“Phone Home” at EFA Project Space, featuring VCUarts Painting + Printmaking MFA Alumni

Above: Liang Luscombe, She Inches Glass to Break, 2018, HD video with custom seating cushion element, 14 minutes 23 seconds

“Phone Home”

An exhibition featuring VCUarts Painting + Printmaking MFA Alumni,
Classes of 2018 and 2019

Diana Antohe, Katie Barrie, Wallis Cheung, Isa Gagarin, Azim Al Ghussein, Lauren Hensens, Liang Luscombe, Be Oakley, Greg Piwonka, Cait Porter, Johanna Robinson, Michael Royce, Yu Su, Emily Wardell

Curated by Wendy Vogel

The Elizabeth Foundation for the Arts
EFA Project Space
323 West 39th Street, 2nd floor
New York, NY 10018

June 5–19, 2019
Opening: Wednesday, June 5, 6–8pm
Hours: Wednesday to Sunday, 12–5pm

“Phone Home,” at EFA Project Space, brings together work by recent alumni of Virginia Commonwealth University’s MFA Painting + Printmaking Department. There’s the obvious reading of this exhibition’s theme: artists in graduate school grappling with their identities in their work, often while far from family and comfortable surroundings. “Phone home” is also the signature phrase of E.T., the extra-terrestrial protagonist of the early ‘80s Spielberg film. As an abandoned alien on earth, E.T. forges a psychic connection with a child who shares his experience of otherness. The movie’s themes of misunderstood identity, distrust of ‘foreign’ bodies, government surveillance and redemption through love regain a sense of urgency in our current political landscape. There is yet a third interpretation of the title. As a VCU visiting professor in spring 2018, teaching a graduate seminar for the artists in this exhibition, I assigned Dodie Bellamy’s “Phone Home” from her essay collection When the Sick Rule the World (2015). This text, interweaving Bellamy’s confrontation with her mother’s death and a meditation on E.T., became part of an unexpectedly galvanizing conversation about disability, illness and political agency. For these artists, the inescapability of the body, with its messiness and complexity, grounded them with a sense of common political purpose. The works in this show variously consider forms of resistance, dependency, community, representation and memory — all while connecting to the artists’ ideas of self and home.

Several artworks relate directly to family bonds and networks of chosen kinship. Born in the UAE, Azim Al Ghussein makes handmade soap as a gesture to explore hospitality, heritage and displacement in the Gulf region. Yu Su has created paintings of soap made by Al Ghussein — a close friend — and a text about distributing these bars of soap to other friends in the U.S. As a Chinese citizen, Su narrates the experience of being under suspicion while transporting the soap across the country. Diana Antohe’s installation references her self-described “in-between” identity as a Romanian-born, American-raised artist. She repurposes materials like linens, associated with the homemaking efforts of her female relatives and family friends, to address loss, ritual and migration.

Notions of taste as a cultural construction, open to subversion, are taken up by other artists. Michael Royce’s practice explores queerness by reveling in campy aesthetics, including spiritual motifs and coupling animals, in handmade textiles and painting. Katie Barrie’s abstract paintings playfully nod to the feminized (and marginalized) status of home décor since the age of high modernism, utilizing techniques that mimic interior design treatments and surfaces as stucco.

While not explicitly engaging in self-representation, some of the featured artists plumb the discrepancy between personal memory and collective narrative. In canvases depicting her domestic space, Cait Porter imbues everyday objects with a sense of meditative, emotional weight. She writes that these “normal details hold space for the things that are too difficult to speak aloud,” such as past trauma and the experience of mental illness. Emily Wardell’s practice addresses media narratives of violence and the role of ‘amateur’ documentation. Here, she includes an installation of hundreds of still images from three disturbing videos captured on CCTV. Isa Gagarin shows abstract paintings with vibrant color relationships. Taking her cues from natural phenomena and individual experience, Gagarin creates work that responds to such cyclical events as tides and orbits.

Finally, a number of works reimagine portraiture and collective representations of race, gender and sexual identity. Lauren Hensens, whose work openly addresses the human toll on the environment, presents a large painting of their elongated silhouette casting a shadow on the ground. The work is part of a series based on their experiences hiking the Pacific Crest Trail. Despite its bright patterns and confident brushwork, Greg Piwonka’s canvas of a panting dog channels an exhaustion with performative masculinity and its destructive political effects. Johanna Robinson’s work, by contrast, envisions fantastical collaborations between women, animals and nature — a feminist utopia that deconstructs received forms of knowledge. Wallis Cheung’s video of a headless green-skinned female race, based on Frankenstein’s monster, skewers stereotypes of the Asian “other” in colonized nations like her native Hong Kong. Accompanied by a soundtrack of industrialized noise, Cheung’s manifesto-like text scroll along the screen: “We will rip our own heads off, so you can sink your gaze deep into our flesh.” Likewise addressing the intersection of race, gender and class, Liang Luscombe portrays a trio of librarians in the sitcom-style video She Inches Glass to Break. Her characters debate the merits and political shortcomings of two films — one mainstream, one avant-garde. Be Oakley works as an artist and the founder of GenderFail, a publishing and curatorial platform devoted to representing intersectional queer perspectives. For this exhibition, they present a poster and series of new collage works based on titles produced by GenderFail and the nonprofit Wendy’s Subway. Oakley has also formatted the exhibition title wall vinyl in their font First Gay Americans, based on a hand-lettered protest sign from the National March on Washington for Lesbian and Gay Rights on October 14, 1979.

—Wendy Vogel

Faculty & Alumni News

MFA alum Kristen Sanders featured in BOMB magazine

MFA alum Ander Mikalson has a solo show, Scores for a Black Hole, at Art In General in NYC. Check out this piece about it in Performa Magazine.

Professor Cara Benedetto’s work was featured in Conspiratorial Aesthetics, an exhibition at the Hite Art Institute at the University of Louisville.

Prof. Hope Ginsburg’s work is featured in exhibition at the VCU Arts Research Institute. Check out this piece about the project.

Prof. Hilary Wilder’s paintings are featured in the VMFA in They Bring Flowers, a solo exhibition.

2019 Candidacy Exhibition

VCUarts | Painting + Printmaking presents Candidacy 2019:

fata morgana

Fata Morgana- (Italian: [ˈfaːta morˈɡaːna])  

A mirage, typically witnessed at sea, in the desert, or over hot pavement, will mirror and invert distant objects through bending, and reflecting rays of light. These images are real, just misplaced, something illusory and unattainable.

We reference the name of a medieval sorceress Morgan le Fay who, of course, was blamed for causing these complex mirages. Today, we understand these optical illusions to be caused by atmospheric conditions. …

An exhibition of works by

APRIL 27th – MAY 4th
5075 Forest Hill Ave., Richmond, VA 23225

Sohrab Mohebbi Visiting Curator Lecture

April 18, 6pm
Sohrab Mohebbi Visiting Curator Lecture
Fine Arts Building Room 301
1000 W Broad St
Richmond, VA 23284

Sohrab Mohebbi is Curator at SculptureCenter. Before joining SculptureCenter in 2018, Mohebbi was the associate curator at REDCAT where he organized solo exhibitions with Dave Hullfish Bailey, Tamara Henderson, John Knight, and Falke Pisano among others. His group exhibitions include: It is obvious from the map (co-curated with Thomas Keenan), which examined the role of maps and map-making in the movements of large numbers of people from the conflict zones of the Middle East and Africa toward Europe, and Hotel Theory (curated in collaboration with Ruth Estevez). Hotel Theory focused on the performance of theory in contemporary art and considered theory as an art form and received The Emily Hall Tremaine Exhibition Award in 2013. Mohebbi was a Curatorial Fellow at Queens Museum where he organized Hassan Khans Hidden Location, the artists first museum exhibition in the United States. He is the recipient of 2012 Creative Capital | Warhol Foundation Arts Writers Program for the blog presencedocuments. His writings have been published in Bidoun magazine, where he is a contributing editor, as well as other periodicals and publications. He is an advisor at the Rijksakademie, Amsterdam and has organized exhibitions and programs for organizations including the Walker Art Center, High Desert Test Sites, SALT Istanbul and Center for Historical Reenactments. He received an M.A. from the Center for Curatorial Studies at Bard College and a B.F.A in Photography from Tehran Art University.


Banu Cennetoğlu, 1 January 1970 – 21 March 2018 · H O W B E I T · Guilty feet have got no rhythm · Keçiboynuzu · AS IS · MurMur · I measure every grief I meet · Taq u Raq · A piercing Comfort it affords · Stitch · Made in Fall · Yes. But. We had a golden heart. · One day soon I’m gonna tell the moon about the crying game, 2018, installation view, SculptureCenter, New York, 2019. Video, images, sound; 22 parts, 46,685 files. 128 hours and 22 minutes. Metadata: 687 pages, 11.7 x 16.5 inches (279 mm x 432 mm). Commissioned and produced by Chisenhale Gallery, London. Courtesy the artist and Rodeo, London/Piraeus. Photo: Kyle Knodell

VCUarts Fountainhead Fellowship Exhibition

Sedrick Chisom (Fountainhead Fellow 2018-19). The arrival of the Last Confederate Failson amidst the glacial shores of Monument Valley several hours before the Wrath of Medusa, 2018. Acrylic, spray paint, and airbrush on paper mounted to strips of canvas, 84 x 87 1/2 inches.

Nice is Not Enough
Sedrick Chisom, Madison Creech, Ingrid Tremblay

VCUarts Fountainhead Fellowship Exhibition
April 17-May 22, 2019
Reception Wednesday, April 17, 6-9pm
Publication Release Friday, May 3rd, 6-9pm

208 East Grace Street, Richmond Virginia 23219
Open Hours: Friday, Saturday, Sunday from 1-6pm or by appointment

The VCU Fountainhead Fellowship is a highly competitive award given to recent MFA graduates who display exemplary talent within their concentration. VCUarts extends one fellowship per department: Sculpture + Extended Media, Painting + Printmaking, and Craft + Material Studies. Each recipient is given a studio space, furnished apartment, stipend, teaching opportunities, and an exhibition.


Senior Exhibition reception

April 13, 5-8pm
In Search of Charm
Senior Exhibition reception
5075 Forest Hill Ave
Richmond, VA 23225

This exhibition, self organized by the graduating class of 2019, includes 50 artists completing their BFA in Painting + Printmaking degree at VCUarts. Artworks will include paintings, drawings, and other media.

Dan Byers Visiting Curator Lecture

April 11, 6pm
Dan Byers Visiting Curator Lecture
Fine Arts Building Room 301
1000 W Broad St
Richmond, VA 23284

Dan Byers is the John R. and Barbara Robinson Family Director of the Carpenter Center for the Visual Arts at Harvard University, a position he has held since June 2017. Previously, he was Mannion Family Senior Curator at the Institute of Contemporary Art/Boston, where he organized solo shows featuring Diane Simpson, Geoffrey Farmer, and Steve McQueen. His group exhibitions there included The Artist’s Museum and the 2017 Foster Prize Exhibition. Before moving to Boston, Byers was Richard Armstrong Curator of Modern and Contemporary Art at the Carnegie Museum of Art, and co-curator, with Daniel Baumann and Tina Kukielski, of the 2013 Carnegie International. In addition to overseeing the Carnegie’s acquisitions of modern and contemporary art, his projects included solo exhibitions of James Lee Byars, Cathy Wilkes, and Ragnar Kjartansson, and the group shows Reanimation, Ordinary Madness, and Natural History. Before joining the staff at the Carnegie, he was Curatorial Fellow at the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis, and Assistant to the Directors at the Fabric Workshop and Museum in Philadelphia. He is Lecturer in the department of Visual and Environmental Studies at Harvard and has taught in the MFA programs at Carnegie Mellon University and Lesley University. He holds an M.A. from the Center for Curatorial Studies at Bard College.

MFA Thesis Exhibition

MFA Thesis Exhibition 

The Anderson
907 ½ West Franklin St
Richmond, VA 23284

Round 1
April 5-April 18
Reception: April 5, 6-9pm

Participating Artists: Diana Antohe, Katie Barrie

Round 2
April 26-May 11
Reception: April 26, 6-9pm

Participating Artists: Wallis Cheung, Cait Porter, Emily Wardell, Su Yu

Joseph del Pesco: Visiting Curator Lecture

March 28, 12pm
Fine Arts Building Room 301
1000 W Broad St
Richmond, VA 23220

Joseph del Pesco is a curator, writer and publisher. Since 2009 he’s been Director, and in 2016 became International Director of KADIST (Paris & San Francisco). At KADIST in San Francisco del Pesco established a fast-paced program that positioned art as a vehicle for discussion about global social and political issues, and started the first residency for international art magazines. Previously he was adjunct curator at Artists Space (NYC), a fellow at the Banff Centre and assistant curator at the UC Davis Museum. As an independent curator he’s organized exhibitions, projects and publications at The Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive, The San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, Temple Contemporary, CCA Wattis Institute for Contemporary Arts, and the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts,  among others. He’s been in residence on Fogo Island, SOMA in Mexico City, Beta-Local in Puerto Rico, The Luminary in St. Louis and ArtPort in Tel Aviv. His recent collection of short stories, The Museum Took a Few Minutes To Collect Itself, was published by Art Metropole, Toronto in October of 2017. His website: www.delpesco.com.

Aissa Deebi: Visiting Artist Lecture

New Date: March 14, 2:30pm
ICA Auditorium
601 W Broad St
Richmond, VA 23220

Aissa Deebi is a Palestinian-American Artist based in Geneva, Switzerland. His early work investigated the complexity of daily practices in post-1948 Palestine. Later, Deebi’s work tackled the theme of immigration, alienation, and an analysis of Diaspora as a creative space. His work has been exhibited globally including Art Dubai, The Palestinian Art Court – Al Hoash, (Jerusalem), Birzeit University Museum (Palestine), Çanakkale Biennale (Turkey), Kunsthalle Osnabrück (Germany), The 55th Venice Biennale (Italy), Art Lab Gnesta (Sweden) Berlin Art Laboratory (Germany), Art Space Gallery at Sang Myung University (Seoul, South Korea) Darb 1718 (Cairo, Egypt), The Queens Museum of Art (New York), Haus am Lutzowplatz (Berlin), Tanit Art Gallery (Beirut, Lebanon), Beirut Art Fair (Lebanon), Asia-Pacific Triennial (Taipei, Taiwan), and The Gallery at VCUarts, Qatar (Doha). Deebi has held several leadership positions teaching art and design at a number of institutions including the Winchester School of Art, the University of Southampton in the United Kingdom, Centro de Estudios Superiores de Monterrey Design, Mexico and Chulalongkorn University, Bangkok Thailand, The American University in Cairo, Montclair State University and currently Deebi is Visiting Reader in Contemporary Art of the Middle East at Birmingham City University, United Kingdom (UK).