CalArts Show “Could Be Anything” But Really It’s Just More of the Drop Dead Gorgeous Same

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There’s a very endearing quality about the designers at CalArts. At their end of the year show, a place you’d think would be ground zero for getting a job, most didn’t seem to care much about working the room, dressing to impress, or even bothering to shower. This is still very much an art school, and even if they’re not actually starving artists, these students certainly love to play the role. Even the faculty takes pride in this. “Have you ever been here during the day?” Lorraine Wild asked us by way of explaining the school’s unique culture, while a guy dressed like Captain Morgan strolled into the gallery.

The title of the show–“It Could Be Anything“–was tinged with more than a hint of irony; when it comes to CalArts the work mostly all looks the same. This is not necessarily a bad thing. The excellence of the highly personal, hyper local and deliciously experimental stuff strung across two rooms can’t be denied; an exhibition that just opened in LA is made up exclusively of posters created by students during the past 20 years. Here, too, the posters were the stars, especially the impressive hand-silkscreened ones curling away from one wall.

But besides the posters, some books and a motion show, the most “real world” work up was a panel of (beautiful) corporate identity redesigns. There was no packaging, no branding, no products to be seen–stuff we’d really like to see some of those custom typefaces wrapped around. In fact, we only saw a handful of projects that produced anything besides the standard book or poster. Can’t magic be made with something besides paper or Flash?

Or maybe it doesn’t matter. The crowds were just starting to swell around 10pm, the time when normal folks out on a worknight head to bed. A puzzled parent turned to a student shuffling in the corner. “When does this thing end?” he asked. “This?” The student looked up. “Oh, it’s open all night long.” Of course. This is art school. Real world rules do not apply.