Setting/Work/Site: Opening of the 2022 Graphic Design MFA Thesis Exhibition | UB today
Stone Gallery exhibition on view until April 29, featuring the work of 18 students
Graphics are everywhere.
It’s in the Netflix interface, in the morning New York Times (or um, UB today) e-mail, the directional arrows of the Museum of Fine Arts, even if you do not always time it, it is an integral part of everyday life.
That’s what makes the medium so interesting, says Christopher Sleboda, associate professor of graphic design at the College of Fine Arts, one of the curators of Frame/Works/Site, CFA Graphic Design MFA 2022 Thesis Exhibition, currently on display at Faye G., Jo and James Stone Gallery. The show is free and open to the public and runs until April 29, with a kick-off reception Friday, April 15 at 5 p.m.
“Sometimes the better the graphic design, the less you’ll notice it,” says Sleboda. “It’s the balance [of the art form]— it’s between being effective to the point of being invisible and at other times capturing the attention and exciting the audience.
For the more than 300 works in the exhibition, this is the last. The pieces represent the culmination of two years of hard work by the 18 MFA students in CFA’s Graphic Design program. To display their pieces, the students hand-built wooden frames of varying sizes in the school’s carpentry workshop and ordered cinder blocks to display smaller items such as booklets and maps. The result: artworks dot the Stone Gallery like mushrooms, enticing viewers to wander and engage with what they find.
One of these works is the Theft of books project by Chen Luo (CFA’22), who gathered footage from a student workshop she led, then strapped it to a 15-pound dumbbell. The end product? An accordion-shaped flipbook that you can only read by lifting the weight in the air.
“Inspiration came from my thesis research on normative body gestures and how we interact with graphic design,” says Luo, adding that the project was a hit at a Rhode Island book fair. School of Design which she recently attended. gestures for how we touch things, how we flip and read books – using objects like a dumbbell and a book for this project [hopefully people will] try unknown gestures to read it.
Regina Acra (CFA’22) became fascinated with floriography, the art of conveying messages through flowers, while conducting her thesis research. This led her to wonder if you could also send messages through something like a drink, which resulted in one of her thesis designs, abstract bouquet. Her crisp cookbooks each pair a cocktail with different flowers to convey meanings like, “I can’t be with you” (negroni, anemone, carnation, and iberis).
“I’ve always been interested in the analytical and intuitive part of design, the combination of data and emotion,” says Acra. “It’s my own take [on floriography] which creates a parallel between language and design.
The thesis work of other students has been influenced by their education. Chuck Gonzales (CFA’22) is originally from the Philippines, where he works for his father’s shipping company. The vernacular of import and export inspired his typography piece Pro formanamed after an invoice type.
“It’s a personal project: it shows where I imported all my influences from and what I exported,” Gonzales explains. “There’s all this typography in the Philippines, like the ads draped over taxis in Manila, but it was just wallpaper for me growing up. It wasn’t until I moved here that I felt gained an appreciation for the culture and it stopped being wallpaper for me.
The exhibition also offers collaborative presentations. The students transformed a gallery wall into a huge collage of posters they had designed throughout the two-year program. Misprints, past favorite projects, designs that didn’t quite make it to the thesis show — anything anyone wanted to show, they could, says Arjun Kumar (CFA’22 ).
“The other elements we designed for the exhibition have strict frameworks; it was a space that had no restraints or restrictions,” Kumar explains. The installation – the students climbed a ladder and pinned posters in every open space they could find – also speaks to behind-the-scenes work that the public cannot see, he adds.
“That’s the messy part [of design] that we wanted to show too,” he explains.
Other collaborative exhibits include a library full of student-made publications, and each student also designed a flag for the exhibit, which they hung against a back wall.
Common facilities speak best to the nature of the graphic design program, Kumar says. “For me, the best part of this experience was the studio space — and not just the physical space, but more what it ended up meaning,” he says. “It’s this place of collaboration where we ended up working together, forming friendships and learning from each other.
“It’s been really special.”
Framework/Works/Site is on view at the Faye G., Jo and James Stone Gallery, 855 Commonwealth Ave., through April 29. The exhibition is free and open to the public. The gallery is open Tuesday through Saturday from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.
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