Fisher Landau hosts Columbia’s new art generation

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It can be difficult to sum up the aesthetic effect when 25 different artists working in different media display their work in one place. But Emily Fisher Landau, the 89-year-old collector whose Fisher Landau Center for Art in Long Island City is hosting the show of Columbia University School of the Arts’ master’s students, described it concisely.

“One word: fabulous,” she said during the opening reception for the school’s 2010 MFA Thesis Exhibition.

The show runs until May 23 and occupies three floors of the 25,000-square-foot center at 38-27 30th St. It is the third year the center, which was founded to showcase Fisher Landau’s vast art collection, has hosted the projects of the university’s latest class.

Fisher Landau noted in the exhibition’s program that many pieces in her own collection were purchased or commissioned from now-renowned artists when they were at a similar point in their careers.

The students’ works include video installations by Lior Shvil, who combines food, sex and popular culture, and Leidy Churchman, who meticulously films the act of painting human bodies and other objects in what he describes as “a kind of generous dementia using coy modes of illusion and collapse.”

The artists’ collective R&D’s work “Everyman’s Armor” is a gourd-and-seashell construction that invokes a fictional, isolated North Korean artist as its inspiration but also calls to mind a melding of the organic forms of Hayao Miyazaki’s animated film “Princess Mononoke” and the suits of armor in Tim Burton’s 1989 film “Batman.”

Jesse Weiss’ installation of paintings and wooden talismans is a stream of consciousness through a mind crowded with Southwestern imagery, electric guitar effects pedals and two decades of popular culture.

Haeri Choski’s paintings depict the interior of cathedrals in Day-Glo splendor but reduce much of the iconography to jagged, impressionistic shapes.

“Just because it’s church doesn’t mean you have to be turned off by it,” she said, noting the mythology of Catholicism has always fascinated her. “You see some parts of the painting glowing when you turn out the light. You can sleep with it.”

The location of the exhibition was particularly poignant for R&D’s Robert Rhee, who grew up in Douglaston and whose mother owns a jewelry store in Flushing.

“I have a sort of soft spot in my heart for Queens,” he said, praising the Fisher Landau center for its generosity. “It allows us to have a really awesome show that doesn’t look like a thesis show. It looks like a group show.”

But Choski was less excited about crossing the East River.

“We are in New York City and [Columbia] is a really big part of it,” she said. “And then we actually abandon the Manhattan space and then come here for whatever the budget or political or social reasons.”

Columbia’s Visual Arts Program Chairman Gregory Amenoff said that for years the university would build out “funky spaces” to house the master’s thesis program.

“This is a chance, however, to really come into, obviously, a very elegant environment,” he said. “And I think what it does is help the graduating artists focus on the details of their work, the sense of completion, the seriousness.”

Rhee said he and his partner Alison Guidry were certainly relieved to be finished, but also found the aftermath bittersweet. They are preparing to start their next project, a graphic novel.

“There’s this oscillation between great happiness and energy, and this feeling of … a lag,” he said. “You have this thing that you’re working towards. It’s like your constant desire. And then it’s gone.”

Updated 5:50 pm, October 10, 2011
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