New York Academy of Art, continued

Students at the Academy's Graduate School of Figurative Art undertake a rigorous two-year full-time or five-year part-time curriculum that is highly structured. All are required to study cast, anatomical, perspectival and figure drawing, as well as painting, sculpture, artistic anatomy and art history, and all spend many hours working directly from the model, both in the classroom and in their studios. They attend lectures hosted by the Academy in which a wide range of artists, such as George Segal, Gregory Gillespie, Mark Tansey, Wolf Kahn and Paul Cadmus, speak about their own work as well as about the challenges faced by contemporary artists.

As students progress, they grapple with increasingly difficult artistic problems. In their final year, they select a faculty member who advises them as they work throughout the year to complete diploma projects. These paintings, drawings or sculptures, which are shown at the Academy in an annual group exhibition, are intended as the principal means by which students make the transition from classroom and studio exercises to fully developed artwork which deals with the human figure. Artists and art patrons from throughout New York City, as well as family and friends from all over the world, visit this exhibition and, in many instances, purchase graduates' work.

In addition to teaching, many Academy alumni become professional figurative artists. A number are represented in New York City by leading galleries such as the Bridgewater/Lustberg Gallery and the Forum Gallery, and others have gallery affiliations in other U.S. cities or abroad. In recent years, Academy graduates have had solo exhibitions throughout the U.S. and in Canada, England, France, Italy, Switzerland, Norway, Mexico, Korea and Japan. They have received commissions to sculpt public works, paint portraits and paint murals for public and private sites. They have been awarded numerous grants and prizes from foundations, museums and arts organizations. Several have been the subject of magazine profiles.

"The school has become a very important force in American art education," according to David C. Levy, president and director of the Corcoran Gallery of Art, which includes the Corcoran School of Art, and former dean of Parsons School of Design. "It has somehow become widely known, and there's enough debate, knowledge and dialogue that I think over the next decade it will become one of the important forces in changing the approach and curricula of undergraduate art schools."

The mission of the Academy is to enable students to gain the knowledge they'll need to achieve their goals as representational artists. Rather than painting or drawing or sculpting in ways that point to their ignorance of traditional methods and materials, Academy graduates are able to choose from a full array of options, which include both classical and contemporary approaches to figuration. As Levy puts it, "The goal is not to make French nineteenth-century academic painting. The goal is to have those skills and apply them to new imagery."

The Academy's diverse faculty strives to represent a wide spectrum of issues related to contemporary representational art. "The promise that we make to our students," says faculty member Vincent Desiderio, "is that we can provide a solid basis for depicting the human form in painting, sculpture and drawing. Along with this comes a tremendous responsibility on our part to recognize and describe the variety of structural modes of figuration that have existed historically and which continue to be generated today." This commitment to understanding the complex nature of the human form and its relationship to the creation of vital contemporary art remains the central focus of instruction at the Academy.


Editor's note:

More information about the New York Academy of Art may be obtained by writing to the Academy at 111 Franklin Street, New York, NY 10013, phoning (212) 966-0300, faxing (212) 966-3217, e-mailing or visiting the Academy's website at

From top to bottom: Amy Faris, 1995; Richard Combes, 1995; Izabella Orzelski, 1998; Michael Stasinos, 1996; Nasir Razzik, 1995; Jose De Jesus, 1995.

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