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Art school looks like a lot of fun in the 90s

For Matthew Atkatz, the college photos he kept in a shoebox in his closet for years raised a koan-like question: “If they were sitting in a box,” he said. Atkatz, 46, says, “do they mean anything?”

They appear to do just that when displayed alongside hundreds of forgotten snapshots collected from other art students from the grunge years on an Instagram feed called Art School of the 90s.

Since last April, Mr. Atkatz, who graduated from the Rhode Island School of Design in 1997, has collected thousands of old snapshots and Polaroids from classmates from that era and brought to those digital artifacts. a new life in the digital era.

What started as a class meeting about the image of Mr. Atkatz and a few friends has evolved into an art project that explores how young artists document their lives and aspirations through photography in era before social media. The images have an unconscious quality.

With aesthetics at the heart of art students, the feed is a cartoon of Generation X fashion signs: flannel shirt, black eyeliner, bleach blonde, cropped shirt and baggy jeans. Mr. Atkatz, who currently runs a advertising company in Miami with his wife, Liz Marks. “When we go to see a show, we watch the band, instead of the screen,” he said. “There were more distinct tribes in the ’90s. In a way, I feel like social media has homogenized the culture.”

Paradoxically, of course, this pre-Instagram age visual contemplation was only possible thanks to Instagram. “It’s like we’ve spent a decade’s energy on images that no one has seen,” Mr. Atkatz said. “I’m interested in trying to create joy using that latent energy.”

While the feed only includes submissions from RISD alumni, for now, Mr. Atkatz plans to open it up to ’90s students from other art schools, with plans to host one an exhibition of paintings and a book.

However, even for those who did not attend RISD during those years, the feed still has anthropological value.

“Young people who were going to art school reached out to me and said, ‘Oh, thanks for sharing this – it was great to see what art school was like back then,’” Mr. Atkatz said. “I think young innovators enjoy that, just because the ’90s were such an exciting moment in history. It was a simple time.”

The ’90s may have been a simpler time in terms of technology, a fact underscored by the cathode-ray tube receivers and the first-generation Apple Macintosh computers where the photographs appeared. But those years could hardly have been a more innocent time, if all the pictures of schoolchildren drinking beer and smoking cigarettes were proof – not to mention. surfer crowd at club performances and semi-naked wrestling at underground warehouse parties.

In the process of eliminating thousands of entries, Mr. Atkatz emphasized ordinary low-resolution footage.

“Instead of images of art, or creating things in the studio, I focused on the parties, the nightlife and the behind-the-scenes shots of what life was like back then,” he says. “They feel much more outspoken than how people treat social media today.”

In that spirit, Atkatz declined a request to tag the person in the photo to Art School 90. He included only the name, in the caption, and even omitted the locations, “this,” he said. , “let photos be just about photos, instead of being an advertising platform”.

This is not to say that art students of the 90s are naive to the concept of self-marketing. “Young people today are trained to think of themselves as a brand, because of social media,” Mr. Atkatz said. “Warhol was probably the initiator of that, and we were all influenced by him in the ’90s. But I don’t know if the photographs were such an important piece of work.”

Even so, RISD students have learned about the visual arts, and are trained to develop an eye for subject, color and composition, which translates into their personal photography, says Whitney Bedford45 years old, a painter in Los Angeles, graduated in 1998, who has submit into the data feed. “It was an art school, so more than our teammates at Brown, we were camera people,” she said. “But there is no self-awareness of today. It’s about embracing the rhythm of life, not posture. “

In fact, poses were much more difficult to capture in those days, before smartphones, with their filters, cropping, and lighting effects, allowed people to take dozens of pictures in a single moment. when tweaking a single goalkeeper for public display.

Because film and processing are expensive, students often use inexpensive point-and-shoot or disposable cameras on special occasions, like parties, when thoughts about formal composition tend to be direction lost in the smoke of the Parliament Lights.

“And don’t forget,” said Mr. Atkatz, “you don’t even know what the damn picture will look like in two weeks. You take 24 pictures and then you hope some of them are good. And then you’ll get it back and there’ll be a good picture or two, and a bunch of trash. ”

This explains why so many photos on the feed are underexposed, overexposed, or framed as if the photographer was blindfolded. But that is the spirit of the business, as well as the times. “That crumb is good stuff,” Mr. Atkatz said.

https://www.nytimes.com/2022/02/03/style/art-school-instagram.html Art school looks like a lot of fun in the 90s

Fry Electronics Team

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