Art for Darwinian times

Matthew Miller, “Untitled (Self-Portrait), 2009. Detail.

In the latest edition of The Brooklyn Rail I reviewed “Social Curiosities,” a show at the New York Academy of Art that features work by the 2008-09 postgraduate fellowship recipients�Matthew Miller, Annie Wildey, and Phillip Thomas. “Tens of thousands of debt-ridden art students are scheduled to graduate this year. When they started school, the art market was thriving. Galleries, curators, and collectors trawled MFA open studio events for new talent. Jobs were plentiful. Being an artist seemed like a legitimate, practically defensible career path rather than an eccentric calling that would lead to noble pauperism. Now, tenured professors can no longer afford to retire, and university art departments and art schools face staff reductions despite the inexplicably growing number of applicants. Art school graduates can�t even count on finding low-level positions like studio assistant, university studio technician, art handler, or gallerina. A good many of them will shake their heads, plead temporary insanity, cast off the whole idea of the artist�s vocation as frivolous and head to law school. The upside, of course, is that Darwinian times force the fittest�the most dedicated and ambitious as well as the most talented�to shine. “Social Curiosities” comprises three young artists determined to find their voices during these difficult times.

“For the past year Miller, Wildey, and Thomas have been afforded studio space, an annual stipend, tutorial support, and opportunities for teaching assistantships. The New York Academy is known for its classical figurative curriculum and unswerving commitment to rigorous perceptual study, so the challenge the three have faced is to find relevant content and inventive approaches while continuing in the classical tradition. To varying degrees, they have all succeeded. Wildey, who paints monochromatic perspectival studies of road and subway trestles, and Gordon, who mashes up references from paintings past, are still finding their way, though with considerable promise. The standout is Matthew Miller, who has clearly hit his stride….” Read more.

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