There is not much that has not been done better by someone else in the University of Washington master of fine art graduates exhibition this year. Judging by the show, at the Henry Art Gallery through June 15, the 19 students coming out of UW's ceramics, fibers, metals, photography, and painting and drawing departments appear to be a facile and limp bunch.
Their influences include surrealist-minded sculpture and photography, anti-form installation, trompe l'oeil effects, flowery girlish patterning, biotechnology, and modest abstract painting. The modest abstract paintings are the strongest, maybe because they're designed to be modest, to keep expectations low, to sneak up on you. Very few of the works synthesize anything new from sources that range from fatigued to exhausted already.
The high points are small, graphic, post-painterly abstractions made on panels with irregular sculptural extensions by Lila Jarzombek; Jeffrey Hale's light-treading abstractions that mimic other materials (like Rudolf Stingel's paintings, but smaller and less thinky); Noah Grussgott's tall, post-minimalist column made of stacked Little Tyke blocks with the holes sealed in steel, black Plexiglas, and scary-big bolts; and Kinu Watanabe's tender but clear-eyed tomblike installation in remembrance of the storehouse where her family kept its heirlooms tied up in fabric and boxes. In Watanabe's room, ask a guard to do what the artist was doing during the preview: pushing the ceramic lamps so that they sway, as though the place has just been left in a hurry.