Five studio art theses are currently on display in the Center for the Arts’ Zilkha Gallery. This is the second of four consecutive weeks of studio art thesis exhibitions, featuring diverse visual art projects by Seamus Edson, Virginia Johnson, Melissa Joskow, David Machado, and Xhonia Robinson.

Edson’s thesis, “A System for Graphic Play,” is organized around a collaborative printmaking kit of his own creation. The kit includes four sets of systematically-designed wooden printing blocks (regular, squared, scooped, and narrow) that can connect to each other through a series of holes, poles, and boards. Edson’s exhibit features a small booklet that outlines the kit’s design; several collections of prints made by participants over the last few months; an installation of hanging prints made by participants this week; wall prints that explicate his materials and processes; and multiple interlocking tables that mirror the playful forms of his printing blocks. On top of these tables are the booklets, print collections, and the blocks themselves, which all invite tactical engagement and emphasize the participatory element of Edson’s project. Additionally, Edson invites guests to make their own prints for display or to take home. He is holding two more workshops in the CFA printshop this week: one session is on Friday, April 13, from 5-8 p.m., and the other session is on Saturday, April 14, from 2-5 p.m. The entire exhibit exudes a sense of childlike fun, and his project’s reliance on rules creates an exciting space for those rules to be questioned, challenged, and broken.

Johnson’s thesis, “IMMERSIVE paintings,” features six massive paintings that have been grouped into three pairs. As you might expect, these paintings create an immersive experience for the viewer, especially when viewed up close. The paintings depict nature scenes in expressive, gestural brushstrokes with varied levels of pictorial detail. One pair of paintings are marked by a cool grey palette and scenes of water surfaces; one pair of paintings are marked by a light green palette and scenes of moss-covered rocks; and one pair of paintings are marked by a dark green palette and scenes of forest floors. The bright green highlights in the moss-covered rocks are especially vibrant, radiating with a sense of movement that is equally trippy and serene. One of the scenes of water appears to be a close-up of water ripples, which shimmers with a similar, mildly psychoactive glow.

Joskow’s thesis, “Behold,” defies conventional disciplinary classification, combining elements of drawing, sculpture, video, and stop-motion animation. Let’s agree to call it mixed-media. Based loosely on passages from Revelations in the New Testament and inspired by Albert Dürer prints,“Behold” features seven looped videos projected onto four hanging banners and three large balloons in a dark room. The projected videos appear on eleven sites since the banners are transparent enough for the projections to be seen on both sides of them. Each video is a different length, depicting stop-motion animation of pencil drawings and erasings. These projected videos are further complemented by narratively and formally relevant soundtracks. As you move around the room, different combinations of videos come into view, and these views continuously change as the videos loop at different rates. “Behold” is a richly immersive experience, with its numerous visual, aural, literary, historical, temporal, and spatial dimensions interacting with each other to bring you into an almost trance-like, meditative state. Despite its video installation forms, it succeeds in celebrating the materiality inherent in marking and tearing paper.

Machado’s thesis, “Illuminated: Oil Paintings,” features three pieces, all of which depict angelic nude male figures against different styles of stained-glass windows. Machado essentially reimagines the exhibition space as a cathedral, positioning viewers as worshippers of his nude male figures as well as the elaborately decorative frames that contain them. Each painted stained-glass window site is rendered in a slightly different art historical style, and the paintings contain numerous art historical and religious references. The central piece is a tripartite triangular painting that depicts a nude male figure sitting up straight with one leg folded over the other and his hands held gracefully on that leg as he stares off into the distance. Additional nude male figures flank his left and right sides, facing the central figure. The figures on the sides clasp their hands and kneel on their knees, looking up at the Jesus-like figure. On the floor at the base of this painting is a miniature leather bench with a bondage strap wrapped around it, further reinforcing the viewer’s role as sexually and spatially underneath the nude male figures in the paintings. The paintings register as variously mocking, longing, pained, aroused, arousing, controlled, and liberating.

Robinson’s thesis, “Embracing the Moment,” features eight paintings that depict Black women, children, and families in domestic and community spaces. The figures in the paintings are usually centered and smiling, evoking family photos and memories of family events. Robinson exerts an expert control of color, sometimes embracing extremely limited palettes for maximal emotional effect. Like Johnson, Robinson relies on varied levels of pictorial detail to isolate certain moments in her paintings. Many of the canvases have large swaths of negative space, monochrome backgrounds, or no paint at all. Robinson’s renderings of printed patterns–both on clothes and as backgrounds or wallpaper–are particularly beautiful, especially in contrast to the paintings’ monochrome areas. Overall the paintings in “Embracing the Moment” have a warm, nostalgic quality to them, and their compositions highlight instances of casual joy, play, and pleasure.

The current group of theses will be on display through 5 p.m. on Sunday, April 15. The next group will be on display from Tuesday, April 17, through Sunday, April 22, with an opening reception in the gallery on Wednesday, April 18, from 4-6 p.m. The final group of theses will be on display from Tuesday, April 24, through Sunday, April 29, with an opening reception on Wednesday, April 25, from 4-6 p.m.

Matt Wallock can be reached at

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