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SF State Student Showcase

A Little Something for Everyone

Every year the gallery at San Francisco State University organizes and mounts four exhibitions. Two are fully-curated shows of established artists' work and two are displays of student work -- all are realized through the efforts of Mark Johnson, Sharon Bliss and an ever-rotating group of students enrolled in the university art department's Exhibition Design course. This season's offering is the Stillwell Student Show, a selection of 60 undergraduate art student works chosen through a jury process by the Exhibition Design students. The work of nine graduate students as well as a display of personal effects of the show's namesake, Leo Stillwell, is also included in this packed exhibition.

The space remains airy and light and allows for a graceful flow from one area to another. Most importantly, all of the 60 pieces maintains its own space and never seems cramped or infringed upon by the other 59 works next to, behind, or sometimes even in front of it. Almost every media imaginable is represented -- from painting to textile to ceramics to printmaking.

Owing to the heterogeneous subject matter of the individually submitted works, there is no one theme that emerges from the show, although there are groups of works that deal with gender, love and, not surprisingly these days, war and politics. The last category seems to be the most spatially acknowledged, with a clear area devoted to those pieces that seem to make a clear political statement with their imagery. Since the Vietnam-era, students' reaction to war has always been particularly passionate and clearly articulated. It is interesting to view how this generation of up-and-coming student artists reacts through their art-making to issues like military funding and education, the oil conspiracy and police involvement in anti-war efforts.

Within the graduate portion of this year's show, Shan Chun's piece, which comments on the oppression of Buddhists during the Vietnam War, is the only work to pick up the war theme directly. One of three pieces in the show that uses projections, Chun's work is subtle in its aesthetic but stark in effect when you fully absorb what he is referencing. Similarly, Robbyn Leonard's Falling, the artist's first use of projection, is evocative without context and haunting with it. Based on a poem by James Dickey, which recounts the 1980's bizarre airline disaster that resulted in a flight attendant being sucked out of a plane and tumbling to her death somewhere in Kansas, the artist uses the image to reference her own subconscious fear of failure and derailment. Leonard used a team of artists, who helped with jobs such as body casting and gathering found footage and sounds, to bring her work to fruition.

Considering that most of the students charged with mounting the show have had little to no museum or gallery experience, the shear number of works hung in two-thirds of the medium-sized gallery (the other third reserved for the graduate students) is impressive.

November 9 -December 2, 2004
Gallery Hours: Tues.- Sat.12-4pm, Wed.12-6pm
Admission: Free