpretations of contemporary art, these graduate students have made one coherent exhibition to present to the downtown Phoenix community.

New to Arizona, the students are finding out about multiple local artists and galleries that are well-known in downtown area.

Matthew Hoelscher, painting and drawing third year graduate student at ASU, said contemporary art can be somewhat confusing, but it's important to look at it with a blank canvas in mind.

“When it comes down to making good work, whether it is contemporary or not, I think it is a matter of hard work and dedication," Hoelscher said. "If you can put that into your work, then it is going to translate no matter what.”

Hoelscher’s oil canvas, “Astro-Matt” depicted themes of justice and childhood.

“When I made this piece, I was pretty much thinking about how I still act like a kid," Hoelscher said. “But I am also faced with the daily challenges of having to grow up. In this piece, I am expressing the duality of fantasy and realism and having to deal with both in my daily life.”

Along with justice and urgency, the other art students’ work represented eccentricity/exaggeration, remembrance/global consciousness and chaos/disorder.

Not only did Pessler teach all 11 of these MFA students, but his own artwork was presented in the faculty gallery. In a smaller gallery attached to “ELEVEN” was “PESSLER, SCHOEBEL, SOLIS” presented by three painting/drawing faculty professors of ASU’s School of Art, including Forrest Solis and Henry Leo Schoebel.

There was a constant flow of traffic in the gallery full of artists, students and onlookers occupying every corner of the room.

An artist and ASU student of all three professors, Dolores Lopez, decided to visit the gallery after hearing her professor promote it. She said that Solis’ work immediately caught her eye in the gallery because "figurative art is so realistic.” Lopez was also impressed by Pessler’s eight paintings. 

Pessler’s paintings are set in the depth of the desert. Titled “The Djinn,” meaning “genie” in Arabic, four of his particular pieces stand out because of their vibrant colors and individual, nondescript light source.

“‘Djinn' refers to the spirits that live in the desert," Pessler said. "They can be either good or bad or they can take on forms of animals or people ... These paintings represent, for me, these special moments where there is just a palpable feeling of something very significant happening, but you can’t put your finger on it.”

Both Pessler and residential faculty of painting and drawing at Phoenix College, Jay Hardin, are proud of the relationship they have built between ASU and Phoenix College. Hardin said because so many Phoenix College art students are interested in transferring to ASU, it benefits both colleges’ students to work together.

“It has been really beneficial for our students to see (ASU’s) artwork and… what they will be getting into — what the ASU art program is all about,” Hardin said.

Phoenix College also has a few ASU art students come to their community college to present their artwork, hold opening receptions and give individual lectures in classrooms.

“It is really awesome that we have this relationship with Phoenix College because we get a lot of their students coming into our program, and a lot of our grad students are coming to teach,” Pessler said. “(Eric Fishel Gallery) is a really beautiful space and so it is a great opportunity for the grad students to show their work in a gallery that will really do their work justice.”

Both professors and their colleges hope to continue to work together and show their support on future projects.

The Eric Fishel Gallery is open Monday through Thursday at 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. on the second floor of the Fine and Performing Arts building at Phoenix College. 


Reach the reporter at lhgoldbe@asu.edu or follow @leahxgoldberg on Twitter.

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