Franklyn Project - The First Generation

The New York Academy of Art is proud to be the first home of the Franklyn Project - "a collective born in the 80’s and raised at the Academy."  From their inaugural exhibition we've heard them say: "Our artistic pursuits have placed us unwillingly within the Warhol canon, tasking us with the impossibility of outrunning or rising above His relentless shadow. We wander nevertheless, surveying this Aesthetic Hell rich with the relics left in His multidisciplinary wake." With a moment to spare in their busy lives, we grabbed their attention and caught up on what's happened this year for the Franklyn Project and where they are headed.

How did the Franklyn Project begin? Evolve?
The genesis of the Franklyn Project began toward the end of our first year at the New York Academy of Art and into the summer of 2013. We were so overwhelmed with all the information we had gained that we really needed a way to unwind, let it sink in, and not think too much. It started with a few people in the basement just wanting to have fun with painting again, with no stress. We have a shared respect for each other’s work so we decided to paint a painting in 30 minutes on the same panel at the same time. Every ten minutes we would switch spots and finish each other's areas. People started to crowd around to see the process unfold. 
Next, we did portraits of each other on separate canvases, switching every 15 minutes till we decided they were done. It started to turn into a battle, pushing areas in one pass to find out the next turn it was taken in a different direction. They don’t always turn out, but we all have a shared trust. From that point, we liked some of the things we were seeing, so we decided to bring in more people.  This time we had four people in one studio, four blank canvases on each wall. We rotated every 15 minutes, this was also when we introduced Warhol as our subject matter. It was a beautiful thing to see unravel. 
Since the work wasn't part of anyone's personal body of work, it freed us up to experiment and try things that we may never have been interested in pursuing in our own work. The first project, "Portraits of Our Father", sat somewhere between just having fun with each other, feeling out what it's like to paint with a lot of other people on the same painting, and trying to make a more poignant artistic statement, (probably a little more of the former two). Now, however, the real possibilities of a collective have begun to manifest themselves in our collective consciousness and we're working to streamline a vision and take on projects with a little more organization and gusto. The process is ever evolving but the intent stays true.

What is the collective’s goal/mission? What do you hope to accomplish?
We like to make great art. We appreciate old masters and will bring back painting. The goal is always to make good work. But in this case, a lot of how that comes to be is by actually having a lot more fun than we might usually have in our own work (separate from the Franklyn Project). Maybe the short term goal is to make a lot of work, show it, and see where it leads. Nothing too fancy just yet.

Tell us about your process for the collective work.  How has the process evolved from when you first started?
At first the process was kind of haphazard; Setting up some easels cracking a couple of beers and just going from hand to brush. We were experimenting and not sure where this was going. Once we started bringing in more people we had to organize more and set up times to meet up and paint. Now we all meet in one room, usually once a week on a Friday, there's food, drink and music and a lot of painting. We readdress paintings started before that need work or we start new ones. It's pretty fun at this point because we know each other’s strong points and assign works to certain people to make the piece work. We still paint on the same painting at the same time or switch off or do whatever we want, that's what's great about it.

Your show at Bleeker Street Arts Club (BSAC) garnered a great deal of attention.  Why is that? What sets you apart?
Well, there's always something to be said for novelty, haha. But, really it's a level of real conviction. Even with our love of humor and play, there is a real seriousness and ambition that is fueling whatever we're up to.
What sets us apart besides the fact that we all paint on the same paintings, is the variety that can come out of these shows. You put some of the best up and coming artists from all over the world with different backgrounds and styles into one room and somehow they can not only agree on pieces but thoroughly enjoy what is being produced. What is being made surprises us every time we do it. 

Now that the show at BSAC is over, what’s next? Tell us what’s to come for your collective.
We can't say really, just that we have every intention to make more work and continue to show it. We are still meeting every Friday night as long as we are all still together in NYC and as long as we are still enjoying it.

Where can we find you working? Do you work together in a single studio? What’s the password?
You can find us working in our studios. At times we get together as a group to discuss the work. We often paint together as a group. These meetings are lively and social. They always include food, drink, and music. Of course the goal is to make work, but these meetings also help us stay connected and reinforce our sense of community. The locations and times of these meetings are always changing. There is no password.

Are the Franklyn Project members also pursuing individual careers outside of the collective?
Yes of course. I think it is impossible for Franklyn Project members to collectively agree to an absolute about art, and it would be rather boring if we did. What's great about having multiple practices is the flexibility to entertain ideas that inform both sides. 

Do your parents and families know you are the Franklyn Project?
Yes, my mom is very proud of us although I don't think she even know I am an artist. haha

The first and second rule of FIGHT CLUB is: ‘You do not talk about FIGHT CLUB.”  Is this the case with the Franklyn Project?  Why is anonymity important to you?  How do you intend to keep it guarded?
Funny you should ask, because the first rule of Franklyn Project is don't talk about Fight Club. The Second rule is you must drink while you paint.  The Third rule is have fun. Anonymity is important because it's all about the group effort and not the individual, I know people kind of know who's in it but it's not shouted from the roof tops. We are all pursing our own artistic paths and we don't want the project to define us individually.
There definitely is a little bit of fight club mentality amongst members of the group, and rightfully so if we want to keep a certain degree of anonymity. The anonymity allows us to be more creatively free and test ideas that maybe we wouldn't try in our own work. It relieves a certain level of pressure that is usually part of the job description in being an artist and that in turn lets us focus more on creating. As far as guarding it, right now we're resting on a lot of trust.

Will there be generations of the Franklyn Project, like the members of the Bruce High Quality Foundation?
Will there be subsequent generations? Time will tell. Right now though, the first generation is still just getting started.

Finish this sentence:  
In 2014, the Franklyn Project will not only ________, but will also _________.
Hmm...You said it best...In 2014, the Franklyn Project will not only, but will also!
Franklyn Project egg - Fabergé The Big Egg Hunt (on view Spring 2014)

Join us for MFA OPEN STUDIOS on Friday, April 25, 6-9pm to get to know our artists and their work better.  Curious to see more Academy student work from the MFA 2014 and MFA 2015 classes before then, check out the Student Work Online Gallery.

Mid-Year Critiques

By Zoë Sua Kay (MFA 2014)
It might be said that one of the frustrating things about mid year critiques is that as soon as they’re over, the school closes because Christmas around the corner. But what about all that advice you’ve just been given?

Suddenly, despite having been absolutely exhausted from the final push in the studio leading up to it, you’re re-energized – you’ve got to go and fix that thing you’ve just been told is the collapsing point of that painting. But alas, you’re being shuffled out, slightly relieved, slightly ecstatic, slightly like you’ve just survived you first foray through the tumble dryer. 

Regardless of whether your own critique went well, or whether it was a disaster, it’s probably a good thing that no one really remembers in the immediate aftermath what had been said.   A few salient comments stick in your mind but really, when you’re under the spot light in front of one hundred-or-so of your peers, adrenalin kicks in and part of you snaps in to survivor mode.  On critique day, all the work you’ve done thus far – the desperate search for meaningful content and that entirely original stroke of genius that makes your artistic "voice" more Pavarotti than the guy at the 14th street subway who for years never quite managed to figure out the lyrics to The Beatles song he keeps singing – all that exertion is finally, and in one fell swoop of the 15 minutes you’re assigned, either deemed worthwhile or, heaven forbid, a fundamental "mismanagement" of time.
Although I had only witnessed a couple of the mid-year critiques the previous year, I had heard the horror stories.   In the days leading up to critiques for my fellow class of 2014, compatriots were divided between fear of imminent apocalyptic disaster and a Joan of Arc-esque sense of martyred stoicism.  You try to tell yourself it doesn’t matter that much, that you’ve done what can.   By the time you you’re hanging your work, you are falling apart at the seams because you’re suddenly overcome with grief at the lackluster body of work you’ve produced.  However, when my name was finally called and the formal introduction made, something unexpected happened.  I found myself switching into the role of a host.   As I gave my little blurb about what my work was about, it felt as though I was welcoming them into the party that I guess is my art making.  And then it was all a blur.

I remember Wade Schuman likening one painting to a billboard (thanks, Wade) but it was all mixed between more positive comments and other criticisms.  So much is said in so little time and between so many "jurors" that it’s difficult to keep track of it all. In hindsight, it’s difficult to get into a meaty debate over certain points you’d have liked to expand on. The comments that are made by our professors are incredibly astute yet abridged versions of a full criticism you want explore. It’s actually rather an unbelievable exposé of their intellect and ability to get to the meat of the matter within a few minutes. This, however is the only drawback. If such insightful issues can be raised in such a short time, imagine what could be discussed if we had each had an hour of their time..or an entire day?? I think I can safely say that all my classmates were left hungry for more. Alas, we must take pity on our faculty members, and applaud what, for them, must have been a long and grueling two days.

All in all, the experience for us students was a good one.  And I didn’t even feel the urge to cry.  At the end, when people gave their congrats and shook my hand, and exhaled with a somewhat shaky sense of relief, thinking, ‘it’s all over…for now’. All in all the experience for us students was a good one. And I didn’t even feel the urge to cry. Especially at the end when people gave their congratulations and shook your hand, and you exhaled with a somewhat shaky sense of relief, thinking, "it’s all over…for now". 
My only grievance, as a young female artist, is the lack of female presence on the panel. Catherine Howe did a fantastic job of holding the flag for us and there were a few more women artists in the mix the following day, but in all honesty, my heart did sink a bit when in the morning I noticed the male to female ratio. 
Now though, after the dust has settled and I’ve had time to obsess over the transcripts of my critique, I feel armed and ready for the turbulence of the final semester. The time has come to jump back into attack mode and prove to Wade that my paintings are not fated to be billboards, thank you very much.  Besides, there’s nothing wrong with a good billboard.


On behalf of the students I’d like to thank the faculty for their time and effort, it really is an honor to be offered so much of it. Thanks to Holly for providing us all with transcripts and ultimately minimizing post-blur amnesia. I’d also like to thank the first years that made it in to show their support. And well-bloody-done fellow second years! 


To learn more about Zoë and her work visit:

Interested to experience critiques for yourself?  Find past critiques on Academy’s Vimeo channel.

"The Big Picture" According to Casey Read (MFA 2014)

In New York City, I have discovered an overwhelming wealth of information regarding sensory overload. Touching, smelling, tasting, hearing, and seeing everything, like a trip to the grocery store. Touching subway poles, smelling the car exhaust, tasting the worldly cuisines, and watching the masses pass and shove their way through to the next event of the day. But I have not experienced, in my short time here, anything like the opening of The Big Picture.

Mark Tansey, Coastline Measure 1987
Mark Tansey, Duet, 2004

On the night of the opening, I hardly looked at the art. The floor was filled with people stretching to look at the works and chat amongst themselves. A slight social anxiety crept over a few of the current students at the New York Academy of Art, me included. There are only seven pieces in The Big Picture, which made the gallery appear smaller than usual and with all the people inside the hallway, there was no way to fully experience each piece. This isn’t to say that the night was made worse, the crowd filled the air with an excitement I had never seen at the school and I felt pleased to know that each time someone passed through our doors, another face lit up with a sense of awe. After painting class yesterday, I ventured downstairs to realize the privilege of viewing the artwork one-on-one. Once I experienced the show on my own, there was no comparison to seeing it with human heads blocking the view. It sounds silly, but I felt a near spiritual involvement with the work, as though I had meditated and had a conversation with each at the same time. I had been painting from life the entire day, moving at a range of distances from my 36 inches x 42 inches canvas to gain a better understanding of how it looked from up close and far away. I especially noticed this with the work by Mark Tansey. I approached his work until I was sitting an arm’s length away and realized that the entire illusion of space and depth in his painting, Coastline Measure, were created by nothing more than scribbles. My interest increased as I got up and walked backwards from the scribbles. I felt like a child again - a smile grew on my face, “It’s like magic”!  Not only did I feel childlike as a result of Tansey’s "magic trick" with mark-making, but also due to the fact that I was physically about a third of the size of his 87 inches x 122 inches piece. 

Jenny Saville, Bleach, 2008

Though I had not been particularly interested in the work of Jenny Saville, I certainly am now. The digital images of her work flatten and simplify the massive brushstrokes that add a voluminous appearance to the paint itself.  Each layer added to the face in the painting made me recall my interest in anatomy; Saville allows the viewer to see through skin, bruises, blood, all the way down to the deepest parts of the person depicted. For the first time, I saw and understood that the eyes were smooth and glassy and are windows inside rather than meshing with the rest of the flesh.
Eric Fischl, Krefeld Project: Living Room, Scene 1, 2002
Eric Fishl, Corrida In Ronda # 4, 2008

Eric Fischl is actually one of the reasons I came to study at the Academy- I had never heard of the school until I e-mailed him for a project interview in undergraduate school and he replied.  He even told me about the Academy after he asked me to send him pictures of my work.  Eric changed the way I think about painting. As a drawing concentration in undergrad, painting meant I had dabbled in abstract acrylic painting since high school and then took two classes in college. It was intimidating- it meant color and wet stuff and, basically, making a lot of terrible art. I did and still do make terrible paintings, but the difference is that researching artists, their work, and how they make it helped me make some good ones too. Fischl was one of the first painters I really looked into and I was surprised to discover that his process involved photography and even mismatching figures from separate photos and shoving them in together. Not only that, but he also based much of his early work on unnerving suburban unrest which I completely related to growing up in Southern California. Seeing his work for the first time in the flesh is something personal and special to me.

Now we get to Vincent Desiderio: Father, husband, and considered (by me) to be one of the most prolific painters in these contemporary times. Of all the paintings in The Big Picture, his is the largest, entitled Quixote. Comprised of three parts (that I initially did not come close to understanding), it tortures the viewer with a heart-shaped object (perhaps a piano) falling amongst the clouds, a silhouette of a bicycle, and a slaughtered animal (a pig, I believe). To me, it almost seems like he is trying to play a game with me like "hey, make a word out of these three images" or "what do these things have in common" or even "I have seen these images on a daily basis, have you?"  I find myself struggling to make an answer for these metaphoric images, but maybe that is the point. There are obscurities in life that we, as people, were never meant to find an answer to.  The novel A Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy comes to mind in which the smartest computer in the universe is asked "the ultimate question to life, the universe, and everything" and comes up with the answer "42". Either that, or I need to do more research on this brilliant guy.
Vincent Desiderio, Quixote, 2008

Neo Rauch Hausmeister, 2002
Neo Rauch is a weirdo. I mean this in the most loving way. Hausmeister appears like an old billboard from the 1950’s on homeschooling. His voyeuristic approach to the home setting offers the viewer a strange look at a family in an unbalanced situation. Plates are stacked off to the right of the scene, held together by colorful goo that is repeated in the geology poster that the woman in the painting gestures towards, her gaze down at the boy (who has his back turned to the viewer). It seems as though everything in the scene is failing; the woman appears to be teaching, but the boy is busy taking a bottle of something out of a mini fridge. Only, it might not be a refrigerator at all and an odd, deformed statue of a unicorn type creature stands atop the "refrigerator." The man in the room looks grim, yet indifferent to the situation. Neo Rauch composes places that, at first glance, seem ordinary or even dull. But looking further, the scene can create a realm for the viewer in which there is no sense and only a dark humor to drown in. In order to enter into the world of this piece, you will have to see it for yourself.

I encourage anyone who has   To me, the collection is a surprising commentary on the digital age, the negatives and positives of the iconic power of the photograph handed to human kind on a massive scale, like fire given to man. The exploration of paint expressed in The Big Picture creates a face of hope, dismay, and unpredictability for the traditional artists in this age of the powerful pictures.


The Big Picture is currently on view at the Wilkinson Gallery at the New York Academy of Art located at 111 Franklin Street between West Broadway & Church through March 2nd.  Be sure to visit the exhibition during the gallery hours of 2:00-8:00pm daily except Wednesdays and holidays.  Admission is free.  For more information on The Big Picture please visit its exhibitions page on the Academy's website.