Intern Insights: Summer at NAD

Young Art Enthusiasts

The National Academy of Design is pleased to give our summer interns the opportunity to see exhibitions of their choosing. Below you can learn about our interns and the art and ideas that inspire them. 

 Alison (Ally) Koumantzelis Pappalardo

Alison (Ally) Koumantzelis Pappalardo

I grew up in Mendham, a small town in New Jersey. I am now a rising junior at the University of Miami, studying fine arts, public health, and medical anthropology. I hope to eventually pursue my passion for public health and anthropology by joining the Peace Corps. However, right now the focus of my studies is around the fine arts, specifically graphic design and art history. My interest in the art world is what drew me to the National Academy this summer. I thought it would be a wonderful opportunity to learn the ins and outs of a non-profit within the art industry. I was also attracted to the National Academy because of the opportunity to research and learn about such a wide array of American artists, expanding my knowledge of art history. Along with being a great summer experience, this internship also gives me the chance to get an idea of what I truly want to do after college. 

The Susanna Coffey: Crimes of the Gods at Steven Harvey Fine Arts Projects exhibition seems to combine two very different sets of work, one being a selection of woodcuts on rice paper from her artist’s book, The Homeric Hymn to Demeter and the other being a selection of self-portraits. The woodcuts are primarily black with cut, white lines and shapes, revealing illustrations of the Greek narrative, The Homeric Hymn to Demeter. While these works were inspired by myths, Coffey’s set of self-portraits seem to tell a different story.

Coffey created her woodcuts back in the 1980’s but when looking at them next to her self-portraits, she realized that her work had come full circle, she had “a tale and its teller.” Coffey’s exhibition aims to tell a story that isn’t completely hers, she wants her art to speak for the mother’s defending their daughters, for the innocents and the skeptics, for those crying out against the crimes of gender. Her exhibition is rooted in the notion that her art is intertwined with the lessons within The Homeric Hymn to Demeter.

The woodcuts illustrate the stories told in The Homeric Hymn to Demeter, stories that capture the “criminal behavior of patriarchs” according to Coffey. The woodcuts are intriguing to me because they have just enough detail to understand what the overarching theme of the art is, but not enough detail to take away the ability to make an interpretation of your own. The woodcuts are meant to tell the story of these myths and I think Coffey takes it one step further by creating this mythical feel to the woodcuts, a sense you get without yet knowing the story they tell.

I think you can tell Coffey’s interest in myth through her self-portraits as well. Although the two sets of art look different at first, the self-portraits also have a mystical nature to them. The part of the painting of Coffey’s face stands out and I think you can feel the emotions shown on her face. At the same time, in most of the portraits, I think it also makes you feel like you are in a dream state, with the portrait fading into a background of large brushstrokes, an array of colors, often forming an unrecognizable shape around Coffey’s head.

I felt like I could stand there for hours looking at her portraits, trying to understand how intricate her face could be at times and how, at others, it could lack so much detail, but either way you could feel the emotion on her face. I also found myself fixated on how her face blended so perfectly with the abstract background. The colors she chooses, along with her unique brushstrokes, set her self-portraits apart from most others I’ve seen.

I also think her self-portraits are interesting because she makes no attempt to follow the guidelines of what is usually associated with portraits of women. She feels no need to flatter her face or make herself out to fit under society’s understanding of what is beautiful. This makes sense because Coffey was inspired by the #MeToo movement and intended to join the “chorus of young women and ancient Greek voices” protesting crimes of gender.

Understanding Coffey’s thought process behind setting up this exhibition is essential to understanding why she put these two seemingly different works of art together.  I think it’s amazing how she was able to bring these pieces together and combine her artistic thoughts with her thoughts about the world.


 Léa Miranda

Léa Miranda

Léa Miranda is a French student living in New York for the summer. She has an International Law degree from La Sorbonne University in Paris, France, and has attended classes of History of Art at the School of the Louvre Museum. In her desire to combine her different skills, Léa is now studying Management of Cultural Heritage as part of her MA. In this context, she is carrying out a research project focused on the circulation of artworks between France and the United States of America during the Cold War under the supervision of Sophie Cras, Assistant Professor of Art History at La Sorbonne University. Last year, she interned at the MAC VAL, a Museum Specializing in French Contemporary Art in Paris. She is currently a summer intern at the National Academy of Design in New York and a research assistant for Maura Reilly, curator, writer, and Executive Director of the NAD.

Donna Dennis: Ship and Dock/Nights and Days or The Gazer
May 31 – June 30, 2018 | Lesley Heller, New York City

Donna Dennis is an American artist, best known for her complex sculptural installations with sounds. Including one of her new installations and related gouache paintings on paper, this exhibition at the Lesley Heller Gallery opens a door to an immersive and poetic world —an expanded experience that disrupts our ideas of space and time.

The exhibition starts with the artist’s gouache on paper works representing water landscapes and focusing on the variation of the light and the moment of the day it is referring to. By showing us the recurring elements that she uses (boat, ship and dock, starry sky), these paintings offer a foretaste of the artist’s universe. Using black, grey, smoky blue and tints of white, Donna Dennis depicts a dreamy and smooth world which led to her introducing the “Ship and Dock/Nights and Days or The Gazer” (2018) installation.

Entering in a dark room, you are invited to sit on a bench against a wall drilled by small holes which recreate a starlit sky. This pattern is also used for the gouache paintings on paper seen at the entrance of the exhibition, making a marriage between the three-dimensional installation work and the two-dimensional paper works. The black curtains obstruct the light and isolate you from the outside, making it necessary for you to confront this mixed media assemblage. A video loop alternates days and nights by a slow and almost imperceptible evolution of light, in an immersive landscape background. The soundtrack is composed of sounds of water, boats and unknown noises which seem to come from the structure, in front of the video. By the dints created by shadows, we can guess that the framework is composed of a dock with two sheds. One of them, at the left of the installation, exudes an orangey-yellowish light –mysterious but not too intense, not to monopolize the attention of the viewer. The other shed, further from the viewer, is slightly elevated and facing left to create an impression of depth. The structure is actually made of wood, corrugated metal and rubber. Donna Dennis creates this installation in her studio in New York and recreates it for this exhibition at the Lesley Heller Gallery. By controlling the conditions under which the viewer experiences this installation, the artist invites you to contemplate the landscape and to lose notion of time. This procedure has already been used by Marcel Duchamp in “Étant donnés” (1946-1966), a small room with a locked wooden door where you can see through a peephole a landscape with a naked female figure. The video of this mixed media installation lasts 4.30 minutes, but the gallerist said it wasn’t rare that viewers stayed longer to enjoy a timeless moment, due to the immersive power of this overall installation.


Off the Wall on the Boundary of Painting + Sculpture
June 15 – July 27, 2018 | Locks Gallery, Philadelphia

By: Léa Miranda

Including works by artists who have mounted critical solo exhibitions like the Academicians Richard Artschwager, Jennifer Bartlett, Lynda Benglis, Robert Rauschenberg, Joel Shapiro, and Frank Stella, the Locks Gallery challenges our preconceived ideas about artwork to present a sophisticated and refreshing exhibition.

Some of the artists are best known for their paintings, other ones for their sculptures or for their installations, but the Gallery chooses to focus on the contemporary tendency that was seeded in the late 1950s but continues to the present, which has decided to drop the partition between painting and sculpture and to focus on the first nature of the objects: works of art.

The exhibition starts with a work from Joel Shapiro, who is well known for his sculptures and their position and proximity with the viewer. In his recent investigations of the expressive possibility of form and color in space, he suspends painted wooden elements from the ceiling, wall, and floor, exploring the projection of thought into space without the constraint of architecture. “Untitled” (1987-1988), a bronze with gold patina work hanging on the wall falls within the artist’s latest work.

Frank Stella on his part is using geometric patterns and shapes to create both paintings and sculptures. With “Anecdote from the Recent War” (1999) and “A Passage from the Higher Criticism” (1999), two mixed media on cast aluminum works, he wants to show the painting’s physical parameters rather than the illusion of space contained within it. To create these works, he used collages and maquettes that were then enlarged and recreated with the aid of assistants, industrial metal cutters, and digital technologies. The artist started to utilize this technique in the mid-1980s, when he created a large body of work that responded in a general way to Herman Melville’s Moby Dick.

Furthermore, “Contrapposto” (2017) by Lynda Benglis is a handmade paper over chicken wire painted with acrylic, which distorts traditional rectilinear painted planes as well as the sculptural tradition of casting as it extends out and away from its origin. This artwork was made in the context of “Post Minimalism,” a notion used for the first time by the art critic and historian Robert Pincus-Witten in 1971 to describe Eva Hesse works. While capturing the Minimalist heritage, the Post Minimalist artists depart from it by creating art objects that do not have the representational function of traditional sculpture, objects that are abstract, anonymous in appearance, and have a strong material presence. To a certain extent, they reacted against the earlier movement's impersonality, trying to invest sculpture once again with emotionally expressive qualities. 

Some people may ask “Is it a painting or sculpture?” Earlier in the century, Alberto Giacometti made fun of those distinctions by calling one of his paintings “Sculpture” (1927) and creating an ambiguity between the subject represented and the object. The important point here is the intention of the artists who are consistently interested in dissolving the preexisting distinctions used to classify works of art, and to go beyond them.

Jennifer Bartlett is an artist whose paintings, drawings and prints combine abstraction and representation. “I think of bringing the image out, pushing it down, bringing it out, pushing it down,” she said in an interview with Hillary M. Sheets from the New York Times on the occasion of her retrospective at the Parish Museum of Art in 2013. It is exactly what she did with “Fire / Three Cones” (1989), an oil on canvas representing a fire and three grey cones, that she takes out of the painting and duplicates in sculptures. Placed in the exact same position, the three sculptural cone elements seem to emerge directly from the painting and create an uncanny variation of layouts between the two-dimensional oil on canvas work and the three-dimensional cones, in a kind of augmented reality.

Robert Rauschenberg’s work is about establishing a dialogue between mediums, between handmade and readymade, between the gestural brushstroke and the mechanically reproduced image. In “Pegasits/ROCI USA (Wax Fire Works)” (1990), the artist introduces different unexpected elements between the art work and the viewer and outstrips the rigidity of the framework. By using acrylic and fire wax to reproduce images, wood patterns, bottles and texts from newspapers – elements that can be found in his landmark series of Combines (1954-1964) – he creates an impression of depth, due to the stainless steel used as a canvas. Moreover, he includes a chair arranged horizontally on the top of the work to break with the classical flattened frame. It is painted in the same silvery color as the printed image on the stainless steel, and it easily merges with the other mediums of the work to create a coherent and balanced set. The viewer is free to interact with the artwork by playing with his reflection on the untouched mirrored metal part of this Dada-inspired assemblage.

The thematic narrative of the exhibition continues through the notion of deformation that artists use to alter the viewers’ standards. This is what David Row has recourse to, to produce “Depth Grammar” (2017), an artwork made with three panels forming a hexagonal canvas, on which there is a yellowish-ochre cross on a black background. By pushing the boundaries of the traditional media distinctions and using irregularly shaped canvases and rich colors, the artist questions our a priori and celebrates the canvas in all ways.

Moreover Richard Artschwager is using the intersecting gallery walls to create a form within a right-angled corner to present his peculiar construction “Untitled (Splatter, Desk, Chair, Typewriter)” (1997). He causes a confusion by playing with shapes, materials and colors: on a wood panel base, the artist partly preserves the raw material, while partly covering it with formica and aluminum, and partly paints it to reproduce the wood pattern and create a trompe l’oeil, in a kind of postmodern use of the Greek and Roman technique from the Baroque period.

With Off the Wall, the Gallery takes a side, discusses and challenges our tendency to classify artists by the nature of their works. While continuing to explore this postmodern dissolution of usual media distinctions, the exhibition offers an idiosyncratic snapshot of a dissident contemporary movement, in agreement with the intention of the Locks Gallery to combine fresh perspectives of the 20th century in contemporary art.


 Nathale Annete Nicoletti

Nathale Annete Nicoletti

Nathale Nicoletti is from Sorocaba, Brazil where she is in her second year studying Architecture and Urbanism at Universidade de Sorocaba (Uniso). Nathale received her International Baccalaureate from Rossall School in the United Kingdom. She also completed the Intro to Architecture program at Columbia University’s Graduate School of Architecture, Planning and Preservation in New York. Nathale’s interests in architecture and art history brought her to the National Academy of Design this summer. An avid traveler, Nathale has visited countries on five continents, always looking for inspiration and knowledge from around the world.

Sue Coe: Graphic Resistance
MoMA PS1 | Through September 9

"Graphic Resistance," is an exhibition by English artist and illustrator Sue Coe. Her works are mainly drawings and printmaking using the form of illustrated books and comics. The strong content of the whole exhibition creates a big impact on the audience. Her work shows art as a protest — political activism — where she highlights issues like sexism, racism, economic inequality, xenophobia but mainly animal cruelty. She has a focus on the right of marginalized peoples and criticizes capitalism.

You are able to find selections of drawings, prints, large-scale collages and some of her notes where we can try to understand how she felt about all of our past society and present. Her works are reminiscent of Francisco Goya and theModern Art Week” of 1922 in the way she shows the injustices and abuses of power of our society. 

Regarding the work Woman Walks into the bar – Is Raped by Four Men on the Pool Table – While 20 Watch, 1983, her first attempt of this mixed media picture was in a smaller scale that she published in a newspaper; the drawing was censored, focusing only on the woman, where we couldn’t see the violence of the men towards the woman. Because of that, she made this huge version so nobody would have any questions about it. There are a lot of details, where you can find phrases and a newspaper headline, allowing one to understand everything that is happening in the picture. All women could be that woman.

To make a bigger impact, the colors that she normally uses are dark tones, such as dark green, black, dark red and others. She is trying to call her audience to action — we have to change the way we live in this society — what will remain if we continue like this? When you get into the exhibition it is hard to not feel overwhelmed, bringing on feelings of disgust and sadness. 

Art is an important political tool, not only because it is a reflection of the current culture of its time, but also has the power to provide a range of representations of the various issues at hand, whether of the marginalized sectors of a society or of the population against the arbitrariness of the state that governs it. Seeing art as a materialization of culture, we can consider that, like culture, art has some widely debated functions, both as a mode of entertainment and as a reproduction of the traditions of a people.