Confidence on Display in Grad Show 2019

Class of 2019 graduate thesis exhibition

There’s something about Views, a 360-degree triptych by Maxime Lefebvre MFA 19 PR on view in Grad Show 2019, that perfectly captures the entire feel of this year’s thesis exhibition. Flawlessly composed of printed ceramic tiles, the three photo images deliberately expose slashes of the Tyvek they’re mounted on, leaving an impression of unfinished business. It’s immersive, thought-provoking and visually arresting—just like the show as a whole.

On view through June 1 at the Rhode Island Convention Center, the expansive exhibition provides a wide-angle view of the creativity emanating from RISD’s 16 master’s degree programs. It features final bodies of thesis work by all 214 students earning advanced degrees this spring, presenting both a culmination of their unique studio experiences and a preview of things to come as they move on to the next phase of their careers.

Among several video installations on view, Untitled (Interstitial Intermediary) by Karin Forslund MFA 19 GL casts an image of a woman smashing her fist against a door onto three sheets of hanging glass, each partially covered so that only the area around the door makes it onto the projection screen. Like the performer’s futile efforts, her image is also denied passage. An End, a 16 mm film by Sultan Thahir MFA 19 DM, is also striking, with scratched poetic text laid over hazy, serene landscapes.

The thesis exhibition is also full of interesting juxtapositions. For instance, a collection of contemporary home furnishings by Gabrielle Ferreira MFA 19 TX is displayed across from a mashup of workshop and office equipment by Eli Backer MFA 19 GL—a far less inviting place to live, but highly intriguing in how it evokes the often chaotic world of work.

Bubble-headed mannequins dressed in lush silk by Kathleen Villari MFA 19 TX

Nearby, formidable metal sculptures by Will Simons MFA 19 CR stand in stark contrast to both finely detailed jewelry by Zhiqing Guo MFA JM and digitally printed silk dresses by Kathleen Villari MFA 19 TX. Called Innocent Desire: Language of the Bloom, the latter collection offers a striking statement of its own—with the entire head of each mannequin fully wrapped in a silk bubble, masked from either looking out or being viewed.

Expressive arrangements activate an installation of work by MFA students in Graphic Design.

Projects by students in several departments are displayed collectively and tied together thematically—from a focus on sustainability issues in Landscape Architecture to a wonderful feast of color and typography activating the shared space in Graphic Design. Taken in total, the communicative power of these works is emblematic of the entire show: diverse, confident and full of purpose.

Free and open to the public, Grad Show 2019 continues through Saturday, June 1 in Exhibition Hall A at the Rhode Island Convention Center. Hours are from 12–5 pm daily.

Robert Albanese / photos by Thad Russell MFA 06 PH