Saturday night I went to the opening of NEXT at the Corcoran, the class of 2012's senior thesis show. It was exciting to see so many young, fresh faces leading the way to the Contemporary Art World future. I was surprised by the variety of media represented even though the Corcoran College of Art + Design boasts majors in Photojournalism, Fine Art, Interior Design, Graphic Design, Photography, and Digital Media Design.
The artists explored a range of subjects but themes of personal identity, race, and sexuality emerged as most significant to me. Documentary style films by Lydia Ballock, Carlos Vargas, and Tucker Walsh explored the ethnic identity of young women in the Middle East, Latinos working in the US, and widows struggling in Zambia. Derek Long’s installation Break Racism was inspired by 30 Americans artist Kara Walker with black silhouette cut outs of break dancers on the walls. The cardboard on the ground, and music pumping from a cardboard boom-box invited viewers to try out their skills too.
Claire Mchale’s E: All of the Above explores teenage girl identity through photography and text. The series takes photographs of a young woman at school, home, and with friends with text scribbled over the pictures in different colored pens that describe the girl’s thoughts and feelings about family, life, beauty, and her education. It looks like it is written in the girl’s handwriting and reminds me of the same thoughts I had at her age, so complex and yet so simple.
These young artists have their finger on the pulse of the world around them and their carefully observed experiences are, sometimes literally, written on the walls of the museum. Video, installations, oil painting, and sculpture all captured my imagination and heightened my sense of personal awareness. I highly suggest you pay a visit and see which works strike you the most. For more details on the show and to read the artists’ bios check out the website, also designed by the students, here.