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The Yale School of Art Is Churning Out Some Great Photographers

This year's Yale Photography MFA show, curated by Jack Pierson, opens tonight at Danziger Gallery in New York.

Photo by Ilona Szwarc

The Yale School of Art's photography program has fostered dependably good artists since Walker Evans started teaching photography there in 1965 (when it was still part of the graphic design department) but even considering that history, there is an unusual quantity of remarkable work in this year's thesis show, opening Thursday night at Danziger Gallery in New York. The show is titled Lovely Dark, and will remain on view through June 27. Curated artist Jack Pierson, a seminal figure in the history of photography associated with the so-called Boston School, the exhibition will travel to Regen Projects in LA, with an opening reception July 2. I sat down with Pierson earlier this week to ask him a few questions about the Yale show and his other upcoming curatorial projects.

VICE: How do you go about curating a show where you're not choosing the artists in it?
Jack Pierson: To me it becomes an exercise in shaping the material.

Why did the students choose you to curate their show?
I think it was because Collier Schorr said no!

Hah! You're a visiting artist at Yale, and so is Schorr, right?
Is that what they call it? I'm on the panel.

A preview of Yale Photo MFA's 2015 book of student work, designed by Michela Povoleri

Why is it called Lovely Dark?
That comes from the essay Hilton Als wrote for the catalogue. But I do feel like the one linking thing between all the work in the show it's mostly pretty dark.

Dark like scary?
I don't know scary, I wouldn't say goth, but now that I think of it, most of the people are coming out of some dark place.

You think that's a good place to make art from?
Maybe it's not dark... but nobody's giving you "the joy of living" like Ryan McGinley, it's much closer to like a Nan [Goldin] thing. Although I guess Nan's really the joy of living, too.

A lot of the work in the show is about family, a lot of it is suburban angst... It's angsty! It makes sense to be angsty at your age, as opposed to "I've given up and I just want it to be pretty and happy and celebratory."

You have a favorite thing in the show?
No, it's all good.

I really like Zak Arctander's video work, but that's in the other show.

That's the group show you curated at Launch F18 Gallery, opening this Saturday night. (See Arctander's contribution to last year's VICE photo issue here, and read an interview with him here.)
Yes, he has a video in that show that I think is really great. His photographs will always be good, but once I saw the video... you know, I don't even like photography that much.

You don't?
Not on the wall.

You like it in a book?
I like it in a book, printed, ripped out of a magazine...

Having a whole show of photos on the wall can look so dead, or cold, or something.
Right. So it's just hard. But Zak is exploring beyond that and doing cool things, too. I saw his final show, and told him he needed to up the ante, in terms of getting it on the wall. I don't know what he's going to do, but it will be something cool. I heard he was making tarps or something.

How does the Yale show relate to the show you curated at F18?
It has a couple of the same artists, Zak and Bryson Rand. For this show the whole point of it is, nobody has gallery representation. Some of them are 70 years old, some of them are just graduating from Yale and NYU. None of them have representation, but I like their art. There's painting, sculpture, photography in the form of Bryson's Xerox wallpaper, and Zak's video.

Why are you curating all of these shows?
I like curating. Especially summer group shows, because I have a light touch and I don't take it too seriously. I just see what happens, and usually it's pretty good.

New York Yale MFA Show
June 18–27
Opening June 18, 6–8 PM
Danziger Gallery

Los Angeles Yale MFA Show
July 2–August 1
Opening July 2, 6–8 PM
Regen Projects (West Hollywood)

Inside the Episode
June 20–July 26
Opening June 20, 6–8 PM
Launch F18 Gallery

Photo by

Ilona Szwarc

Photo by

Ilona Szwarc

Photo by

Ilona Szwarc

Photo by David Alekhuogie

Photo by David Alekhuogie

Photo by David Alekhuogie

Photo by Annie Thornton

Photo by Annie Thornton

Photo by Annie Thornton

Photo by Zak Arctander

Photo by Zak Arctander

Photo by Zak Arctander

Photo by Elle Perez

Photo by Elle Perez

Photo by Elle Perez

Photo by Isabel Magowan

Photo by Isabel Magowan

Photo by Isabel Magowan

Photo by Bryson Rand

Photo by Bryson Rand

Photo by Bryson Rand

Photo by David Soffa

Photo by David Soffa

Photo by David Soffa

Photo by Quinn Gorbutt

Photo by Quinn Gorbutt

Photo by Quinn Gorbutt

Photo by Sarah Meyohas

Photo by Sarah Meyohas

Photo by Sarah Meyohas

Learn more about the Yale School of Art's current photography students here.