Now Showing: New Work by New Faculty
Painters Angela Dufresne and Craig Taylor, two new assistant professors in the Painting department this year, are both interested in innovation and integration. They encourage their students to put media exploration and outside influences to work in the studio. And though they’ve both taught elsewhere and earned MFAs from other art schools – Dufresne from Tyler School of Art and Taylor from Yale – they each confirm that they're impressed with what they see in RISD studios and are especially inspired to be working with RISD students.
Both Taylor and Dufresne are also very talented themselves, as evidenced by their respective solo shows this winter. Simultaneously lush and restrained, Taylor’s work has been praised in Art in America and TimeOut, among other publications, and was last featured in a 2011 solo show at Sue Scott Gallery in New York. His current solo show, Craig Taylor: Essence, transference, no cigarettes, runs at CB1 Gallery in Los Angeles from January 13 through February 17. In this new body of work, he explores the interplay of image and association through subject matter that appears, dissolves and reemerges, offering a broad meditation on the nature of abstraction, representation and the emotive power of the painted object. Taylor also expands his investigation into the third dimension, presenting a series of paper, plaster and acrylic sculptures that complement his paintings.
Following on the heels of Angela Dufresne: Parlors & Pastorals, concurrent solo shows that ran last fall at both CRG Gallery and Mona Rowe Gallery in New York, Dufresne is now showing new paintings and video pieces together at Kai Heinze, a contemporary art gallery in Berlin. She makes evocative paintings that are largely influenced by film and music, and often characterized by an intensity of mood, scene and character. Though often dense, her oil canvases also invite a visceral participation.
“These are very physical paintings, and they make us mindful of our own physicality, shocking the system into a sensuous awareness of history,” critic Aldrin Valdez wrote about Parlors & Pastorals. “In an inclusive way, like any good disc jockey would do, [Dufresne] makes you dance to her big beats. In turn, you feel like a participant, an insider with more moves than you thought capable.”
During fall semester, Dufresne hosted a “YouTube Battle Royale” in her Senior Painting studio, asking students to present a pairing of videos with opposing moods and tones. “I want to offer students assignments that challenge their habitual studio processes,” she explained outside her Benefit Street office. “In Painting we’re open to all sorts of collaboration. There’s a huge variety of work going on.”
Craig Taylor agrees. “There’s an incredible variation in the approaches and styles students are using. It makes teaching at RISD very exciting.” Taylor describes the new media influence on contemporary painting as one that “pops up after we filter through modernism. Students become interested in time-based media, and some of them want to literalize it in their paintings.”
Yet it’s hardly all theory in the RISD studio: both faculty members emphasize the incredible work ethic of their students. Last semester Dufresne’s sophomores were at work on “Frankenstein self-portraits” in which the figure is comprised of eight elements not belonging to the artist. “It’s insane,” she says, gesturing to the large-scale canvasses of student work scattered around the studio. “They’re all so talented. I have immense respect for their intellect and abilities.”
“Teaching has been tremendous in developing my work,” Dufresne says. “My students raise the bar in my own studio and expand my conceptual platform.” As an artist, she aims to make work that “happens within a condensed period of time. I want to compress complexity into nearly alla prima paintings.”
Taylor offers an additional point of painting-based inspiration: “For me, there’s something about paint. I have yet to find another medium that creates the things I want to see with the type of visceral, optical wash I feel when a painting is successful.”