Graphic design and fine arts collide in undergrads’ premiere exhibit

Graphic design and fine arts collide in undergrads’ premiere exhibit

Danielle Elliott

Contributing Writer

Two VCUarts undergraduate students gave their first featured exhibition at First Fridays last week.

Graphic design major Matthew Stay defined his work with painting/printmaking major Andrew Kotsch – a collaborative show entitled “Hybrid Language” – as “the function of a designer with an artist … to see what sort of communication can come out of that collaboration.”

Stay said the concept of the exhibit, shown in the Main Street Gallery at 1509 W. Main St., was largely influenced by space and its vastness.

“(This) exhibition we’re having … has to deal with space, and the cosmos, science fiction, science fiction’s effect on reality, and … technology,” Stay said . “(It’s also about) understanding our size in relationship to the rest of the universe.”

Kotsch added, “We wanted a more humanistic explanation.”

Stay and Kotsch, who have known each other since their freshman year, fell into their own exhibit opening when another plan fell through: The pair’s proposal was not chosen for the VCUarts Undergraduate Grant, which is given out every year to students planning collaborative or multidisciplinary projects.

“Mary McLoughlin was our sponsor,” Stay said. “I came to her and presented the idea of going along with the show. … We’ve ended up making almost as much work as we had planned on making anyway, without any of the extra help. She just gave us the opportunity to present it in the gallery at a later date.”

Collaboration to both artist and designer was key to the project. Despite having worked together and having developed a familiarity with each other’s work, Stay and Kotsch felt as though – before “Hybrid Language” – a true collaboration had never occurred.

“We’ve never truly had an opportunity to have a true collaboration,” Stay said. “So we really framed this around the idea of us working simultaneously as well as independently.”

“We would sit down and for a few days just brainstorm and just talk about the ideas,” Kotsch said. “From both of our minds we have this concept, but the physical form of the work takes place separately. Like, he’ll print something out, and I’ll do lithography over it.”

The dialogue between two disciplines that would generally not otherwise occur – that between a graphic designer and a painter – was central to the purpose of the exhibit.

“You would be hard pressed to find a painter in a design studio, or a graphic designer in a fine arts studio,” Stay said.

“We’ve learned so much more about the kind of work we do and how they do influence each other … not just the physical work itself, but when it comes to the entirety of the show. Seeing Andy’s painting is very impactful, whereas my design is kind of crisper and cleaner and you might glaze over it easily … we found there were more strengths than the physical mediums themselves.”

Kotsch also took a new perspective away from the experience. “A lot of the things coming out of this are something we didn’t plan for, something we didn’t expect.”

Stay and Kotsch have further plans lined up after their current show: The exhibit at Main Street Gallery is just the first in a series using their idea of “Hybrid Language” in order to demonstrate bigger concepts, such as this first show’s exploration of outer space.

“This is only the first exhibition of a series using hybrid language as a platform. We have a series of works we want to do,” said Stay, who was reluctant to give any definite topic for their next set of works. CT

BFA undergraduates Matthew Stay and Andrew Kotsch’s “Hybrid Language,” which features prints, paintings and computer-generated designs, will be on display at the Main Street Gallery at 1509 W. Main St. until the end of November.

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