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  • Saturday, February 4 - Thursday, March 2

  • Reception: Monday, February 6
    6:00 – 8:00pm

  • SVA Gramercy Gallery, 209 East 23rd Street, Lobby, New York, NY

  • Free and open to the public

MFA Illustration as Visual Essay presents "A Report to the Academy," an exhibition of student work based on the short story by Franz Kafka, curated by department faculty member and alumnus Viktor Koen (MFA 1992 Illustration as Visual Essay).

Kafka’s “A Report to the Academy,” written and published in 1917, is the story of Red Peter, an ape who learned to behave like a human, presenting his transformation to an academy. It was likely inspired by the work of American psychologist Lightner Witmer, who in 1909 staged a widely publicized test of the mental abilities of a vaudeville chimp named Peter, demonstrated to a scientific panel. This parable about man and animal functioned as the thematic springboard for the MFA program's students to develop structured bodies of images without limitation in concept, medium or form. 

Topics explored in the works on view include multiple contemporary issues, such as animal rights, the quest for humanity, evolutionary theories, loss of identity, the psychology of learned and pretend behaviors, personal transformation and criticism of academic establishments.

The artists' approaches include projects of literal interpretation; theatrical adaptations, with studies for characters, costumes and sets; posters representing the significance of the story's publication year, 1917; drawings on the maltreatment of animals in captivity, whether for work or entertainment purposes; fashion-inspired snapshots of domestication; science-fiction interpretations of journeys to conformity; burlesque performance murals; portraits of people who differ but are forced to struggle to fit within established definitions of normalcy; posters addressing basic story themes using peculiar humorous approaches; manuals on how to be human; printmaking; comics; graphic novels; pop-up books; and toys.

SVA Gramercy Gallery

209 East 23rd Street »


Tel: 212.592.2145


Open Monday through Friday 9am – 7pm, Saturday 10am – 6pm. Closed Sunday and federal holidays. It is fully accessible by wheelchair.

School of Visual Arts | 209 East 23 Street, NY, NY 10010-3994 | Tel: 212.592.2000 | Fax: 212.725.3587