It's the time of year for graduations, and with that comes a spate of annual shows of culminating work by seniors and graduate students from the region's major art degree-conferring institutions.
Currently, the UAlbany MFA show at the University Art Museum tops the list, with Sage College of Albany's BFA exhibition at the Opalka Gallery and Skidmore College's Senior Thesis exhibitions at the Tang Museum right behind. (Already ended, in quick sequence, were the Senior and Graduate shows at The College of Saint Rose's Esther Massry Gallery; the Student Exhibitions at Hudson Valley Community College's Teaching Gallery also recently closed.)
These exhibitions are important to see if you have an interest in the regional art scene, because it's almost guaranteed that many of the new graduates will quickly rank among the most prominently shown professionals on that scene (past and current examples abound), and these shows often provide your first good glimpse of what they do.
I make a point of catching the thesis shows every year if I can (not always easy, as they sometimes have very short runs), and they're usually intensely interesting. Still, I won't be writing any critical commentary on them, neither this year nor in the future.
Why not? My editor offers two reasons:
1) Even though they're graduating, and technically are not students anymore, these fledgling artists may not be ready for the feedback a professional critic provides. Once they're out of the institution, whether showing in a coffee shop or a museum, we'll let the slings and arrows fly - and hope we all get something useful out of it. But until that time, these student artists deserve to bask in the glow of their achievement without critical attention from the press. Also, there's no doubt they've all had endless critiques on this work already as part of their degree qualification process, and that's enough for now.
2) While the writing on this blog occasionally ventures into other areas of commentary, it is first and foremost a forum for art criticism - not educational analysis. We feel that to enter into a discussion of the merits of any group of students at a particular institution while they're still within its walls gets too close to engaging on the subject of the choices that institution has made in its admissions, hiring, and degree-awarding policies - and we just don't want to go there.
That's also why Get Visual's no-student-show policy extends to faculty shows - and why the current exhibitions by Martin Benjamin at Union College's Mandeville Gallery and Regis Brodie at Skidmore's Schick Art Gallery will also go unreviewed in this space, as each is (or was) a professor at the host college. That said, I will go out on a limb and say they are both strong artists whose work is well worth seeing.
One more thing - I happen to be among this year's graduates, and will walk on Saturday in cap and gown to receive a master's degree in business administration from The College of Saint Rose. You should be relieved to know that I don't expect any of you to read the 100-page analysis of a Chinese solar energy company that comprised my MBA team's final project - but I hope you will take time to check out the thesis shows of all those worthy fine art grads.
Finally, to all of them I offer sincere congratulations, and best wishes for future success.