By Amy Cavanaugh

The Boston Museum of Fine Arts celebrates one of its art school alumni with Soft Structures, an exhibit of work by Jedediah Caesar that runs December 17 through April 3. Jen Mergel, senior curator of contemporary art for the Museum, recently spoke with about the show, Caesar’s art, and how showing work by School of the Museum of Fine Arts (SMFA) alumni helps current students.

“When I started at the Museum of Fine Arts in 2010, I was asked to propose an exhibit program for the newly renovated gallery space on the first level,” Mergel says. “There are two exhibits a year in that space; one is dedicated to the community arts initiative, which supports Boston area artists who work with grade school students. For the other half of the year, I proposed an exhibit series of work by alumni who have graduated in the past decade or so and who have begun to gain national and international attention for cutting edge work. They’re at the point of their careers when a solo exhibit at a major museum would be a significant step. At the same time it would bring some national and international recognition in the arts to Boston.”

Caesar, who graduated from the SMFA in 1998, also has an MFA from UCLA. He lives in Los Angeles, and has shown at the Hammer Museum in Los Angeles, Andrew Kreps Gallery in New York, and Hiromi Yoshii Gallery in Tokyo, among other places. Thanks to this resume, Mergel says she’s known Caesar’s work for years.

jedediahcaesar mfa2 Preview: Jedediah Caesar At MFA

Untitled, Jedediah Caesar (American, born 1973), 2011, Mixed media, Image courtesy of the Artist and Susanne Vielmetter Los Angeles Projects. (Photo Robert Wedmeyer. Courtesy Museum of Fine Arts, Boston)

“He has been doing great work in terms of developing himself as an artist, but you can see that his work is beginning to shift and change, which is an interest of mine,” she says. “Jed’s work is perfect for the MFA because it’s cutting edge, but also quite inviting and has so many layers of detail.”

Caesar’s signature style involves encasing found objects in clear or colored resin, and slicing them to see inside.

Mergel says that the show will involve one large resin block, which is filled with “debris and detritus from a road trip he made through California. He’s making a piece that could include up to 150 panels that will cover the walls of the gallery in different patterns.”

She adds that there will be a second set of resin pieces, as well as a freestanding sculpture that occupies space on the floor.

“Jed has a great acuity for looking at material and seeing potential abstract patterns in them,” Mergel says. “His pieces look like geodes, or fossils, or something left behind from Pompeii. He also did projects like collecting items from a road trip and embedding them in resin in the bed of a flatbed Toyota truck. He has an interest in how the debris and materials reflect social and even political patterns in society.”

jedediahcaesar mfa3 Preview: Jedediah Caesar At MFA

Gleaner Stone, Jedediah Caesar (American, born 1973), 2008, Urethane resin, mixed media, wood. Courtesy of Susanne Vielmetter Los Angeles Projects; Gleaner Stone was commissioned by LA><ART and The City of Culver City. (Courtesy Museum of Fine Arts, Boston)

“We chose the title since there are other types of sculpture besides solid totemic objects,” Mergel says. “Instead of solid or fixed, they’re more permeable and fluid. So the title is not about soft material, but about something being porous or see-through like sliced resin. It also gives an idea that there are soft structures like networks or systems behind the objects you see. The metaphor might be software instead of hardware.”

As part of the show, Caesar, who teaches in California, will be meeting with students in Boston.

“One of the most exciting parts for me is that a series like this would inspire current students or recent graduates,” Mergel says. “Maybe in 10 or 12 years those students will be able to come back here and show their work.”

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