Lava Cake

Stanford Department of Art & Art History presents Lava Cake, the second-year MFA exhibition at the Stanford Art Gallery

Amy Elkins
Gabriella Grill
Joshua Moreno
Miguel Novelo
Gregory Rick

Curated by Camille Utterback

The Lava Cake exhibition is oh-so-sweet, marking as it does, a return to in-person exhibitions for the second-year Stanford Art Practice MFA cohort whose recent work it represents. The themes and concerns of these students' current projects are, however, far more urgent than celebratory.  

The intense isolation, grief, protests, and even wildfires of this past year have cracked open new ways of seeing, making, and being. These artists’ vivid explorations of precariousness, transformation, interconnectedness, personal responsibility, and even our place in the universe, have emerged through the fissures. 

A lyric from the singer/poet Leonard Cohen deftly captures the tectonic shifts presented by the works in this exhibition and our current moment:

There is a crack, a crack in everything 
That's how the light gets in

–Camille Utterback, Curator



Anxious Pleasures (detail). 1 of 377 cyanotype prints on cotton. 5.5” x 8.5” x 11”.

Amy Elkins is a visual artist working primarily in photography. Her approach is series-based, steeped in research and oscillates between formal and conceptual approaches and documentary. She has spent the past 15 years examining the multifaceted nature of masculine identity as well as the psychological and sociological impacts of incarceration. In recent years Elkins has turned to explore the complexities of her family history in California as well as her deeply personal experience throughout the Covid-19 pandemic.  •

Facing lockdown alone, Amy Elkins turned her camera onto herself in a protracted personal performance where she negotiates her sense of self with literally everything she has at hand. –Camille Utterback


Entanglement (detail). Found clothing, fabric, and earring; wood, batting, vinyl. 90.5” x 53” x 57”.

Gabriella Grill is an interdisciplinary artist originally from Columbia, Maryland, who works primarily in sculpture. She studied Printmaking at the Maryland Institute College of Art in Baltimore, Maryland, and received her BFA in 2015. Grill's work investigates material culture and the cycle of life. Embedding found objects in hard materials, weaving objects together into webs or nests, and giving dimensional body to soft articles of clothing, Grill contemplates the temporality of existence through simulated fossilization and soft monuments.  •  @grabbigirll

Gabriella Grill, through intimate and vaguely violent gestures of weaving, stuffing and mummifying, converts abandoned garments and boxes from disposable wrappings of desire to room-scale obstacles. –Camille Utterback


What Goes (still). Video with sound, 25:00.

Joshua Moreno is an interdisciplinary artist from Watsonville, California. He earned his BFA from the University of California San Diego where he studied sculpture and installation art. From 2014 to the present, he has worked in art education teaching courses in art history, filmmaking, and studio art. In his body of work, Moreno explores the overlapping relationship between the natural and human-made environment. Through installation, drawing, and film, he re-evaluates the everyday spaces and objects that surround us, with added attention to elemental phenomena.  •  @stopjoshgo 


Joshua Moreno teases a perilously fleeting yet gorgeously syncopated order out of the minutiae he finds in all aspects of his environment–both the natural and the mediated. –Camille Utterback


Beru, with love (still). Projected video loop, custom speakers with stereo audio. 80” x 80” projection, 72” x 20” x 24” speakers.

Miguel Novelo is an experimental media artist, filmmaker, and cultural event creator from Campeche, Mexico. Novelo graduated from Escuela TAI with an associate degree (2013) and from SFAI with a bachelor's in fine arts (2018). At Stanford, Novelo is a Graduate Public Service Fellow at The Haas Center for Public Service (2021). Miguel has exhibited pieces and short films internationally at museums, galleries, and film festivals including the De Young Museum in San Francisco, Museo Universitario Arte Contemporáneo in Mexico City, Festival Internacional de Cine en Morelia, Sheffield Doc/Fest, and others. Over the last year Miguel has focused on Cenotes and Meteorites—two geological terms to discuss space manipulation, cosmic viewpoints and extinction.  •  @miguelnovelocrz

Miguel Novelo asks us to look outwards to his vast computer generated heavens, and inwards to his similarly simulated earth—to find new bearings, or perhaps let go of them all together. –Camille Utterback


The Devil’s Punchbowl (detail). Acrylic, enamel, mixed media on canvas. 95” x  98”.

Gregory Rick grew up in Minneapolis, and from an early age, found the bookshelf as a place of refuge. Through books he discovered and developed his historical imagination, redrawing the scenes he was reading about and looking at - primarily in encyclopedic books on war, and books relating to tyranny and resistance. Rick believes this passion for history stems from his father’s fighting in Vietnam and subsequent absence after a murder conviction. Rick himself later fought in Iraq with the 101st Airborne and became an orphan during his term of service, never getting the chance to share the bond with his dad as a Combat Infantry man. Rick's multimedia painting and sculpture is an intimate collapse of history which includes the historical continuum and the personal—always in dialogue with both the self and the larger world.  •  @gregoryrick2017

Gregory Rick’s paintings and sculptures offer us a fierce riot of references–personal, archival, mythological, and historical–with which he requires viewers to claim their own position in the multitudinous narrative arcs he depicts. –Camille Utterback


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