Masud Olufani: The artist as concatenator

September
20
2016
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Masud Olufani is a reverse seer. He portrays history as more than an academic exercise; he enacts legacy as an existential necessity. Masud’s recent solo exhibition at the Museum of Contemporary Art of Georgia (MOCA GA) and his current show at the SCAD Museum of Art (SCAD MOA) explore the lacunae in the ancestral memory of the disenfranchised.

Masud creates a poignant, brilliant visual essay upon themes of memory and connectedness in the soundscapes, drawings, and sculptures in his SCAD MOA exhibition “Imprint: Past as Prologue.” The eye is immediately drawn to Masud’s sculpture “To Gut,” a wooden house with a gable roof, neatly bisected by a two-man saw. With an unfinished and charred frame, the house appears on the brink of proving the adage “A house divided cannot stand.” This sculpture is flanked by two compelling rows of portraits. “Tight Packers: Excerpts 1-7” stands out as an allusion to both the horrifying conditions enslaved captives were subjected to in the holds of ships and the modern counterpart – prison cells. Each graphite illustration of an African American man is tucked inside a sardine can with a lid that reveals a numeric inmate identifier. Next, two pairs of headphones invite visitors to experience “Chorus of Memory,” a balletic orchestration of oral genealogies collected from and recorded by a host of individuals, including SCAD faculty, staff, and students whom Masud interviewed during his SCAD residency.

In his multi-media triumph, “Poetics of the Disembodied,” Masud plaited personal, communal, and imagined experience to reconstruct stories of people of African descent. He stood in the narrative gap as he stepped into tabby slave cabins in a series of photographs by Davion Alston. His recent MOCA GA exhibition, including the photographs created with Davion during Masud’s SCAD Alumni Atelier residency, permitted no passive bystanders, no innocent parties.

“Listeners/Witnesses of the Trade,” created by Masud at SCAD Savannah, presented a deceptively halcyon front. There were shells resting on a bed of sand, hemmed in by a projection of the sea. Only, the shells were not shells; they were the currency that buoyed the Transatlantic slave trade. The enslaved people were notably, hauntingly absent. Masud wielded absence as masterfully as he did performance, poetry, sculpture, and other media in the show – how better to symbolize the systematic elision of memory?

Masud Olufani’s work is timely and transcendent, giving voice to the voiceless and legacy to the disinherited. He expresses deeply held views without compromise or violence. When delivering the 2016 SCAD alumni address at the SCAD Atlanta commencement ceremony, Masud said: “Never forget that once the work leaves you and enters the purview of the public, you are helping to shape the way we see the world. We are like stones cast into a vast sea of creativity and even the smallest rocks make ripples.” Masud shapes the way we see the world by telling the stories, by linking generations.

Check it Out:  “Imprint: Past as Prologue,” SCAD Museum of Art, Aug. 16-Oct. 16

Through the Lens: Carolina Herrera's 'Refined Irreverence'

June
30
2016
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What can you expect when visiting Carolina Herrera’s dual exhibition, ‘Refined Irreverence,’ at SCAD FASH Museum of Fashion and Film in Atlanta and SCAD Museum of Art in Savannah, Georgia? A dazzling retrospective of more than 75 garments that celebrate Herrera’s iconic 35 years in fashion. From her timeless inaugural collection to the most recent line that graced the runway, you will experience the designer’s modern, dynamic classics. Take a peek at what these visitors captured on their Instagrams.

 

#SCADfash #carolinaherrera #refinedirreverence #savannah

A photo posted by Lindsay Fleege (@lindsfleege) on

 

Carolina Herrera: Refined Irreverence SCAD FASH Museum of Fashion & Film Now thru Sept 25

A photo posted by Rasheed Crawford (@raragram) on

 

#tbt to this gold number by Carolina Herrera from 1986. #ATL #scadfash #sameageasme #hotlanta #80sfashion #highfashion

A photo posted by andrea martens (@leighdrea) on

 

#scadfash #museum #carolinaherrera

A photo posted by Greece Needs Love (@greeceneedslove) on

 

All dressed up and everywhere to go @scadmoa @houseofherrera #scad #scadmoa #carolinaherrera #fashion

A photo posted by @michellemenner on

‘Refined Irreverence’ is on display through Saturday, September 4, in Savannah and Sunday, September 25, in Atlanta.

Dixieland, promised land: Stephanie Howard’s Southern mythmaking

June
15
2016
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The mesmeric pen and ink drawings of Stephanie Howard (B.F.A. painting) portray a disquieting backwater of the American South. Populated by somnolent children, small-town Carolina Shag queens, wild animals and disorienting scenes of illusion, Stephanie’s hypnotic works blend into a folkloric mythology all her own. An exhibition of her work, “Time and Place and Eternity,” is in its final week at the SCAD Museum of Art.

Stephanie Howard art, Time and Place and Eternity

SCAD: In “Time and Place and Eternity,” the majority of your works employ only pen and ink. What do you find most appealing about that medium?

STEPHANIE HOWARD: The directness of it, just putting a pen to paper, no mixing of paints or other mediums, no printing or processing. The fine-line quality of the pen also feels like thread to me, and as I work with the paper over time, it becomes more malleable, taking on more of a cloth feel. While I am working on the drawings, I think of them more as embroidery.

Stephanie Howard, SCAD Museum of Art exhibition

SCAD: Your work is propelled by labor-intensive patterns that on occasion seem to form optical illusions, as if the works themselves are moving. What do the complexity of patterns mean to you in your art?

HOWARD: In my art I am traveling through these other “worlds” as I create them, so the physical execution of the patterns helps to keep me in a sort of meditative state while I process all of the visual parts, manipulate images and put together pieces of stories. I have always loved layered patterns and I think it triggers the eye to start searching for something that makes sense, a respite of a known entity to cling to. By knowing and using that, I can act as a guide for the viewer as they move through the drawing. That movement the patterns add also creates a living quality, so that the drawing is not a document of a thing that happened, but rather a window into a moment that is forever happening.

SCAD: You’ve spent much of your life in the Greenville, South Carolina area. How does that influence the mythology found throughout your work?

HOWARD: I am from upstate South Carolina, but the stories I heard growing up came from all parts of the state. I was also always surrounded by remnants of once grand southern towns, now empty because the mill shut down or the interstate had bypassed them. This left me with some amazing bare bones, an arsenal of my own stories to tell, and a mix of some very potent magic symbols to throw in.

SCAD: If I were sitting in your studio, what would I see?

HOWARD: Collections. Records chock-full of soul! Antiques that somehow seem strange or creepy to most folks, stacks of old books, my drawing table which takes up most of the room, cats sleeping on scraps of paper, and windows that look out onto the giant water oak in my front yard. My studio is on the second floor of my house, an old mill house around 100 years old. It has character and energy — we are kindred spirits in the overwhelming need to persevere in a timeless South.

SCAD: What do you remember most fondly about your time at SCAD?

HOWARD: I had some amazing professors who helped me to not limit myself. I loved the diversity of the student body and the visiting artists. SCAD was my first opportunity to see famous artists who were in history books … and famous artists who were women! I remember Audrey Flack stopped by one of my painting classes one day and walked around looking at our work — I think I might have held my breath the entire time she was in the room.


Stephanie Howard’s “Time and Place and Eternity” is on view at the SCAD Museum of Art through June 19th.

Carolina Herrera is coming to town!

May
19
2016
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Fashion Show weekend is here! Come see Carolina Herrera receive the SCAD Étoile in recognition of her outstanding contributions to fashion, culture and design, Friday at 2 p.m. in the theater of Arnold Hall, 1810 Bull Street. Stick around afterward to hear the legendary designer share insights into her career.

And don’t forget to visit “Refined Irreverence,” a dual exhibition of Herrera’s work opening this Friday at SCAD FASH Museum of Fashion + Film and the SCAD Museum of Art. This selection of Herrera’s runway, bridal and red-carpet gowns curated by Rafael Gomes, SCAD director of fashion exhibitions, celebrates the 35th anniversary of the House of Herrera and is the first museum showing of Herrera’s designs. The exhibition also celebrates SCAD’s first concurrent show at both SCAD FASH and SCAD Museum of Art since 2011.

This retrospective of more than 75 garments will feature new and vintage Herrera designs, from her 1981 inaugural collection to the present. The sweeping presentation will include gowns worn by Michelle Obama, Taylor Swift, Tina Fey, Renée Zellweger and Lucy Liu, as well as works from Herrera’s personal collection.

You won’t want to miss the chance to see these timeless classics in person!

Bringing Brothers Back: The Ladds’ Rad SCAD Collab

May
17
2016
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This spring, deFINE ART featured “Blood Brothers,” the first comprehensive museum exhibition of the stunning artisanal craftsmanship of Steven and William Ladd. The event became the touchpaper for the siblings’ more recent return visit. As executive director of SCAD Museum of Art and exhibitions Melissa Messina explains: “We utilized the Ladds’ time here during deFINE ART as ‘research and development.’ They sat in on classes and toured SCAD’s facilities. It was a way to translate their infectious enthusiasm to our faculty, who saw what a great learning opportunity a workshop with the Ladds would be for our students.”

Back in their New York studio after deFINE ART, the brothers began assembling the hand-hewn boxes that would form the composite frame for an epic endeavor. They simultaneously sent directions down to Savannah, where 90 SCAD students across six departments started dyeing, stitching, printing, painting, photographing, glazing and beading within prescribed parameters. The collaboration was underway.

The Ladds’ core precepts — “Spend your life doing what you love. Be focused and disciplined. Collaborate.” — have guided their Scrollathon public projects in Brooklyn, Miami, San Diego, and their hometown, Kansas City. They imparted these values upon SCAD students when they returned last week, workshopping the assignments-from-afar to create a single artwork, a cobwebbed cerulean cosmos called A Place in Time. The piece is now part of the permanent collection of the SCAD Museum of Art.

SCAD: You sent assignments for students to complete prior to your arrival. Did that prove effective?

Steven: Even the odd miscommunication gained something in translation. We wrote that we wanted the ceramics students to make black and gold rings. What we meant was black rings, and gold rings. What we got were black-and-gold rings. And of course it was better! It’s a lesson: in collaboration, communication affects outcome.

SCAD: There is an unseen element to this artwork. How did it come about?

Steven: When we got down here, we had two-and-a-half hour classes with different departments. We were in the print room and decided, let’s do something with the nine-and-a-half-inch square box lids. One student took a print and fitted it into a lid. It was great, so we said, every student do that, and it’ll be a non-visible component to the finished piece. And the students were like, “Yeah! It’ll be hidden! That’s so cool!”

SCAD: How receptive have SCAD students been to your vision?

William: One thing we were really invested in is this idea that the students were fulfilled. The collaborative element was key. We didn’t want them to feel like they were interns. We wanted to make sure they felt a sense of ownership of what was being created. The fiber students were like, “No artist has come to our department and wanted to collaborate with us before,” so that means a lot to us. This was our first time collaborating with students at a university, and we wanted to know, should we keep doing this? Honestly, it’s been great.

Steven: Now we want to go to every SCAD location and create work with students, then bring it all together. It’ll be a way to show collaboration throughout all of SCAD’s campuses. We’re hoping it happens.

Celebrating and memorializing the Craft legacy

February
16
2016
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As a part of this year’s celebration of fine art exhibitions, lectures and performances — also known as deFINE Art — SCAD will honor two inspiring figures in Georgia history: William and Ellen Craft.

The legacy of their daring journey to freedom will be commemorated with a bronze medallion of a train bounding toward the North Star, designed by SCAD Foundations Studies professor Andrew MacDonald, which will be on display in SCAD Museum of Art foyer.

The dedication of this emblem will be followed by a special dialogue between Craft scholar and author Barbara McCaskill, Ph.D. and visual artist Xaviera Simmons, moderated by art historian and curator Isolde Brielmaeir, Ph.D. SCAD invites students and the Savannah community to be a part of the this moment tonight at 6 p.m. in the SCAD Museum of Art Theater, located at 601 Turner Blvd.

In 1848, the Crafts, an enslaved African-American couple, escaped from their life in Macon, Georgia, to embark on a four-day journey to the Northern free states. To make their escape, they devised a plan for fair-skinned Ellen to pose as a white man and William as her attendant. Upon completing the first stage of their journey, the Crafts arrived in Savannah, passing through the Central of Georgia Railway depot — the very place where the SCAD Museum of Art stands today.

“The story of Ellen and William Craft will be told — and retold — for as long as the torch of freedom blazes,” said SCAD President and Founder Paula Wallace. “Theirs was an escape from the inferno of slavery, whose fires consumed the dross of race, gender and class to reveal the ingot of humanity.”

The Crafts: An Extraordinary Path to Freedom — a new book detailing the Crafts’ legacy that was researched and authored by SCAD staff and illustrated by alumnus Awadh Baryoum (M.F.A., painting) — will be available for purchase at the SCAD Museum of Art, shopSCAD and shopSCAD.com.

Making 'i feel ya' with André 3000 Benjamin

July
17
2015
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Dr. Dre and Apple. David Byrne and color guard. Collaboration is how the world rolls, and the projects can be as lucrative as they are novel. Social and digital media have erased traditional boundaries, so we shouldn’t be surprised by these partnerships; we should be prepared.

i feel ya: SCAD + André 3000 Benjamin (July 18 - Sept. 13 at SCAD Museum of Art) — the multi-genre, multi-artist exhibition inspired by Benjamin’s jumpsuits from the Outkast reunion tour — primed Savannah College of Art and Design students to launch their own multi-hyphenate endeavors. Their participation in i feel ya was an extension of their every-day collaborations: an animation student teams up with a film student, who partners with a fashion student, who consults with a fibers student.

Knowing how to work with other disciplines and leverage the strengths of a co-worker goes a long way in today’s workplace, and it takes practice. So when these young creatives linked up with a hip-hop star, an Emmy-nominated filmmaker and an acclaimed painter to make i feel ya, many epiphanies were in store.

It wasn’t long after Cody Ziglar (M.F.A., film and television) returned from Outkast’s show in Montreal that he became a production assistant on Trumpets, Benjamin’s film with director Greg Brunkalla (B.F.A, video/film, 2001) for i feel ya. Ziglar has listened to Benjamin’s music since he was in middle school and knew he wanted to write and direct television before that. So when Benjamin poked his head in Ziglar’s edit room at Savannah Film Studios during the making of Trumpets, Ziglar’s interests collided.

i feel ya inspired me to jump back in to more experimental filmmaking and delve in to a more abstract way of thinking and I love it. I gained a new sense of confidence regarding my portfolio and work ethic. — Cody Ziglar

Meeting Benjamin, learning pre-production and making lasting connections with producer Omar Bustos were highlights for Ziglar, one of a dozen SCAD students who worked as a PA on Trumpets. “Working closely with a director and producer was a fun experience,” Ziglar said. “I really got an understanding of exactly how the sausage is made.”

While Ziglar was behind the camera, performing arts student Caroline Huey was in front of it. She wore one of Benjamin’s jumpsuit in the film. In the exhibition, these scenes of Huey and other actors are reflected in Jimmy O’Neal’s large-scale mirrored paintings. She also helped the SCAD Casting Office find talent for i feel ya.

There was so much collaboration in this project and such respect for the different artistic mediums. This is something I’ll carry with me as I continue through my training and my career. — Caroline Huey

Many months before, in Atlanta, fashion graduate student Jessica Fulks went through a different kind of casting call. Benjamin approached the SCAD fashion program for a consult on producing multiple versions of his signature jumpsuit for the Outkast tour, and Professor Kevin Knaus put him in touch with Fulks. In addition to creating a technical package for his suits, the aspiring menswear designer bonded with Benjamin. He showed her his sketchbook, she shared her collections.

Before Huey wore one of the suits and Ziglar researched the location on which to shoot them, Fulks saw them in action on stage when Outkast played Atlanta. Each had different experiences but learned a similar lesson: there’s no limit to what can happen when artists put their heads together.

i feel ya gave these students some answers. The question is, what will they make because of it?

'Ovation for Oscar' director on Cannes and fashion films

May
22
2015
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Rare projects require rare talent. To make the documentary Ovation for Oscar: An Exhibition at SCAD Museum of Art − about the first posthumous museum tribute to Oscar de la Renta − Savannah College of Art and Design chose one of its own. Leading a team of students and alumni, including his business partner, producer Tyler Reid (M.F.A., film and television, candidate), director Ryan Curtis (B.F.A., film and television, 2013) approached his first fashion documentary the way he does everything: with an eye for fresh original content. That’s what surf photography and music videos - Curtis’ prior subjects - have in common. Another first for Curtis: attending Cannes Film Festival, where Ovation for Oscar premiered. We caught up with him as he arrived in France.

SCAD: Congratulations on showing at Cannes. You have a diverse portfolio. How did your experiences contribute to your approach to Ovation for Oscar?

RC: Music videos are almost always utter chaos, in a good way. The level of creativity is super high, but the resources aren't always there. In surf photography you are 110% reliant on the weather and surf conditions, all the stars need to align in order to get a good shot. My experiences have taught me extreme resourcefulness and tenacity in any project.

SCAD: How is Ovation for Oscar similar or different from your previous work?

RC: This project in particular is very exciting, mainly because we are constantly surrounded by creative people, and the level of collaboration is unparalleled. Production and post-production were very fluid, totally unscripted, and we had to maintain the ability to change direction at any given moment.

SCAD: How did it help or challenge you to not have a fashion background?

RC: This is my first fashion documentary, but I have produced fashion films. I produced one for designer Julian Robaire while I was at SCAD, and when I graduated I worked on one for Globe Skateboards, and music videos sponsored by Hood By Air. I also took an intro to fashion course at SCAD, which taught me respect for the design process. I performed miserably, but that course taught me to truly appreciate the work of Oscar de la Renta and everyone involved in the exhibition process.

Fashion films are kind of the new frontier. Like music videos, there aren't any true rules, which is very exciting. - Ryan Curtis

SCAD: How does this documentary follow current trends in filmmaking? How is it different?

RC: This is essentially long form branded content, but what makes it different is the fact that it's totally unscripted and honest.

SCAD: Who did you have in mind on set? Who is the audience for the film?

RC: I think the audience is young people who are interested in the arts and fashion. I want this documentary to inspire people to put themselves out in the world and to get out of their comfort zones to fully realize their potential.

SCAD: What are you hoping to achieve at Cannes?

RC: It has been eight hours so far and I love it. The screenings alone are amazing, but entertaining people is even better, better yet, finding distribution. Networking is an extremely important part of anyone's career, especially in film and television. You never know what can come out of a conversation.

SCAD: What do you hope the world will learn about Oscar de la Renta because of this film?

RC: Oscar de la Renta is a name synonymous with kindness. He really was the ultimate gentleman. This exhibition carries on his tradition of teaching and philanthropy, and that's what we wanted to convey with this film. SCAD truly supports the next generation of artists and designers, something it shares in common with Oscar de la Renta. So if anyone is looking for the perfect incubator they don't have to look further than SCAD and Oscar de la Renta.

Preview Fred Spector's furniture collection for High Point Market

April
7
2015
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Watch as the owner of Frederic Spector Design Studio shows how he creates award-winning residential furniture. In this demonstration, livestreamed here on Tuesday, April 7 at 5:30 p.m. EDT from the SCAD Museum of Art Theater, Fred Spector takes you inside the design process of collections like Avalon, a bedroom suite to be shown along with his new dining collection in Casana Furniture's showroom at High Point Market (April 18-23). Furniture makers AAmerica and Ligna will also show bedroom collections by Frederic Spector Design Studio at the furniture industry’s largest trade show. The program coordinator for SCAD furniture design, Spector has also worked for Pottery Barn, Restoration Hardware, Williams-Sonoma and Anthropologie. This presentation is part of the School of Building Arts Lecture Series and is free and open to the public.

deFINE ART 2015 honoree Xu Bing returns to SCAD

February
20
2015
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Savannah College of Art and Design honoree, Chinese artist Xu Bing, first visited SCAD ten years ago, well before the existence of SCAD Museum of Art, where his exhibition, “Things Are Not What They First Appear,” is showing through July 3. Then as now, the MacArthur Fellow and U.S. Department of State Medal of Arts recipient invigorated this community of emerging artists with his lecture and work. Bing’s 2015 deFINE ART keynote, in which he chronicled his most recent exhibitions, was as transparent as his series, “Background Story.” In his interview with SCAD shone through a personal mission, which Bing also shared in his keynote address: to use his exhibitions to further art education, now matter where his work takes him. Here are excerpts of our conversation with him, conducted with the assistance of his student interpreter at SCAD's Magnolia Hall.

SCAD: Our students enthusiastically lined up to see your gallery tour at deFINE ART, snapping photos and no doubt posting them to their social networks. As a recent adopter of Instagram, what do you think of social media as a platform for sharing artistic works?

Xu Bing: I am always slow in this technology. I’m very late compared to others to use social media tools, even in China. I don’t use it a lot because I feel that nowadays social media provides people with too much information, and you are kind of just torn into too many pieces. You kind of lose yourself to it. Meanwhile, it is very valuable because it has changed people’s every day life. As you said, it reflects what young people like and that can be the future of the world. We recently started to use Instagram because we recognize its power as a tool. 

S: Seen at SCAD MOA, the diversity in your practice is particularly striking because of the close proximity of the works that comprise, “Things Are Not What They First Appear.” Do you advise students to have a multi-disciplinary practice?

XB: I would tell them, please don’t focus only on the forms of art, the styles of art or what media you’re going to use, because all those forms are already fixed, they can hardly be used to address contemporary problems or situations. So if you only limit your thinking or creation to what style you’re going to use, or what category you’re going to put your art into, then you can hardly be a successful artist.

S: Is there any one message that you most want artists and students of art to take away from your keynote address?

XB: I want to show my appreciation for SCAD. I’m honored to be here to get this award. I want students to takeaway that there are so many choices in contemporary art now, so please stick to what you really want. There is one experience of mine I really want to share.

I feel like everyone has his or her own strengths or limitations. The question is how you adapt your limitation into something that only you have and try to make the full use out of it. - Xu Bing

S: Sometimes we can’t make sense of our immediate surroundings until an outsider comes and puts them in perspective. What was the reaction in Durham when “Tobacco Project” opened there? How did it differ from the reaction in Shanghai and Savannah?

XB: I didn’t realize a difference in the audience feedback, however, I felt one thing really intensely and that is that people feel so connected to tobacco’s history and they felt very strong feelings about that connection. Through this piece of art they kind of reflect on their own history and their working situation. For example, a lot of people have a very close family relationship, memory or even personal memory of it. Also, through this piece they have a new understanding about art. Because these materials have nothing to do with art, after the show they start to see that these materials can be art and have artistic meanings. So they come up to a level where they realize a relationship between art and life, which is hardly something they recognized before.

S: What is your reaction to SCAD MOA, which embodies the same principles of adaptive reuse that infuse your work?

XB: I feel strongly that students really love this environment. For the students and other audiences, SCAD MOA has a strong connection to outdoor spaces, which helps them to share and enjoy art. This should be attributed to the architect who made the original designs, which preserve the original parts of the building. For example, the renovation of the out building creates spaces that are very special. The Poetter Gallery actually benefits contemporary artists who work there because it’s not easy to use. They need to figure out innovative ways to present their art. That’s how they’ll take further steps to develop their art.