Rites of Passage, an annual exhibition of work by college juniors, seniors and recent grads, reaches beyond its framework as a student show. Established in 2005 to feature excellence in creative research by young artists from around the country, Rites has become quite competitive. Manifest whittled down 381 entries from 88 colleges and universities to a strong selection of just 13 works of art.
It’s obvious when looking at the ambitious work in the show that these are not students fulfilling classroom assignments, but rather emerging artists on the cusp of their professional careers. The work encompasses mostly realism but for two strong pieces — a fine blown-glass sculpture by Ryan Selby of Southern Illinois State University, and a thickly painted canvas by Ross Caliendo of Columbus College of Art and Design.
The stars of the show are figurative works, including the best-of-show winner “Ridge Road,” a large-scale watercolor figure on paper and acetate overlay by Cindy Bernhard of The American Academy of Art, and the exacting portrait “Lillian” by Tyler Wilkinson of Centre College in Danville, Ky. Wilkinson’s skills are impressive, even more so because he is only a college junior.
If Rites of Passage has a message, it’s this: Local art students, take notice. The art world is increasingly competitive and these are the peers you’ll be up against for graduate school, jobs, commissions and gallery representation. This is a glimpse of the talented, hard-working community of artists you’ll be entering when you finish art school.
The annual Magnitude 7 is typically a delight, and it doesn’t disappoint this year. At a maximum of 7-by-7 inches, each work is a jewel.
The show includes some lovely diminutive paintings, such as Beth Parker’s “Jon” and “Nate with Stars.” The Bloomington, Ind., artist infuses these delicate oil portraits of young men with sensitivity and wistfulness. David Smith of Jin Hau, Hong Kong, offers up three atmospheric, monochromatic landscapes that read like visual haiku.
My favorites in this year’s Magnitude 7 are the three-dimensional selections — intriguing, enigmatic objects that demand close examination.
DeKalb, Ill., artist Michael Bennett’s copper and brass objects entitled “Redolent Emitter” and “McHine Container I” evoke compact, high-tech contraptions. Are they bombs? Spy gadgets? Souped-up cigarette lighters? The word “redolent” itself means suggestive or reminiscent, and that is the strength of these small, polished works.
Noriko Kuresumi of Astoria, N.Y., has created thought-provoking pieces called “Sea of Memory.” These organic porcelain forms resemble sea creatures or shells and make you want to cradle them in your hands and press them to your ear to hear their secrets.
Carrie Longley of Brookville, Ohio, must be part artist, part mad scientist. Her “Pulmo larvum” and “Elephas bullulae” are grotesquely magnetic. These Frankenstein-like creatures lurk under glass domes like scientific specimens of mutated life forms. Though created from ceramics, wire, wax and pig intestine, they seem made of vertebrae, membranes, hair, skin and warts. Both fantastical and repellent, these tiny sculptures exemplify the power that can be packed inside a small package.
RITES OF PASSAGE and MAGNITUDE 7 can be seen at Manifest Creative Research Gallery in East Walnut Hills through June 24. Buy tickets, check out performance times and get venue details here.