Exhibitions for newly minted MFA students are an annual affair at Mason Murer Fine Art. Never before, however, has owner Mark Karelson accorded a single student the primo spot directly opposite the entrance. You’ll understand why he’s done it now the minute you lay eyes on “Cash Crop,” the stunning installation by SCAD graduate Stephen Hayes.
The piece exerts a totemic impact, even from a distance. Arrayed in the large open space are 15 concrete life-size figures, each naked and manacled to a charred oblong wooden sculpture that looks, aptly, like a cross between a boat and a tombstone.
The shape is taken from the hull of the British slave ship “Brookes,” immortalized in the extant copies of its infamous floor plans, which diagram how the owners would shoehorn as many bodies as possible onto the deck (452) in the name of efficiency and profit.
Click here for more on “Cash Crop” and for the group show “Word: Language in Modern and Contemporary Art” at Peters Street Gallery in Castleberry Hill. The 30-some works there represent the spectrum of this capacious theme, encompassing folk artist Howard Finster’s sermons, Fereydoon Omidi’s calligraphic abstract paintings and plenty in between.