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Arts & Culture

'Six Trick Pony: UCF MFA Show'

In capitalism's twilight, six artists ask the question: What comes next?

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Six Trick Pony: UCF MFA Show

through March 29 | University of Central Florida Art Gallery | Visual Arts Building, 4000 Central Florida Blvd. | 407-823-5470 | gallery.cah.ucf.edu | free

Student work, even at the Master of Fine Arts level, is often painful, didactic or conceptualized beyond intelligibility; indeed, it is often passed over by critics until the students find their voices. Not so with these six, each of whom has already established a reputation as an artist. University of Central Florida's MFA exhibit this year consists of voices already found, speaking in mature language of the stress and struggle of our society's new poor in capitalism's twilight.

Visiting UCF's campus today requires navigational prowess; entering and turning left will bring you around a quarter-circle to the Visual Arts Building. Ignoring the campus's schizophrenic architectural pastiche, the visitor can make her way to the brick-columned building and enter the tall space of the gallery, open 10 a.m to 5 p.m. weekdays.

Bryce Hammond, the show's spokesman, says, "The six of us became very close … but one day in the fall [2012] we simultaneously realized we were making blatant social statements within our content." This sets the viewer up for some strong grits. Themes of poverty and despair echo throughout each artist's work. Hammond has elaborated on his Beach Motel series here with an installation of a cheap motel room, complete with a Gideon Bible, inviting the viewer to listen to a dialogue of increasing despair and hopelessness between imaginary occupants. He paints the motel's placelessness, zeroing in on its banal architecture with sweet textural colors and planes.

Jeremy Eldridge, a photographer with international exhibits to his credit, takes it further with his series of backlit duratrans (a photograph through which light can shine). "Chez Moi" eerily invades the yard of a Southern home somewhere, a fluorescent glow beaming from a curtained window. Each photograph feels voyeuristic, highly personal, as if the dweller is outside but searching for his identity within. Yet more unsettling is Eldridge's Home Divided series, showing suburban Southern duplex homes, but the most disquieting by far is "Searching for Melissa" – the three photographs of young women waist-deep in a lake, gazing outward, send chills up the spine.

Gabe Gonzalez adapts the Juxtapoz-inspired language of the street to seek meaning in his experience as a soldier in Iraq. Chains, death's-heads, tombstones and gun barrels are serious matter, and when illustrated, cartoon-like, betray no heroes in battle. His Black and White (Heroes Not Number) pieces are fascinating – not quite illustrative, not quite pointillist, but complex patterns of figure and ground hinting at the horror of the warfighter's experience.

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