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Co-cureate shows bring together work by 50 visual arts students at Rutgers

The co-cureate show at Rutgers combined work by undergraduate and graduate students from a variety of visual arts program. Friday’s reception was comprised of seven exhibitions, including a live spoken word performance in the alley behind the Mason Gross Galleries. – Photo by Casey Ambrosio

Mason Gross’ Visual Arts Department continued their fall gallery season with an opening reception Friday night of the co-<g><g>cureate</g></g> shows, a collaborative mixture between 50 undergraduates and Masters of Fine Arts (MFA) artists practicing their craft in seven different exhibitions.

Mid-way through the co-<g>cureate</g> reception, attendees were invited to the back alley behind the Mason Gross Galleries for live spoken word performances to showcase the different mediums of artwork on display.

For the co-cureate shows, it was the first time they utilized the back alley for performances and will use it again for The Daily Targum’s Beat Fest Friday night, according to Daonne Huff, Mason Gross’ graduate program administrative assistant and gallery coordinator. 

“It’s one of my favorite shows of the year because it’s the opportunity that grad and undergrad students have to create the shows they want to see,” Huff said. “So they’re recruiting their peers to create work, they come up with the concept of the show, they handle the lighting and installation, and they really have free reign to do whatever they want in the space.”

While there are seven different exhibitions showcased within the Mason Gross Galleries, each exhibit conceptualizes its own conversation to viewers. Every room has its own set of paintings, photographs, sculptures, media and prints, and are all submitted by Mason Gross visual arts BFA and MFA students and alum of the BFA/MFA programs.

While Mason Gross is the artistic powerhouse behind Rutgers, student artists are a part of the Scarlet Knights community but are also <g>interwoven</g> into a larger place in the world, according to Malcolm Peacock, a second-year visual arts MFA candidate.

“The show is a big mash-up of undergrad and grad students,” Peacock said. “But it also does something else outside of Mason Gross which is speaking towards where these artists are positioned as artists in the world. I think that’s a lot more important.”

The co-cureate shows embody “curation, creation, and collaboration,” Huff said. It was a change of pace for visual artists who are working alone in their studios most of the time to work on a more communal project.

“It’s an opportunity to link with other people, discover that they’re having the same ideas and are navigating the same emotions or thoughts as you,” Huff said. “It’s an important time for these artists to get out of their comfort zone and see how their work relates to other people.”

For two second-year visual arts MFA candidates Beatrice Orlandi and Colleen Billing, the show unveiled the inaugural edition of MARTHA, an online periodical magazine that highlights written work by undergrads, grads, alumni and other artists brought in through their own connections.

Orlandi, who is originally from Italy and studied in Sweden, said MARTHA is not a “fixed community” of writers but instead, it is an opportunity for artists to connect and meet more people.

Since printed copies of MARTHA are incorporated within the please do not spit in the garden exhibit, Billing hopes visitors spend time with the writing whenever they need a break. 

“I think there’s no big statement other than it’s nice to feel comfortable reading,” Billing said. “And you could sit here for hours if you want.”

The collaboration between Billing and Orlandi turned into an ambition for the duo to make MARTHA into a life-long project and exemplifies the larger picture Peacock sees for artists at Mason Gross.

“Because this show is co-curated and student-run, you get to see the way that a personal relationship between a few students inspires them to think about the community they have not just in art, but in life,” Peacock said. “Especially in group shows, you start to see how someone’s life fits into someone else’s.”

For first-year visual arts MFA candidate Enrique Figueredo, his work was exhibited in the "Accidental Racist" room, and although it touches on racism, it is a contrast to the saturation of activism viewers see.

“Racism is a serious thing but it’s sometimes overlooked in our day-to-day,” Figueredo said. “We’re trying to open all the doors of what’s happening because it’s not all <g>that</g> you hear on the news, it’s looking at your everyday life like emails or Facebook exchanges.”

The "Accidental Racist" takes on racism from a less-political stance and juxtaposes protests with a subtle but serious approach that hopes to bring people in and not let them feel uncomfortable, Figueredo said.

The co-<g>cureate</g> shows will run at the Mason Gross Galleries, 33 Livingston Ave., until Oct. 17. Gallery hours are 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. weekdays, with extended hours until 6 p.m. Wednesdays, and on Saturdays from noon to 4 p.m.

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