Ah, the MFA show.
The culmination of two years (or, in the case of SF State, three years) of existential questions, all-nighters and periodic epiphanies. For visual artists about to graduate from Bay Area MFA programs, the thesis show is a type of coming-out party, a formal announcement of their imminent arrival on the scene.
But to viewers, MFA shows can look more like free-for-alls than prim and proper affairs. Some schools attempt to assign organizing principles to their exhibitions, relying on vague, ultimately say-nothing titles. If the graduating class is too large to fit in an elevator together, the end result is usually a giant rambling conflagration of student practices too disparate to gather into coherency.
Which is all to say, MFA shows are notoriously bad.
Artists are pressured to either represent their entire grad school trajectory in one confused display, or to outshine their peers, producing “look at me” spectacles verging on disaster. But every now and then, amid the fracas, truly eye-catching or thought-provoking practices emerge that make the whole thing worthwhile.