UAM Exhibition Opening Saturday Explores Curation • Long Beach Post

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This Saturday, January 26, from 6PM to 8PM, the University Art Museum at Cal State Long Beach is hosting the opening reception for three new exhibitions. Chockablock, curated by Kristina Newhouse, explores the shift from ‘art as creation’ to ‘art as organization.’ Work by celebrated local dancer, Prumsodun Ok, is included in the show.


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I AM UAM is an on-going research project that explores the relationship between young adults and their experience of art. The exhibition encourages visitors to experience the data in a variety of ways, and participate in the search for meaning in it. Graphs, videos, and interactive components transform the exhibition into a laboratory where, according the UAM, they will “test new strategies for engaging our audience both on-site and in the community.”

The third exhibition, Significant Ordinaries, is curated by David De Boer, Eamonn Fox, and Mary Grace Sanchez, all students in the Curatorial Studies Graduate Program at CSULB.

“We have a portfolio of works organized by artist David Horvitz,” Fox explained. “He gifted 30 portfolios to various intstitutions around the world. The one we are exhibiting has works from 27 different artists and was checked out from the USC Helen Topping Architecture and Fine Arts Library.

“We have one of Jeffrey Vallance’s reliquaries, called Juliet’s Balcony, Verona 2006. This piece has the look of a religious (Christian) reliquary and has an anecdote about Valance’s trip to Italy. There is a small Louise Lawler photograph showing an interior space with a Frank Stella painting and other high-end looking furnishings. We have a William Leavitt installation- essentially a set built as you would for theater or film. Finally there is Mark Wyse’s book called Seizure, as well photographs from images in the book.”

All three curators bring a unique, strong, and clear voice to the process.

“My work as an artist has always been rooted in process,” De Boer said, “and, over the last few years and before I came to grad school, I was the co-owner of a not for profit gallery called RAID Projects in LA and organize a bunch of shows. When I came to CSULB to get my MFA, I quickly stared thinking about how I could use the curatorial process to create my own artwork, so I joined the the Museum Studies program too.

“I’ve been working on a project for the past year called “Treasures of a Collection” where I commissioned a painting fabrication company in China to make quintessential American landscape paintings. I created a character named JW Yardsworth III to act as the patron of the Chinese artist, named ‘Mr. Chen.’ As a collector, JW has had the opportunity to exhibit his ‘collection’ in a few different shows and recently JW ‘gifted’ his collection to another collector in Florida, this new collector is now in the process of gifting the ‘Treasures of a Collection’ collection to an institution. The hope is that work goes on to have a life of its own.

“JW made a video about his ‘collection,’ and continues to have correspondence with Michael, the collector in Florida. JW often writes Michael letters about what it means to be a collector. Michael has even sent JW a letter and a few paintings in the wake of their budding friendship”

“I was always interested in how curating shows could have a potential influence in those that view it,” Sanchez admitted. “I’m studying to be an art historian and I’ve always taken an interest in researching more about artists. I found curating a refreshing outlet to introduce artists I research to my audience.”

“I became interested in curating,” Fox explained, “because I found that it could be another creative outlet I could use besides making artwork. I was attracted to the idea that I could frame ideas in a slightly different way from the other artistic strategies I was using in performance and sculpture. Having a written component (press releases, essays) gave me yet another format to play around with.

“My work is all over the place, really. I like to present work with multiple meanings, often contradictory meanings within a single piece. So an example from my MFA thesis show would be a sculpture made out of a stack of very colorful bean bags. It was based on a Martin Creed sculpture of black bean bags stacked vertically. The idea was to make a formally oriented sculpture but to make the slightest gesture possible -basically just changing the color of an existing sculpture by someone way more famous than myself, and to swap out my aesthetic for Creed’s. I was really trying to work through ideas of appropriation and collaboration.

“For my practice as a whole, and the latest performance stuff, I am starting to go in a really instinctual direction, focusing on ideas of ‘expressivity’ and emotion. I’m trying to move away from making work based around historically rooted issues like appropriation and authorship. I’ve been doing cover songs that are relevant to my personal life, and trying to see if the audience will engage in sincere way-playing with the space between sincerity and not being sincere.”

It should come as no surprise that the three would connect with the now- legendary career retrospective of Thomas Kinkade, curated by Jeffrey Vallance, presented at the Grand Central Art Center back in 2006.

“We loved that concept of his use of the curatorial act as process for making art,” De Boer said. “Someone [Susan Orlean – ed] bet Thomas Kinkade that there would never be major exhibition of his work. The folks at Grand Central Art Center took that as a challenge and asked Vallance to curate the show. Kinkade somehow agreed to this.

“In doing this show, Vallance really pushed the limits of what it means to curate because his own practice is rooted in this process where he develops narrative around objects. The beauty of the Kinkade retrospective was that it was nearly impossible to tell if Vallance was sincerely curating a show of Kindades work or if this project was an artwork by Jeffrey Vallance.

“A lot of critics thought Vallance was poking fun at Kinkade – that maybe he was bringing to light the kitsch aspect of Kinkade collectibles and making a larger comment about the American consumerism. I don’t think Vallance has ever agreed to this viewpoint.”

The three had the opportunity to work with Vallance during the planning of the exhibition.

“He’s been very generous with his time,” Fox said, “and him agreeing to work with us was huge. The whole process started with Vallance. After Kinkaide’s death last year, we had to come up with solutions to keep the show going. He was very flexible and offered up a collaborative project with another artist named Reverand Ethan Acres, but that fell through.”

All three have found the experience of working directly with Vallance to be transformative.

“Honestly, it was mind blowing,” Sanchez admitted. “It was more than just having full access to his time and thoughts. It was witnessing his down- to-earth and humorous personality that gave his works greater meaning. Studying art history and artists that have that much impact on the art world from a book doesn’t give you that experience.

“The relationship a curator has with an artist is also very different than a relationship an art historian has with an artist, so obviously this changed the way I study, converse, and communicate with artists and their art.”

Their study of the Kinkade retrospective, and their experience with Vallance, helped to shape the current exhibition.

“We were very critical toward our own process as curators,” De Boer said, “which made us look at artists who curate. Can curating be its own process from artists point of view? We wanted to create questions about what it means to curate.

“Not to get too deep, here, but I like the idea that an artist can operate within an institution such as a museum and question their process – be critical and engaging at the same time. Curating really allows this.”

“In respect to this exhibition,” Fox explained, “the question we really tried to deal with was how artists use the sort of ‘meta’ technique of importing other material, concepts, and artworks into their own process in order to point to issues they are dealing with. Curating is something that seems to be on everyone’s mind at the moment. I think it was important for us to go through this process, to learn by doing, and to learn those lessons by working through the artist’s ideas, and processes.”

“Theres this notion out there that everyone is a curator,” De Boer opined. “Via blogging or shopping, any sort of selecting can be thought of as a curatorial act. I like the thinking of that notion but at the root of what curating actually means is the idea that one is to ‘take care of something. I think it’s often used as a buzzword these days, that gets used in jest.

“People like using the word because it implies value to what they are doing, whether its blogging, setting up a retail shop or whatever type of organizing they are doing. Good curating definitely lets work do the talking. I don’t think that creating a ‘meta-experience’ is the roll of all curators. Curating can be done in so many ways and be successful.”

Jeffrey Valance will  share a Visiting Artist Lecture on Wednesday, February 6, 2013 from 5:00 pm – 6:30 pm pm in the UAM. 

All three exhibitions run through April 14th. The museum is open Tuesday and Wednesday from 12 to 5 PM, on Thursday from 12 to 8 PM, and Friday through Sunday from 12 to 5 PM. Admission is $4, and free for UAM members and CSULB students. A parking permit is required at all times, except in metered spots.

For more information about these and other UAM exhibitions, visit CSULB.edu/UAM.

To learn more about David De Boer’s work, including Treasures of a Collection, visit DavidMichaelDeBoer.com. 

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