CINCINNATI – In an effort to promote the next generation of artists, the Contemporary Arts Center has a display of works from local graduate students.

What You Need To Know

  • A new exhibition at the Contemporary Arts Center features work by eight graduate students from local university

  • The show is on display through May 1.

  • Guest curator Sso-Rha Kang said the show speaks of contemporary issues such as race and gender, but also highlights the social challenges the world has faced the past few years

  • The collaboration with UC and Miami is part of the CAC's continuing effort to promote art and art education

Titled “Critical Practice,” the exhibition features work from Master of Fine Arts students from the University of Cincinnati and Miami University. Pieces from eight total students are on display.

The show depicts works made from a range of media types—sculpture, painting, photography, video, etc. The pieces tackle contemporary issues such as race, queerness, color, consumerism, feminism and post-humanism.

Clair Morey, Luxuries, 2021. Photo transparency, acrylic, and oil on canvas, 84 x 96 inches. (Courtesy of the artist)
Clair Morey, Luxuries, 2021. Photo transparency, acrylic, and oil on canvas, 84 x 96 inches. (Courtesy of the artist)

It runs now through May 1. A closing reception and artist talks will take place Saturday, April 23, from 12 to 4 p.m.

"I witnessed a strong camaraderie between the students as they helped each other both morally and physically through the installation process,” said Sso-Rha Kang, the guest curator who organized the show. “There was a lot of positivity as they encouraged each other through an exciting and undoubtedly stressful week of finishing the exhibition. Although there are conceptual and formal differences between their works, there are connections to be found between the works.” 

The artists on display are Kyle Angel, Adrienne Dixon, Noah DiRuzza, Katrina Dienno, Jeni Jenkins, Clair Morey, Julie Morrill and Charles Thacker. Artist bios are below.

Kang, director of galleries and outreach at Northern Kentucky University, said the students’ work reflects “intensive research and critical studio practice through rigorous study in their respective programs. She noted the works reflect the “ongoing complications specific to the precarious nature of our times” as well.

“Oscillating between virtual and in-person classrooms” forced the students to rethink the way they created work, Kang said. She described the exhibition as a “testament to the resilience of creative thinking.”

The exhibition is part of an ongoing collaboration between the universities and the CAC. Students got to work closely with industry professionals as they prepared for the exhibition. Staff worked with the artists through every step of the process—from the conceptual development of their work to the installation process at the downtown Cincinnati museum.

Every year, the museum collaborates with UC and Miami to host an exhibition that showcases works by their graduating MFA candidates. It also works with several other local colleges, like the Art Academy of Cincinnati and Xavier University, to organize student-led exhibitions that respond to the works in the CAC’s main galleries.

Beyond the thesis shows, CAC has a robust education program for teens and students. Trained docents lead interactive group tours of the museum’s exhibitions, connecting art to classroom curricula through a playful, multi-sensory introduction to contemporary art. That includes workshops and an outreach program.

“As a contemporary art institution, the CAC is always looking to support emerging artists,” said Stephanie Kang, the CAC’s assistant curator. “It is truly an honor to foster these relationships and support young artists in the Cincinnati area.”

More information about the "Critical Practice" and the CAC's education efforts are available on the CAC website.

More about the show and the artists

Artist Talks Schedule

12–12:15 – Adrienne Dixon (University of Cincinnati)

12:30–12:45 – Noah DiRuzza (Miami University)

1–1:15 – Jeni Jenkins (University of Cincinnati)

1:30–1:45 – Charlie Thacker (University of Cincinnati)

2–2:15 – Katrina Dienno (University of Cincinnati)

2:30-2:45 – Kyle Angel (University of Cincinnati)

3–3:15 – Julie Morrill (University of Cincinnati)

3:30–3:45 – Clair Morey (Miami University)

Below are bios for the individual artists. Spectrum News 1 edited them for length and wording.

Kyle Angel

Kyle Angel (he/him/his) is an interdisciplinary artist working in drag, performance, and fashion to question what it means to be queer. In this video performance, Angel transforms himself into Crystal Tubes (she/her/they/them)—a playful and quirky persona who uses Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response (ASMR) as a vehicle to initiate conversations on queerness. ASMR is a bodily sensation (akin to tingling) that is triggered by specific types of sounds. “Lose yourself to the sounds of sloshing saliva and seductive whispers as Crystal Tubes guides you through this multisensory experience,” the artist’s bio reads.

Adrienne Dixon

This body of work explores the falsehood of the American Dream and the unsustainability of maintaining a lifestyle that aspires for more materially and socially. The artist explores these concepts through specific materials that are a byproduct of nostalgia, consumption, and yearning. Blue tarps in relation to Ikea bags (a direct correlation to buyer consumption) and a Band-Aid for natural disasters. Faux and unobtainable turf that replicate the lawns of suburbia. Multi-colored fluorescent lights are used in retail settings to simultaneously attract and manipulate consumers. These installations invite the viewer to interact with the space and rethink our relationship with these materials.

Noah DiRuzza

Composed of organic and inorganic materials gathered from local river beds, DiRuzza’s sculptures are a combination of nature and technology. Fossils, bones, bricks, sticks, and discarded machinery come together in uncanny human forms.

Katrina Dienno

Inspired by Greek mythology, Dienno’s woodcut prints re-contextualize familiar narratives and incorporate contemporary elements to recast female villains as heroes. “From harpies and sirens, to women accused of witchcraft, and the biblical story of Eve as the origin of sin—women are perceived as evil, cruel, weak-minded, inhuman and terrifying,” the artist wrote. These woodcut prints aim to “subvert the male gaze and allow for more empowered representations of women.”

Jeni Jenkins

This installation presents 22 artifacts about the multiracial experience. Composed of interweaving assemblages of printmaking, collage, text, illustration, and audio designed to confront viewers and critique the colonial legacies that continue to promote and maintain white privilege, white supremacy, and white power in the United States.

Clair Morey

Appropriating stills from a film that shares the same title, such as Dead Ringers (1998), Void (2016), and Luxuries (2001). Morey re-contextualizes images of the past within the immediate present. Digital collage and photo transparencies are cut to reveal hidden information through the layering of images.

Julie Morrill

Using site-specific raw clay interventions, Morrill interrupts the expectations of space. As the clay matures, pieces naturally fall and break away from the architectural forms and often tear pieces of the original architecture. Exposed to the environment, the clay unfolds and changes naturally, which reflects how bodies, structures, and ideas evolve and degrade overtime.

Charles Thacker

This body of work embodies the tenets of systems philosophy in its combination of materials and representations of both physical and non-physical systems. An emphasis on painting and integrating interactive media invites the viewer to contemplate a question posed by the artist: “how can we use creative arts as a conduit for maturing human consciousness?”