501-9 at Clemente Soto Velez Cultural & Education Center

How three Academy Artists put together a pop-up art show --
and why they think you should do it too.

Two weeks ago (May 9-13), the cutLog Art Fair, sponsored by the Franco-German television network ARTE, was held at the Clemente Soto Velez Cultural & Educational Center on New York's Lower East Side, featuring three floors and 45 galleries chock full of contemporary art exhibits, installations, performances and other art pieces.

The same weekend, in a corner of the building's fifth floor, three Academy artists--
Sarah Beatty (MFA 2012), Jonathan Beer (MFA 2012, Fellow 2013) and Lily Koto Olive (MFA 2013)--hosted a pop-up art exhibit, featuring their own pieces along with work by six other artists: 2013 Academy graduates Meg Franklin, Elizabeth Glaessner and Nadene Grey, as well as DC-based artist Lee Gainer, Boston-based Christopher Mir and Christine Gray, who is represented by New York's RARE Gallery.

Beatty hosted the exhibition in the studio space that she has rented at the center since January. Because she was
in the midst of curating another show Finding Space: Artwork Inspired by Urban New York, she asked Beer and Olive—who together run the art criticism website Art-rated—to curate the show, called 501-9 after Beatty's studio number. Though it was not associated with cutLog, it benefited from the hundreds of art lovers the fair brought to the Clemente building that weekend. “The decision to have it was about – ‘Hey, why don’t we just jump on this opportunity,’” Olive said. “It seemed perfect for a pop-up art show."

Beer and Olive were excited to bring together work by their peers at the Academy with work by Grey, Mir and Gainer, which they believed to be “in dialogue.” They handpicked the pieces, which ranged widely in size and included a piece by Beer that hung from the ceiling, covering a closet door like a tapestry.

Though the show was not defined by a particular theme, Beatty, Beer and Olive saw connections between the pieces. “Almost all the artists in the show are interested in communicating something about what it is to be contemporary and the conditions of contemporary life,” Beer said. “That’s a big part of who we chose and why.”

Olive observed that many of the pieces seemed to include “unique depictions of light,” even though that was a conscious decision. “In Christine Grey’s piece, she has these two hands holding an open space, and the hands are made of snakeskin and there’s kind of a little window cut out and it’s this bright blue sky with a bird flying through it, so it’s kind of like this warm bright feeling,” Olive said. “In Meg’s pieces, they’re darker palette with a kind of subdued glowing luminents. Jon had kind of a similar aesthetic, and Sarah was painting some architecture at nighttime. [Light] was a key part of all the paintings.”

Beer said the biggest challenge came with arranging the show in the space, because up until that point, no one had seen all the art together in one room. On the whole, all three were pleased with the way the pieces fit together—and with the number of visitors who followed their signs and ventured up to the fifth floor. "No matter what, people do come to see art--even up on the fifth floor in the darkest corner," Beatty said. "People still made their way up there--it surprised me."

Beatty, Beer and Olive see the experience of curation as an empowering one for artists. “We all show our work, we show in galleries—we have that experience,” Olive said. “But it feels good to go, ‘You know what?’ I feel like doing this.’ We can curate the show, we don’t have to sit around and wait. If something sells, we can control it all. It’s more of a powerful position for the artist to be in, honestly.”

Asked what advice she'd give to artists interested in trying their hand at curating, Beatty said, “Just try it. Look for opportunities and seize on them yourself. No one’s going to make an opportunity for you, so why not see what you can do?”

A Chat with the Speaker

Zach Brown reflects on the meaning of his time at the Academy. 
By Maggie Mead

Painting student Zach Brown was nominated by his fellow classmates to deliver the student speech on commencement day, Friday, May 24. Such an assignment might have struck fear in the hearts of some students. (How do you sum up the experience of your class? How do you get the words out without fainting?) But this jovial native of Mars, Pennsylvania—the set of Night of the Living Dead, by the way—exhibited no nerves at all when I spoke to him the day after he’d finished writing his speech. And he had only warm things to say about the Academy and all of the artists here.

“I couldn’t have asked for a better experience,” he said. “Everyone here is excited, and they’re motivated to do their own work. I don’t know if it’s because it’s figurative, and that creates a certain empathy when you’re working with the human body – if it just creates a certain breed of person who’s maybe not as cold as a minimalist!”

Check out the rest of the interview below.

How long did it take you to write the speech?
It was pretty easy to write. … I didn’t have to force thinking that everyone’s gonna do awesome. I really do think everyone’s gonna do awesome. 

Are there some good jokes in it?
I don’t know if they are good jokes, but there are jokes! I think it will be more about the delivery than anything.

Did you practice it in front of the mirror?
Yeah, and I practiced it in front of my girlfriend. She’s normally my go-to to make sure I’m being appropriate. 

Did she laugh?

No, but she smiled. It was one of these: <<puts his hands over his face and shakes his head>> 

Sounds like it will be good. Why do you think you were voted to speak?
I think it’s because I sing and dance in class a lot. … One of the questions [on the email we received] was "If you get selected, would you like to speak?" So I said, "Well, I’ve got a big mouth and I love attention, so I’d be happy to speak!" Then people were asking me if I’d be interested in doing it, and I said "Yeah, sure, that’d be great!’”

What kinds of things were you thinking about when you were writing the speech?
Honestly, the best thing I’m taking away from this school is the student body. Of course you learn a lot of things. There’s a lot of classes. … This is going to sound terrible, but I think if they just put all the students that they accepted in a room for a long enough time, everyone was going to learn something really quickly. They orchestrate an amazing environment just by the students they accept into the program. … Everyone brings a different skill set and background, and it creates a lot of energy – it’s fun. 

(From left to right): "Rectangle Mask," "Blue Dog," and "Feather Mask"

What made you come to the Academy?
I knew I wanted to teach. It seemed like a sweet gig. But I wanted to work more. I did my undergraduate degree [at RISD] in illustration, but I mostly just painted. … A professor of mine told me about the New York Academy. I was applying to other places, and my girlfriend looked at this school and was like, "Zach this is perfect for you." And I was like, "Yeah, but it’s in New York City. I don’t know if I want to be in New York…"

That's a strange reaction. Why didn’t you want to be in New York?
It has tons of great stuff, but it doesn’t have what I really like. It’s a great place for museums and all that stuff, but not as far as abandoned warehouses and field parties and dirty garages and bars that you can smoke in and all that fun Pittsburgh stuff.

So do you plan to go back to Pittsburgh?
Definitely. There’s a lot of exciting things going on the Rustbelt right now. Rent’s cheap. There’s a lot of big spaces. There’s a lot of young people going there and treating it like their own frontier. There’s cool stuff going in Detroit, Cleveland, Columbus, Buffalo, Pittsburgh and Philly.

A good buddy of mine just started up this magazine called the Rustbelt Almanac, where essentially they travel around and interview young movers and shakers of this new Rustbelt revival, Rustbelt Renaissance, whether it’s art or young entrepreneurs or tech or young designers. … In the Rustbelt you have an opportunity to get a lot of attention for what you want to do – and do it relatively cheaply. 

"Burial Masks"
Have you found places where you feel comfortable in New York?
The places I like best in New York are places where there aren’t people, so I find myself frequenting a lot of construction sites. I live in this closet over in Hell’s Kitchen, so a lot of times I walk down to where the bus stations are and where the train yard is. It’s weird because it’s still midtown but no one really goes there, except for people who are oddly waiting for the Megabus. It has a nice transient nature to it. ... When I first moved here, the guy who was showing me the apartment was like, “Oh yeah and there’s this great club down the street, with discotek music, and a lot of Europeans go to it. Is that what you’re into?” And I’m like “No! Not at all!”

Has your work changed significantly during your time here?
The goals haven’t changed too much. I’m still using a lot of similar language. It’s just the subject matter has become less specific. I came in using a lot dogmatic imagery and iconography. And they are still very much icons, but it’s not like specifically St. Peter or something like that. ... I found ways to reference the imagery and try to touch on something less specific, but it invokes similar ideas.


Congratulations, Class of 2013! Looking forward to seeing you walk across the stage on Friday!

New Britain Art Museum, Final Crits and Studio Visits

By Ian Factor (MFA 2014) 

Last week of classes, three more final class crits and then it's summer break.

Last week I had the incredible pleasure and honor to have a piece of mine shown at the New Britain Museum Of American Art in CT. Lily Koto Olive, Zach Brown and I rented a car and drove up for the opening, where we saw our work hanging, met some amazing people and had a great overall road trip away from NYC for the day.

Also last week a small group of students from JP Roy's Painting II class visited him in his studio in Brooklyn. He spent a ton of time with us going through all his studio practices, his new work, and even some science experiments! He also had set out a sweet spread of food and drink, a true host.

Last weekend was the 2nd years' final crits: three full days, I went to all of them. There are too many images to post here at once, but below are a few to get an idea of the intensity of the weekend. Congrats to all the second years for kicking some serious butt. Incredible work all around!

Yesterday, a small group of students went to John Alexander's Studio in Tribeca where he spent several hours with us, talking and showing us his new work for an upcoming Museum show. Wonderful experience. His work is inspiring and his stories are priceless!

Below is a selection of photos from these highlights of the last two weeks. There are many other things to add, but since I have three paintings due this week, I better get back to work!

Till next post, after the semester ends, hope you're all enjoying the spring!

New Britain Museum Of Art
Artist's Reception with Ian Factor, Lily Koto Olive and Zach Brown.

JP Roy's studio visit:

2nd Year critiques:

Ian Factor (MFA 2014) has been blogging here throughout the academic year about his first year at the Academy and moving to New York City. Check the label "First Year Experience" or "Ian Factor" for more posts about his first year at the Academy.