Hennessy Pratt 2012Hennessy, in promoting its launch of a limited edition V.S. bottle designed by renowned street artist Futura, partnered with Pratt Institute in a competition that challenged a select group of eight art and design students and recent graduates to produce work that illustrates the theme of the “Wild Rabbit,” or the inner drive that pushes people to the limits of their potential. The theme is intrinsic to the work of Futura and artists, designers, and thinkers at Pratt, and is one that aligns with the Hennessy mantra of “Never Stop. Never Settle.” Jeff Bellantoni, chair, Graduate Communications Design, served as the faculty advisor for the project.

The eight students and recent graduates who participated in the competition were mentored by Futura, a Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brooklyn-based graffiti and gallery artist and graphic and clothing designer who rose to fame in the early 1980s with Jean-Michel Baquiat, Richard Hambelton, Keith Haring, and Kenny Scharf. Futura is known as a pioneer of abstract street art, and has contributed work to various musical artists and groups including British punk rock band The Clash. Most recently, his artwork has evolved into the production of high-style collectible toys and sneakers as well as a diverse range of creative media.

“When Hennessy told me about the partnership with Pratt Institute I was beyond excited,” said Futura. “The opportunity to give back and mentor fellow artists, designers, and creators is truly invigorating,” he added.

The student whose work best exhibits the theme was selected by a distinguished jury at a private event held at Pratt's Manhattan Center on July 23. The winning participant received a cash award and an all-expenses paid trip to Paris for the launch of the Hennessy V.S. bottle by Futura. The top three participants will have their work displayed at launch events in Los Angeles (August 1), San Francisco (August 3), and Paris (October 22), and all student and recent graduate participants will have their work on view through Hennessy at www.Facebook.com/Hennessy and on www.neverstopneversettle.com.

Winner Michael Cook (B.F.A. Communications Design '12) was recognized for a mixed media piece that illustrates the “Wild Rabbit” theme through sculpture and video. The rabbit-shaped sculpture is made from recycled art and construction tools from Cook's studio that include squeegees, paint tubes, paintbrushes, ink jars, spray cans, spray caps, rulers, and paint stirrers as well as fabric onto which Cook screen-printed two distinct patterns. The video, which projects out of the sculpture, is a companion piece of live-action and stop-motion animation that depicts various art materials interacting with one another in an abstract way. A native of Ithaca, New York, Cook's passion is producing live-action and stop-motion animations and screen printing.

“To me, chasing my 'Wild Rabbit' means experimenting with new materials, repurposing and reimagining old ones, working with my hands, and creating art and design that isn't limited to one medium or category–all things I aspired to do while creating this work,” said Cook.

Felix Aarts (M.F.A. Painting '13) was recognized as first runner-up for Carry The Obscure Palm, which is a photo of an installation of six of his own paintings encased in a light-box of plexiglass. Aarts presents this work on the gallery floor, which emphasizes the uncomfortable hybrid space he inhabits as an artist and his attempt at realizing creative self-expression (his “Wild Rabbit”), Palm takes his traditional work as a painter to a new place, pushing his creative boundaries. Aarts uses traditional and non-traditional materials in his work to set up a reality that seems at first glance to confuse; the more time spent with the work, the more the viewer can be attracted or distracted by it. He is a native of The Netherlands.

Natalie Sims (M.F.A. Communications Design '12) was recognized as second-runner up for an unsusual hand-crocheted afghan rug made from 185 plastic bags that were collected over the course of a month and cut and strung together to create 1,300 yards of plastic yarn. She approached the project imagining the “Wild Rabbit” as an invisible force of obscure allure, endeavoring to materialize something that hides in plain sight. Sims, who was named a “Student to Watch” by Graphic Design USA in January 2012, is a native of Santa Barbara, California.

Additional participating student artists and designers included Jean Paul Gomez of Bogotá, Colombia (M.F.A. Photography '13); Sophie Hui-Ni of Taiwan (B.F.A. Communications Design '12); Macklen Mayse of Lenexa, Kansas (M.F.A. Painting and Drawing '13); Liz Seibert of Chelmsford, Massachusetts (M.F.A. Communications Design '13); and Jonathan Stanish aka Johnny Tragedy of Billings, Montana (M.F.A. Printmaking '13).

The jurors who selected the winners were Futura; Jeff Bellantoni, Chair, Graduate Communications Design; Harry Allen, Pratt Alumnus and Designer; Billy Paretti, VP of Marketing, Hennessy USA; and Jennifer Yu, Director of Communications, Hennessy USA.

Left image, starting from the left: judges Billy Paretti (Hennessy), Harry Allen (M.I.D. '95), and Jennifer Yu (Hennessy), with recent graduate Michael Cook and his winning work, competition mentor and judge Futura, and faculty advisor and judge Jeff Bellantoni. Right image: Cook's winning sculpture and video project. Credit: Rene Pérez.  
MEDIA CONTACT: Amy Aronoff at 718-636-3554 or aarono29@pratt.edu