The Fourth Wall Gallery has been filled with activity ever since it recently reopened, hosting a new Museum School MFA thesis show practically every other week. Although the turnover has been fast, the exhibitions have been anything but rushed in appearance. The most recent show features work from SMFA graduate students Laura Beth Reese, Jasmine Higbee, and Laura Fischman.
Upon first entering the gallery, Fischman’s work, titled Neither Here Nor There, greets the gallery visiter with vast expanses of sky and sea. On closer examination, the swaths of blue reveal careful brushwork and subtle shading that hint at scenes of half-forgotten memories: a car driving though the fog, a faded window. By mixing in small studies of pipes between the larger works, Fischman seems to be examining the weight of psychological importance placed onto everyday objects and experiences.
Higbee’s video projection, titled Hope/Fear, takes up an entire wall in the second room. Although this piece could have benefitted from some accompanying text, Higbee explained in her artist talk that the video was created using found documentary footage of workers burning e-waste in Ghana. Higbee carefully turned each individual into a silhouette that is sometimes black, sometimes overlaid with footage of the burning waste. The workers become both anonymous and impossible to ignore, as their bodies meld with the landscape and become literally toxic from the burning fumes.
The true highlight of the exhibition, though, is Reese’s large-format photographic project, Portraits. Each photo features a nude individual, sometimes within the safety of a sun-drenched room, sometimes exposed to the outdoor elements, yet always at ease before the camera. The images are close-cropped to the individuals’ bodies and invite the viewer into a space that is brimming with psychological drama, rather than any type of physical action. The introduction of animals into some of the portraits adds an element of reverie to the series, as if the photos are partially fantasies. By framing the photos without glass, Reese allows the viewer full access to the pristinely printed skin tones, her technical mastery of her craft heightening even further the impact of her work.
Each artist’s work features a separate medium and subject matter, yet the show is united by the theme of psychological exploration of the human body within the landscape.