Cathy Breslaw's Installation

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

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Behind the Scenes Conversations: Interview with Derrick R. Cartwright

Derrick Cartwright

I recently met with Derrick Cartwright at his office on campus at the University of San Diego’s Founders Hall. Along with its offices, Founders Hall houses the Robert and Karen Hoehn Family Galleries and the Hoehn Print Room.  Derrick divides his time between the responsibilities as Director of University Galleries and Professor of Practice – teaching art history students about art objects and the growth of art collections, as well as collaborating in their participation in curating exhibitions. Derrick’s career story has been a path guided by academic scholarly research and stints as executive director of museums. It has also been a journey woven with a network of strongly developed relationships with former mentors and professors - and those who recognized and admired his skills and abilities and his potential for leadership.

Derrick Cartwright’s story begins with having been born and raised in San Francisco.  He described his parents as creative people who also collected art. His father painted and sculpted in his spare time and his mother, a psychologist, also painted.  Having grown up with an appreciation for the visual arts, Derrick went to UC, Berkeley where he received his AB degree in Art History. At Berkeley, an important mentor and professor was Peter Selz, who Derrick credits as having helped deepen his excitement and interest in American 20th century modern art.  Selz who had been curator of painting and sculpture at MOMA in New York, also had personal relationships with famous
artists like DuChamp, Christo, Rothko and deKooning and brought these admired artists and their work to life for Derrick.  

Not quite sure of his next move after college, Derrick worked as Assistant to the Director of a commercial art gallery in San Francisco. Though he was “turned off” to the idea of art as a commodity, Derrick felt he learned a great deal by observing the Gallery Director as he managed all the challenges of running the gallery from handling the art, setting up exhibitions to other duties. After this experience, Derrick decided to attend graduate school for an MA in Art History at UCLA where he studied early 20th century American Art under the tutelage of Jim Cuno. Cuno, who is currently CEO and Director of the J.Paul Getty Trust encouraged Derrick to investigate museums as a career consideration but also guided him to studying for a Ph.D in Art History. Prior to continuing on with his education, Derrick received an NEA internship at the De Young Museum in San Francisco where he spent a year and curated a small exhibition of American artists.  He attributes this experience to having taught him about how museums operate including how collections are developed, and the process of creating and installing exhibitions.
Musee D'Art American, Giverny, France

Having completed his internship at the DeYoung, Derrick selected the University of Michigan to study for his Ph.D.  There, he studied under his teacher and mentor, art historian David Huntington. While Derrick was completing his dissertation at Michigan, Harrington passed away and Derrick was offered an Assistant Professorship at USD in San Diego. Derrick was at USD from 1992-1998, during which time he was a lecturer and taught several art history courses.  At about the end of his time at USD, a former professor at Berkeley was leaving and asked Derrick to replace her.  While teaching art history courses at Berkeley, Derrick received a call from a trustee at the Musee D’Art American in Giverny, France who offerred Derrick  the  position as Director of the museum. Derrick describes this as having been a wonderful adventure for he and his family. After two years of running this museum of American artists, his mentor and teacher Jim Cuno recommended him for the position as Director of the Hood Museum of Art at Dartmouth College. The museum, which houses 65,000 art objects, and has several curators, also served as a teaching opportunity for Derrick to share his knowledge with students about how to negotiate the purchase of art objects and to de-mystify what museums are all about.

Seattle Art Museum, Picasso Exhibition
In 2004, Derrick was offered the position as Director of the San Diego Museum of Fine Art. During his five years at the museum, Derrick believes the museum made some great strides.  He hired some top curators from Yale and other places, and importantly, extended the scope of the museum by partnering with museums in India, Japan, Mexico, China and other countries. The SDMFA exchanged collections, staff, and exhibitions which was a tremendous growth experience for everyone involved. In 2009, Derrick was offered the position of Director at Seattle Art Museum where he worked for two years and was a consultant for an additional year. His timing was not perfect, as during those years museums and the country were bridled by an economic crisis not seen since the great Depression. Spending much of his time dealing with budget crisis and taking steps to re-stabilize the museum was a huge challenge. Nevertheless, Derrick was very proud to have been able to bring a large Picasso exhibition  to Seattle from the Musee National Picasso which brought in 400,000 visitors in a single year. At that point, Derrick felt that he and his family were ready to return to California to be near friends and family and for Derrick, to USD, where he had first taught, and had such fond memories.

'Night Shadows', Edward Hopper(1921)
I believe Derrick Cartwright has come full circle. Hearing about his plans for the galleries and students at USD, it is clear that he has a deep commitment to the students, their families, and the community.  His future plan is to create connecting exhibitions among the four galleries on campus by focusing the art on prints at the Hoehn Family Galleries, artwork that features issues related to social justice at the Joan Kroc Institute for Social Justice, artwork that connects with Native American Cultures at the David W. May American Indian Collection and Gallery and the Hoehn Print Study Room that is a “hands-on” opportunity to view works by master printmakers including Goya, Dürer, Callot, Rouault, and Rembrandt. San Diego is fortunate to welcome the return of a passionate teacher and curator, and someone who will work to foster relationships between the University of San Diego and the many museums, galleries, visual art institutions and other art entities in the county.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Another Behind the Scenes Conversation:Interview with Dana Springs, Public Art Program Manager

In my most recent “Behind the Scenes Conversations” interviews. I spoke with Dana Springs, Public Art Program Manager for the City of San Diego Commission for Arts and Culture. I first met Dana when I attended a Webinar on Public Art for Artists in 2011 and since then have been curious about the inner workings of  San Diego’s public art projects. Our interview was fun and informative - learning about Dana’s background, what led her to a career in Public Art, description of her current job, and her commitment to quality public art for all residents and visitors to San Diego.

Dana Springs was born and raised in Dana Point, California. Her father is an attorney and her mom began as a teacher but subsequently became a psychologist. Her parents came from a background in the performing arts and Dana and her sister grew up in Orange County regularly seeing live theater, dance performances and concerts. Dance and music were a central part of family get-togethers and Dana grew to love it. From the time she was 9 years old, Dana trained in contemporary and jazz dance. When it came to making a decision about college, Dana was certain she wanted to attend a public institution where she could experience a diversity of ideas and people. She graduated from UC, San Diego with a major in Visual Art and a minor in Dance.

Since she didn’t have a clear path for her next step after college, Dana referred back to an earlier strong interest in fashion.  As a result, she took a job at Nordstrom which she talks about as having been “enlightening”. It taught her that she did not enjoy selling so three months later she quit, and took a job as a receptionist at an advertising agency. After a time, she became an Account Administrator for their accounts that managed residential home developers. In 1998, Dana moved back to San Diego and began a new job in accounts management working for another advertising agency that represented national consumer brands. Though she learned a great deal about business, and about the development and process of creating ideas and implementing them, Dana explained that she felt the jobs she had thus far were not “meaningful” to her. So, after a year and a half, she quit her job and went on a bit of a soul searching mission to find out what could be next . She began going to museums and seeing “San Diego Commission for Arts and Culture” on all the printed materials she read. Eventually she called them and asked if there were job openings – amazingly, there were, so she began the long, civil service process of applying and interviewing for a position with the commission.  Four months later, Dana was offered the position of Public Art Program Assistant, was later promoted to Public Art Program Associate and finally was promoted to Public Art Program Manager which is the position she holds today.

Dana has been at the Commission for Arts and Culture for a total of 12 years. She supports the mission of the Commission which is to promote and support arts and culture for all residents and visitors to San Diego. Along with a small staff of Executive Director, Victoria Hamilton, Funding Manager, Gary Margolis, and Arts Management Specialist Nigel Brookes - As Public Art Program Manager, Dana is responsible for several things. One is to work with artists whose work is selected for the city of San Diego public works projects and to ensure everything goes well through installation of the work.  Currently, Dana is working with the four artists whose work will ultimately be installed at the brand new San Diego Central Library due to open in July, 2013. Dana is also responsible for art projects for private development projects including shopping malls, hotels, grocery chains and offices as these developers are required by the Commission to put in money for either art, cultural space , or in-lieu cash. The third area Dana is responsible for is the care and maintenance of the City’s art collection which has a total of 1500 pieces and has been collected since 1909. Much of it is sculpture but there are also prints and paintings as well. Dana is managing approximately 30 projects at the present time, the largest being those at the Central Library and the Balboa Centennial Celebration coming up in 2015.
As Public Art Program Manager, it is evident that Dana Springs has her hands full – she cites navigating the bureauocracy and overcoming peoples’ stereotypes about public art as her largest challenges.  When asked about advice she might have for artists applying for “Requests for Qualifications” for the Public Art Programs, she recommends artists only apply for what “speaks to you”, and things that you have a commitment to doing. Staff reviewing applications can easily see which artists have this commitment - and the ones that don’t are typically not selected in the artist selection process. Public art is accessible – and a great opportunity for the general public to experience the joy of quality art within the environment of their daily lives.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Steven Turner Gallery, Los Angeles - Rafael Rozendaal and Justin Hansch

Rafael Rozendaal’s “Everything Always Everywhere” and Justin B. Hansch’s “Girls and Grils’ at Steve Turner Gallery are concurrent solo exhibitions that comment on the world in which we live – Rozendaals’ is a perceptual experience of site specific installations while Hansch comments on American culture with an installation of oil and enamel paintings. Rozendaal’s works cover the two first floor rooms. ‘Popular Screen Sizes” is 14 mirrors arranged from cell phone size up to TV monitor size creating both an abstracted and representational view of the gallery space.
The next room, “Falling Falling”, is a continuous animation of colorful, abstracted shapes falling onto themselves across the gallery walls. There are cracked mirrors filling most of the floor. The colors of the animation reflect onto the mirrors creating a spacial experience further enhanced by a soundtrack that mimics a tone of ‘falling’.

Hansch’s installation resembles a “Man Cave”. Its’ upstairs in a low lit room set apart from the main gallery with a series of  40” x 30” paintings , intermixed with round 20” paintings. The vertical rectangular works are painterly images of young women either naked or bikini-clad, some posed, some action oriented at a pool or beach while the round paintings depict the black iron round portion of charcoal grills with burgers and dogs arranged in various ways.  In the center of the room, is a four foot high stack of round grill paintings.  There is a purposeful sameness of dark warm reds, blues, greens, black color palette crossing the entire installation, as well as a deliberate sexualized and subtle bodily-distorted depiction of the girls.  The dogs and burgers further enhance the sexualized notion of “what men like” yet the humorous feel to Hansch’s installation is disarmingly charming.  
Both exhibitions are on view through October 6th.

Angela Kallus' Painting Exhibition at Peter Mendenhall Gallery, Los Angles,Ca

Angela Kallus’s paintings currently on view at Peter Mendenhall Gallery are a series of circular
images on 53” x 53” canvases over panels.  The show is comprised of six exceptionally well crafted works that speak to sculpture as much as they do painting.  Five out of the six are fashioned out of large amounts of acrylic paint that have been carefully coaxed into troweled concentric circles on each of the canvases in varying patterns.  Each of these pop art-like works have a slightly different color palette - variations of primary colors and sometimes green. “Hudson” and “Roy G. Biv” have a fine mist of yellow, orange or purple color sprayed around the circular edges of the images lending a soft, spiritual quality to otherwise strong symbolic circular sculptural shapes that resemble old school LP records. There is also a visible deliberate mark that has been left where the trowel that Kallus used, can be seen, showing the hand of the artist, in an otherwise somewhat formal, minimal group of paintings. The most compelling piece is called “Fault Line”, which has a myriad of individually created bright red roses in varying sizes. Each rose is a sculptural form unto itself. There is also a curious blue circle that has been very lightly sprayed and super-imposed onto the surface of the roses. There is an overall sensual and sumptuous feeling to Kallus’s canvas works. This exhibition is on view through October 20th.

Devin Troy Strother's exhibition at Richard Heller Gallery, Santa Monica,CA

The current exhibition “Front, Back, Side to Side”, of Devin Troy Strother’s mixed media collages and sculpture at Richard Heller Gallery is a mix of clever, playful works made from paint, strips of multi-colored papers, glitter, balsa wood, and other mainly ‘sandbox’ materials. Don’t misunderstand – the materials may come from elementary school art class, but the work expresses important themes relating to current and past stereotypes of African Americans, some harkening back decades to the 1940’s and 50’s. The political and pop culture references to hip hop and counter culture are disguised in some very humorous, well crafted narratives that ask the viewer to examine their own points of view on race and social happenings. Add to that the long titles of each work such as “Diana Ross and the Supremes Aboard the Technical Slave Ship(Gurrrrl We Goin’ Home) “  or “Contemporary African Compositional Arrangement/Guuuuuurrrrrllll, Hallelujah, Hallelujah, “I told you it was all about space relations and limitations”. These and other titles comment on the themes of each work and Strother has a wonderful way of enchanting us with the stories his works tell. This exhibition runs  through November 3rd.