In the UT Visual Arts Center's "Agree to Disagree," there exists an incongruous tone among the 2015 Studio Art MFA artists, both in terms of execution and conceptual complexity. A group show is never easy; many styles and mediums must be coordinated, and creating a communal thesis is innately a struggle. But "Agree to Disagree" comes across as a defeated resolution expressed by a graduating class whose styles and techniques span from impressive to downright disappointing.
The show's highlights come from painter Peter Abrami, who contributes bright color studies that play with abstraction and anthropomorphism, and artist Georgia Carter, whose drawings show an astute hand and a strong narrative. Abrami's work is straightforward and engaging. With arresting hues and soft brushwork, the paintings are inviting, emotive, and refreshingly honest in their presentation. Carter takes a more conceptual approach and demands a keener eye. Her drawings, which depict glitchy, graphite sketches done in the style of an inkjet printer (drawn left to right), create a discourse about automation in the arts. This perspective on the dichotomy of digital to analog is smart, new, and yet simple. With just graphite on paper, Carter accomplishes a comprehensive collection that leaves a lasting, detailed impression.
Other highlights come from Aaron Meyers, whose work is heavily influenced by architecture, and Nick Francel, whose installation offers a dark, cartoonish twist on a living-room scene.
However, "Agree to Disagree" falls flat with work from artists Laurel Shear and Ryan White. Shear's large-scale paintings, which are described by the artist as "abstract and figurative," are truly just veiled portraits of Disney princesses. Shear hopes to incite a larger discussion about feminine identities in popular culture, but the visual anchors from Disney feel like tired totems of a conversation that's already been hashed and rehashed. White similarly clings to pop nuance with paintings influenced by his Scientology auditing sessions. Neither impactful nor particularly unique, White seems to hope the mystery regarding Scientology will do the heavy lifting for his work, a supposition that falls flat.
"Agree to Disagree" is a mixed experience, with resounding work from some and discouraging work from others. Cynically, it offers a somewhat defeated view of the graduating class, but I'm sure the class itself would feel otherwise. On that, we'll just have to agree to disagree.
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