Cathy Breslaw's Installation

Cathy Breslaw's Installation
Cathy Breslaw's Installation:Dreamscape

Monday, September 17, 2012

Behind the Scenes Interview: with Darlene DeAngelo,Curator of Exhibitions, Huntington Beach Art Center

The interview with Darlene De Angelo, is the most recent of my “Behind the Scenes Conversations”.  DeAngelo has been the Curator of Exhibitions at the Huntington Beach Art Center in Huntington Beach, California for the past ten years. I met Darlene in late 2006 when she made a studio visit to my studio in Encinitas,California in preparation for an exhibition she was putting together called “MANufactured”. I had previously seen several exhibitions at the center and had been impressed with the quality and scope of the shows. So, when Darlene wanted to include my work in her upcoming show I was honored - and since then, I have attended many wonderful exhibitions she has curated.

During our interview I learned about what drew Darlene to the visual arts, to California and eventually to the Huntington Beach Art Center. Darlene grew up in a small Pennsylvania town adjacent to New York City. During summers, her father organized long driving vacations to various locations in the U.S.  When they would reach each destination, the family sought out cultural events to attend including street fairs, museums, and musical and art shows. When she was 12 years old, her family took an 8 week long driving trip across the country which Darlene described as a pivotal experience contributing to her pursuing a career in the arts. They made many stops in small towns, visited many cultural events and she learned about how communities operate.

Darlene later attended and graduated from the State University of New Yorks’ Museum Exhibition Design program. While there, she did an internship at the SUNY museum where she gained skills in managing a gallery.  Later on she learned of a temporary job opening at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in NYC in the Publications Department and she was offered the position. When that job ended, the manager of the Mezzanine Gallery, (the contemporary art gallery at the Met), offered her a permanent position. While there, she was fortunate enough to work with Ellsworth Kelly, Richard Haas, George Segal and other well known contemporary artists to develop original prints, as well as travelling all over Europe to work directly with master printmakers to produce the final prints. She was also responsible for the gallery’s corporate program and worked with the museum’s contemporary collection.

Darlene worked at the Met for 10 years and then decided to follow her partner to southern California. Through contacts, she took a sharp job detour - she got a job as acting President for an Italian clothing manufacturer and though she felt it was good experience where she made a good income, Darlene decided to return to the visual arts.  Having moved to the town of Claremont, Darlene was happy to be among the Claremont Colleges and the Graduate University campuses. There she was asked to be the director of DA Gallery, a non-profit space in nearby Pomona. Over the following ten years she helped  grow the gallery in terms of the physical space, quality of work, as well as the development of art residency programs, member programs, community programs that included films, poetry readings and other unique events including bringing in artists from Berlin who did a residency that coordinated resulting exhibitions with the local art community.

When the position of Curator of Exhibitions at the Huntington Beach Art Center became available, Darlene made her next move. Over the following ten years, she has focused on cultivating the ‘contemporary art’ sensibility of the Huntington Beach community and beyond. She believes that the role of the community art center is to educate, stimulate, and expand the public’s thinking about what constitutes ‘art’ and she believes it is a “stepping stone” to visiting art museums and to understanding fine art -  to get beyond the notion that art has to be “pretty”, and that it can be made out of any materials. Darlene describes it as “opening peoples’ eyes to what could be, introducing them to possibly “edgy and risky” fine art without shoving it down their throats”.  Over the years, Darlene has added several programs to engage the community – poetry readings, “after 8” lectures and workshops that include writers, artist residencies, local businesses including those engaged in environmental products and issues, family arts programs, and after school programs to teach kids about curating art shows.

When it comes to advice for artists, Darlene had one main thought – “Do Your Homework”. She advises artists that before they seek exhibitions or gallery representation in general, they should be sure their own work is consistent with the work any gallery or institution currently has on their roster.

Friday, September 7, 2012

San Diego Contemporary Art Fair

Last evening I attended the San Diego Contemporary Art Fair opening night. I have been to all the previous san diego art fairs and each one seems to be an improvement on the last. The venue of the Activity Center in Balboa Park is really a great location. Extremely high ceilings, dark grey carpets and well designed white wall booths and lighting creates a nice atmosphere for the fair. The booths and total space are really well designed with ample room to move through visitor traffic. The evening was quite festive and fun, and I had a chance to preview the art - surprisingly, there were several booths of individual artists and that is a change from previous shows. Also, there was a delegation from China who had several booths and a large variety of art work. It is a terrific addition to the fair. The fair runs through Sunday, September 9th, well worth a visit as there are many events taking place. It is good to see San Diego hosting a contemporary art fair.

A Unique Take on Geometric Abstraction at Brett Rubbico Gallery, Newport Beach,CA

Artist David Michael Lee's solo exhibition at Brett Rubbico Gallery in Newport Beach portrays a unique take on hard edge geometric abstract painting. This series called "Spaced Out" includes a range of works that are painted on top of canvas made of hemp. This creates a nubby, textured surface, surprising for this kind of painting where we usually see a slick, or very smooth surface.The quality of the surfaces feel more intimate, and a bit more personal as if Lee is trying to tell us something about his personal view of space and geometry in general. The color palette is specifically limited to a small range of colors and values in all the works however there are two background colors - black and sky blue, which appear to represent day and night. There is an interesting dimensionality created with a thinly veiled layer of paint which gives us the idea of a "fourth" dimension to the works. The large works create a stark visual space, both literal and imagined and their black backgrounds enhance the dimensionality of the pieces. The light blue background works are generally smaller in size, and draw us more into the negative spaces of the paintings. Brett Rubbico painted the floors of the gallery all white to match the walls and ceiling which gives the viewer an interesting context for seeing the work where we aren't exactly sure what is 'ceiling' and what is 'floor'. This further enhances the viewing the paintings. This exhibition is on view for a month, and well worth a visit.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Behind the Scenes Conversations:Interview with Allesandra Moctezuma,Gallery Director and Professor, Museum Studies,Mesa College,San Diego

My interview with Alessandra Moctezuma is the most recent in my series of dialogues called ‘Behind the Scenes Conversations” with Curators, Gallery and Exhibition Directors. I met with Alessandra at her office on the San Diego Mesa College campus which was teeming with students during its second week of fall classes. Since 2001, she has been both professor of Museum Studies and Gallery Director of the college gallery.

Alessandra spoke with a great deal of nostalgia and passion as she discussed her growing up years, education and work experiences. She was born in Mexico City where her father was a painter, filmmaker, and T.V. personality and her mother worked in anthropology and archeology. Alessandra and her sisters grew up in a home filled with art and her parents’ artist friends visiting on a regular basis. When she was 9 years old, the family relocated to Madrid, Spain for her father’s work. Alessandra described her home as filled with the love of art and as an encouraging space for creativity. Whether they were building cities out of cardboard or making costumes for their dolls,  she and her siblings were steeped in learning about culture  in all its forms as well as taking trips to nearby archeological sites where their mom shared her knowledge. During her early years Alessandra was mostly educated in Montessori and private schools until the family moved to Los Angeles where she attended Santa Monica College and then received a B.A. degree in Fine Art and Chicano Studies from UCLA. Alessandra continued her education at UCLA and later received an MFA in painting and printmaking.

During her years at UCLA, Alessandra became an assistant to Judy Baca, a noted Chicano public art Muralist. Originally studying to be a painter, she helped create several murals with Baca. Along with painting, as assistant to Baca, Alessandra received training in writing grants, curating exhibitions, project management and several other practical skills in handling the challenges of the art world. She also participated in the “World Wall” project, a portable mural, collaborating with artists from several countries, and helped install the mural at the Smithsonian in Washington D.C.  Although she received her MFA in painting and printmaking, her work was channeled into managing public art projects and teaching.  In the late 1990s, Alessandra became a public arts officer at LA county’s Metropolitan Transportation Authority.  There she managed projects from artist/architect design collaborations for subway stations and oversaw the fabrication of artworks, developed budgets and managed contracts.
Her husband’s work brought her to SUNY Stony Brook, New York  where Alessandra pursued a Ph.D. in Hispanic Language and Literature.  While  she enjoyed her studies, she greatly missed Los Angeles and the southern California community. She saw the ad listing for professor and gallery director at Mesa College, interviewed and was offered the position.  It proved to be a great fit as Alessandra has worked there for ten years.  All her experiences of growing up in different countries and cultures, working with the mural projects, her art education, and public art knowledge have been brought to bear in her work at the college.  She is eager to teach her students how to navigate the art world, giving them wide choices of opportunities to intern at museums, galleries, and wherever they can learn practical skills that may one day land them a job. Students at Mesa College learn all the practical aspects of curating and implementing art exhibitions in the six shows that are presented each year in  the adjacent college art gallery. Alessandra also reaches out to many art programs in the community, alternative art spaces and other local colleges and universities.  Currently she is part of the Arts and Culture Working Group of the San Diego Foundation which focuses on development of the arts in San Diego.

The mission of the Mesa College Art Gallery is to present a diverse range of approaches to art making for the student community. Alessandra presents many exhibitions that feature social, womens’ or environmental issues, and an emphasis on figurative and representational work as well as those with a Latina focus. Every few years she does a faculty exhibition called “Faculty Plus One” where each faculty member invites another artist to participate alongside the faculty members. 

When asked about advice she might give to aspiring San Diego artists, she emphasizes the practical side – networking.  Alessandra believes that there are many venues for artists in San Diego but that artists need to reach out and be proactive. This is the very same advice she has for her students and with a great deal of pride, Alessandra told me of many who have been successful, moving on to complete their degrees, some on to graduate programs, become professors, and have other jobs in art institutions.

The next big exhibition at the college opens September 6th, called “Seven Deadly Sins”, with guest curator Professor Beate Bermann-Enn. No doubt Alessandra’s students have played a big part in creating and installing the show.  The show will be up through October 1st.

Any artists interested in learning practical skills and expanding their knowledge of how to participate successfully in the art world would be well served in the Museum Studies Program at Mesa College under the tutelage of Alessandra Moctezuma.