Wednesday, February 19, 2020

Christine Oatman at the Athenaeum Music and Arts Library, La Jolla

by Patricia Frischer

Lift Off! - Our race into space.

Christine Oatman's Stories of Innocence and Experience: Altered Mid-20th Century Children's Books in Pedagogic Tableaux at the Clayes Gallery  from Jan 11 to  March 7 at the Athenaeum Music and Arts Library is a show that can fool you at first glance into thinking it is nostalgic but then it overwhelms you.  At first you see a bunch of 1950's elementary school classroom displays. But what you discover is a dozen tableaux that speak of a multitude of today's concerns. 

There are many components to this creation by Christine Oatman. There are amazing altered books. There are life size cut outs of children who are rendered by Anne Reas  (a further display of her work in the Rotunda Gallery). There are additional books and memorabilia from this bygone era.There is also a sound tape in the background giving further hints of the subject matter. Each set piece is built up of all these elements making it complex and layered. For example, notice that each figure is about to have a mishap; a child is wrapped up in a fire hose, one is about to fall off a chair, another off a piles of books, one could slip on a banana peel, be bitten by a rat, be hit by a ball or is suffering from polio. Each of the many altered books needs full attention as they morph from bedtime story to nightmare. 

I only spent a couple of hours at the show and felt I had barely tapped the visual communication.  The lengthy introduction in the extremely well produced book that goes with the show is by Robert Pincus and delivers great insight.  A team of collaborators helped Oatman to construct these scene between 2009 and 2018. She is a local artist with an impressive track record. 

Anne Reas . A duck and cover little girl from the Distraction tableaux. There is also a boy scout waiting for the time to pass and the ghost of an African American boy, just barely allowed to be educated.  See the video below.

Animal Friends - Represents both animals in cages, children in playground and most currently the children taken from their families at the border crossings. 

Anne Reas 

This Thing of Darkness - References Shakespeare, William Blank and Dr. Seuss.

Anne Reas 

Heroes - The chronological loss of innocence

Anne Reas 

Subtraction - Each of the books has a lift up tab depicting an endangered animal. The chairs are in various stages of destruction and one of the balls is about to drop on this children's head.

Rachel's Easel - The subject is pollution.  The painting smock is a lead apron and the children is a cripple. 

Time is the School - 9/11 at the world trade center. This is the child, smiling but tied up in a fire hose.  

Tuesday, February 11, 2020

Oceanside Museum of Art: Sidewalk Activism, Griselda Rosas: Regata Abscisa, Artist Alliance 2019 Biennial

by Patricia Frischer


Sidewalk ActivismUntil June 21, 2020
This dynamic show curated By Dr. G. James Daichendt captures you immediately with large scale powerful images. Taking art off the streets and putting it a museum validates it as art, It is actually serving its higher purpose when it is on the street communicating in the environment it was made for, but wow, I loved the chance to see these works up close. The Curator  is a professor of art history at Point Loma Nazarene University. Daichendt has written several books on street art and graffiti including biographies featuring Shepard Fairey, Kenny Scharf, and an upcoming 2020 publication featuring Robbie Conal. He has been dubbed Professor Street Art and regularly writes art criticism for several local and national publications. View Daichendt’s TEDx Talk on street art here.

Mike Giant, Shoot Back, Original created in 2017, recreated in the Sidewalk Activism exhibition in 2020. Permanent marker, 102” x 106”.

Shepard Fairey, Noise & Lies2020, Paint and screen print on paper
Courtesy of Shepard Fairey /  120” x 190”.


Robbie Conal, The Cabinet of Horrors, 2017-2019. Oil and acrylic paint on archival illustration board.

Chris Konecki and Carly Ealey, Drop in the Ocean, Created for the Sidewalk Activism exhibition in 2020. House paint, spray paint, and wood, 144” x 200”.

Plastic Jesus, American Excess, created for the Sidewalk Activism exhibition in 2020. Mixed media, 48” x 48” x 96”.

Gregory Auerbach, Street Signs, 2020. Spray paint on aluminum, 18” x 12” each.

Griselda Rosas: Regata Abscisa - Until May 24, 2020
This installation  was inspired by the novel Into the Beautiful North by Luis Alberto Urrea, Oceanside Public Library’s Big Read selection. The book is about lots of the issues that Rosas uses all the time in her art including colonialism and cross border migration. In Spanish, “Regata” means a water channel that hits a wall and what I see is blackened walls with the shape of a mass of water hitting the surface. Three large chunky shapes (maybe landmasses)  and connecting lines could represent the journey that happens in the book. The small tapestry work  is full of masses of textures and techniques with abstracted human shapes and landscapes  in wonderful colors. 

Griselda Rosas

Griselda Rosas

Artist Alliance 2019 Biennial - Until May 31, 2020
Juried By Bob Pincus and Maria Mingalone
This is the fourth biennial juried Artist Alliance members’ exhibition and the level of art just keeps getting higher and higher.  This museum is unique in that an integral part of OMA’s mission is supporting local and regional artists.
This exhibition features work by Dan Adams, Basia Aroyo, Antonios Aspromourgos, Warren Bakley, Suzanne Beckstrom, Neil Brooks, Diana Carey, Sandra Chanis, Emanuel Dale, Sue Dewulf, Ellen Dieter, Juan Flores, Kat Flyn, Martita Foss, Susan French, Will Gibson, John Groff, Becky Guttin, Holli Harmon, James Kendall Higgins, Kate Joiner, Bianca Juarez, Kathleen Kane-Murrell, Susan Kogan, Kurt Lightfoot, John Linthurst, Cathy Locke, Susan Lyon, Michael Maas, Dan Mcstocker, Mercedes, Andrew Meyers, Donald Mohr, Michelle Moore, Allan Morrow, Annalise Neil, Annie Omens, Kelsey Overstreet, George Papciak, Brigid Parsons, Alison Haley Paul, Carol Perry, Ilona Peteris, Ana Phelps, Ernie Pick, Karrie Ross, Catherine Ruane, Doriana Sinnett, Michael Sitaras, Cheryl Sorg, Daniel Streck, Patricia Prescott Sueme, Jane Szabo, Tokeli, Michael Ward, Brady Willmott, and Danielle Zhang.

Brady Willmott ( Jean Lowe and Kim MacConnel

Dan Adams

Dan Adams

Cheryl Sorg

Michael Sitaras

Brady Willmott

Susan Kogan

Dan Mcstocker (these are glass!)

Friday, February 7, 2020

Illumination: 21st Century Interactions with Art + Science + Technology at the San Diego Art Institute

By Patricia Frischer

William Feeney detail of the inside out view of a shark

Illumination: 21st Century Interactions with Art + Science + Technology at the San Diego Art Institute (1439 EL Prado, SD 92101) from Feb 8 to May 3, 2020. Curated by Chi Essary. More info: Jacqueline Silverman  619.236.0011 FREE ADMISSION, Tuesday- Sunday 12-5pm

This is a very large and complicated exhibition but curator Chi Essary has ambitions which are worthy.  The works in this show have depth because at least 16 of the artists were matched with a scientist and got to experience that scientist's work from anywhere from a few hours to three days. The pairs set their own schedules but this is still a very short time to expect much sharing and most of the exchange was a one way street with the artist learning about the science. That was why it was refreshing to read the quote from Ben Frable from Scripps Institution of Oceanography, The artist William Feeney "...really pushed my knowledge of internal anatomy to the limit, especially when thinking about how it would look inverted."  The artists were all stimulated by the work of the scientists, but for me, having the scientists recognize the role of art in creative exploration is what helps give value to the world of art. Turning ideas upside down and inside out is the daily job of artists. 

But even through the artists are mainly illustrating what they have learned, they are also letting the new knowledge inform their own work.  We can still see their own styles and themes but with an added layer of complexity. 

I think it is worth recording the curator Chi Essary's statement about the exhibition. "Whether it is climate change, drug addiction or comprehending life on a scale never imagined, the topics and themes touched on here affect us all. It is my hope that by seeing science through the eyes of the artist we are able to shift our focus outside of our personal worlds and consider novel ways we can impact each other and the planet. The science and art of the artists and scientists I paired for the exhibition should leave you with more questions than answers and with a deeper sense of awe for human determination."

It might help some of you to notice that the show is divided into three sections: Global Health and Discovery, Climate Change and Sustainability, and Technology and the Touch Screen. But I found that most important in the sound work of John Burnett. For Health we hear sounds of the heart and then the irregular sounds of things gone wrong. For Climate Change there are the sounds of nature and then the sounds of man and machine and finally in Technology we hear digital sounds. This is work by one of the ten other  artists added to the show who were not matched by Essary. 

There are seven major research institutions involved in this exhibition: La Jolla Institute of Immunology, Qualcomm Institute/CalIT2, Salk Institute, Sanford Burnham Prebys Medical Discovery Institute, Scripps Institute of Oceanography, The Scripps Research Institute, and UCSD. 

Bhavna Mehta - The large hand cut paper reproduction of a cross section of a spinal cord affected by polio is astonishing in it scale and detail. Mehta herself has this disease and she gives us a code for each color and an x-ray of a spine with an embellished embroidery bird. 

Bhavna Metha detail

Bhavna Metha

Bhavna Metha

Griselda Rosas felt her scientist was her sole mate. Synesthesia is the condition in which one sense is perceived by another sense simultaneously. For example, some people can smell numbers or they hear food. V. S. Ramachandran (who I have heard lecture about the phantom limb syndromes in the Art and Science Forums at the Salk Institute) is also interested in post colonial legacies which is one of Rosas main art themes. Broad interest and uncommon association can be seen in all of her works.   

Griselda Rosas detail

Dia Bessett - the microbiome of the gastro-intestine have a symbiotic relationship and for a pregnant Bessett these were important areas for the strength of her baby. 

Dia Bessett detail

Dia Bessett detail

Ann Mudge - A strand of DNA is about 2 meters long and Mudge takes that length of steel wire and folds and twists it to represent the nucleus of a genome. Her medium and her interest in geometry makes her art a true reflection of her conversations with Ferhat Ay who works for La Jolla Institute of Immunology on the genome architecture in a field called bioinformatics. 

Ann Mudge

Belize Iristay - Deaf people who learn sign language as children acquire this skill like native speakers. Iristay has used her own children hands to sign this clay wall.The reverse is covered with her very own visual language.  Imagine if we all became fluent in visual art as children!

Cy Kuckenbaker created a short video of a cell dividing and it is displayed with the DNA sequence of the 22nd or 23 genomes of our body.  The wall paper is duplicated images of the scientist at work. This displays a pure astonishment of the vast amount of work and details that are involved in research. 

Sheena Rae Dowling is illustrating the way the brain electricity functions. But when an addictive substance is added all the other functions are hijacked to serve that need. In this instance all the lights go RED.

Becky Guttin - Alzheimer's Disease is one which dirties up the relevant brain cells. Guttin has chosen to make a metaphor for this with aluminum plates once used in the printing process, which she has crushed into all different sizes of squarish shapes. These represent lost words and the aluminum wrapped branch tip represent the disease as it progresses. 

Becky Guttin

Becky Guttin detail

Margaret Noble had the great honor of working with Matthias von Herrath who said,"Science is considered to be based on facts, flawlessly rational and logical, where hypotheses are either independently verified or refuted by evidence. Yet some ideas can become so entrenched that they effectively turn into articles of faith and stall progress." Noble takes these idea of dogma and translates them into a game of chance. 

Justin Manor - A billion of these digital circuits can fit on your fingernail. Imagine when something goes wrong and has to be repaired in the manufacturing process. The most minute adjustment in the shape can make the difference in hearing or seeing something miles out in space. 

Akiko Surai - Amazingly a human skin cell can be taken through a series of procedures and be re-programmed to become a neuron. Surai's work here represents a series of cells as they change, mend and grow and she uses an ever expanding set of stitch types to show how strong and fragile our bodies are. 

Akiko Surai detail

Tim MurdochThis work shows the possible connections between the brain and prosthetic human limbs or in Murdoch case, actual tree limbs. Come close to the little bird houses and a door bell rings signalling a link to the computer terminal on the floor.  

Hugo Heredia Barrera (in this enlargement of a cancer cell) - "I want people to see how delicate and sensitive and strong cells are and how, like glass, they can break at any moment."

Alexander Kohnke is showing us a series of undigested parts of owl excrement. These have been enlarge photographically much as the world of cells and even atoms is now visually available to scientist using sophisticated microscopes. 

Alexander Kohnke detail

Jason Lane learned about this common weed that is being used to develop stronger root systems. What we see in his art first appears to be a drawing, but it is the actual plant pressed by a 90 ton metal forming machine until it is one with the paper. We can even see little bits of liquid that have seeped into the pulp. 

Trish Stone - The small back room at SDAI is given over to the work of Stone's project developed at the Prototyping Lab at Calit2 at UCSD. She made 100 3-d printed miniature versions of herself, hand painted them an gave them protest signs. These are then positioned for photographs into a variety of the Bank of America that holds her loans. She also created two video games: Something is Wrong where you search for your own like minded community  and Colonize NE-1 where you collect cherished memories of earth. 

Trish Stone

List of all the artists in the show divided by the topic category. Lots more to see that is not covered in this report.