A look back at our 50th year
D.K. Sole (Research and Educational Engagement at the Barrick) tries to summarize 2017.
We looked forward to 2017.
To celebrate our fiftieth year of service to the Las Vegas community we wanted to make the year wonderful. We wanted to keep what was good, and improve in areas that needed improving.
Improvement takes time, but we wanted to start. How?
Exhibitions of course are an important part of our work. Can we begin our summary of the year there? January opened on the last few weeks of the photography show Edward Burtynsky: Oil, and moved quickly into Process, a group exhibition curated by Matthew Gardocki. I don’t know if you remember Heidi Schwegler’s glass pants, the inquisitive lines of Lester Monzon’s grid-thwarting abstracts, or Julie Oppermann’s optically disturbing juxtaposition of black bars and peacock colors. (One of those Oppermann paintings was later donated to the Barrick by the artist and over the remainder of 2017 it became a regular feature of extra credit classes in perception led by UNLV’s neuroscience professors.)
Karen Roop put together a twelve-month show of traditional Mexican masks, combining them suggestively with a few pieces of contemporary art such as Daniel Bodner’s painting of two men with no faces, RB52, 2011, inviting visitors to think about the notion of having a face at all. What does it mean to put on a face? Allen Linnabary laid out another process of masking when he dug into our archives for a show documenting the history of the museum itself, Fifty Years.
In the West Gallery we opened Abandon All Hope Ye Who Enter Here, an exhibition of Salvador Dalí’s illustrations for Dante’s Inferno and the Decameron of Boccaccio. Curator Lee Cannarozzo came in twice a week to turn the pages of the books himself, an ongoing performance project documented by Shahab Zargari of the UNLV College of Fine Arts. (This exhibition was the beginning of an association with Zargari that has continued to the present day. He has been an invaluable part of our celebrations this year, creating videos of our events and introducing us to the Las Vegas branch of the Creative Mornings lecture series.)
Our next major exhibition, Tested Ground, began with the idea of a single drawing by New Yorker Joan Linder and expanded to include a series of other artists who, like her, focus their work on the marks our civilization leaves on the land it inhabits. (Artists, naturally, leave marks too.) Focusing primarily – but not exclusively – on the American Southwest, Tested Ground inspired us to commission a site-specific installation for the garden signs outside the Museum’s walls. Katarina Jerinic, who is based in on the East Coast but has family in Las Vegas, visited the city several times to figure out the parameters of her project, a map of the ‘stars’ in Las Vegas place names. Astronomy of the Asphalt Ecliptic is still on view.
Meanwhile the Dalí exhibition gave way to D.K. Sole’s Play On, Gary, Play On, a homage to the earlier days of the Barrick collection and a reflection on the moment that passes between reaching and touching.
Our next round of openings, which took place on October 6th, was part of a cross-campus reception that encompassed all of the different parts of the College of Fine Arts, with everything from operatic tenors singing on balconies to Phillip Zawarus from Architecture inviting visitors to build their own digital mountains and lakes in an interactive map. This kind of mass departmental cross-pollination was something we’d been wanting to do for a while. Our major show this time was Preservation, assembled by guest curator Aurora Tang of the Los Angeles Center for Land Use Interpretation. Tang had held a Visiting Artist lecture at the Barrick in 2016, and her ideas sounded so interesting that our ears pricked up. Plans for a collaboration developed over the ensuing year. The exhibition she put together, which will be up until January 20th, embraces a wide range of media, from the science-infused metaphor-laden objects of Candice Lin, to the raw communicative processes of Ocean Earth’s Peter Fend, and the destabilising sound work of German artist Moritz Fehr.
Preservation will be followed on February 2nd by Plural. As part of our efforts to develop ourselves in 2017, we searched the Barrick collection critically for gaps we needed to fill. In consultation with some longtime Las Vegas artists we started the job of filling those gaps. The process will be a long one, and it isn’t complete, but we hope Plural will give you some idea of the course we hope to pursue in the future.
Preservation was (and still is) accompanied in the West Gallery by Shelly Volsche’s liminal. The exhibition, which will come down at the same time as Preservation, includes work by China Adams, Sush Machida Gaikotsu, Brent Sommerhauser, and Michael Ogilvie.
One of the nice surprises of this exhibition has been to see how eager children are to initiate conversations about Adams’ enigmatic line of “rocks”.
Preservation has its own film in the auditorium, a subtle teaser called Waiting for the Flood. Every change between exhibitions this year has been the start of a new film or film series. Cannarozzo even put together a film festival to go with the Dalí exhibition, and we saw a gratifying number of people come out on a Friday night to watch the oldest full-length film still in existence, a silent 1911 Italian version of the Inferno.
Josh Azzarella showed a series of his manipulated film works in the auditorium in tandem with Process, and Casey Roberts screened three of his short independent movies under the collective title, Sometimes I Dream of Myself as Two People, during the run of Tested Ground.
The auditorium was used for other things as well. Once again the College of Liberal Arts gave us the rewarding pleasure of hosting their University Forum Lecture Series, introducing us to lecturers in a radical diversity of specializations that this year included everything from revolt as a philosophical and political act (Ferguson, Baltimore, Charlotte, and Other Ghost Stories, delivered by Richard Gilman-Opalsky) to an extinguished star (Supernova 1987A: 30 Years Later by Stephen H. Lepp), the relationship between domestic space and wartime propaganda (Mrs. Miniver Builds the Home Front, by Melissa Dinsman), and Baroque Music accompanied by a live harpsichord (What’s ‘Baroque’ About Baroque Music, by Jonathan Rhodes Lee).
And as always the Department of Art sent us a wonderful line-up of visiting artist lecturers — painters, sculptors, performers, curators, installation artists, experimental theater designers, and more — people like Wendy White, Analia Saban, Asher Hartman, Amir H. Fallah, and Marcos Ramírez ERRE, who told us that he “believes in beauty” but “ideas are more important.”
Two of the Preservation artists spoke at the Barrick as part of that lecture series: Candice Lin and the innovative nonfiction filmmaker Brigid McCaffrey, who reflected on the difficulty of trying to present truth in a medium that can never be completely true. Adam Bateman – the artist behind the concrete Monolith sculpture – spoke here as well. There were other artist talks. Two of the Process artists, Kara Joslyn and John Bauer, visited us in February and April for workshops and discussions. The painter Clarity Haynes and the artist-author Sharon Louden were here for a panel with local artists Justin Favela, Wendy Kveck, and Andreana Donahue. What does it meant to be an artist in society? they wondered.
Puppies Puppies produced a pop-up performance in the auditorium in January, and Dave Hickey– who really needs no introduction around here – delivered four talks on writing and art in October and December. The Latinos Who Lunch podcast used the Braunstein room for a film shoot and brought members of the Boys and Girls Club to the museum to talk about Mexican culture in front of the masks. The actor Matthew Grey Gubler dropped by for an award ceremony wearing a memorable cardigan decorated with horses.
More happened. Opportunities arose, surprising us. Seeing the mask exhibition, Dance Professor Louis Kavouras asked if he could introduce us to the costumes of the modernist choreographer Erick Hawkins and went on to oversee several productions of Hawkins’ pioneering dances in the gallery space. Charles Halka from Music Department brought his daughter to one of our Art and Culture Days (more on them in a moment), fell into conversation with our Interim Executive Director Alisha Kerlin, and consequently decided to revisit us with a group of composers from the School of Music, who drew inspiration from the art in October and then returned again in December to see their pieces performed next to the works that inspired them.
One of those performers, the harpist Emily Montoya Barnes, had also appeared at the October 6th reception and at the second of those two Art and Culture days, a pair of free all-ages art celebrations with workshops, participatory events, live acts, and storytime readings. (Clark County Library helped us out with the readings. As usual we are grateful and impressed by the number of talented people who are willing to join us in these adventures.) Over four hundred members of the community took part. We’re planning more of these days for 2018. Stay tuned.
Those two Art Days were fun, but they had the more serious aim of making families aware of the museum as a cultural resource. Bringing the community into the museum was one of our goals for 2017. What about schools? Learning that the main barrier to field trips was the cost of renting buses, we figured out how much money we would need to cover transport for four busloads of students per week and opened up a community fundraising campaign. Thanks to generous individuals like yourself, we were able to offer all of the Valley’s CCSD teachers the opportunity to bring their classes to the museum free of charge for tours and hands-on artmaking workshops. We held the first tour on October 10th and they are continuing into 2018. So far we have hosted ten schools and over six hundred students, not counting teachers and parent chaperones. We’re constantly impressed by the ideas the students raise. They help us to think in new ways about the art we look at every day. (One girl observed, uniquely, that the the grey arc of Monolith looked like “a stingray” and she was absolutely right.)
Finally, we updated our name and – thanks to a kind donor who prefers to remain anonymous – our exterior signs. Along with the refurbishment began the process of assembling our press archive into a more formal record of the Barrick’s history with help from librarian Richard Zwiercan. Alisha capped off the year by winning one of only three of the university’s inaugural Top Tier Awards “for outstanding contributions.”
We want to see you at the Barrick again next year. As always, entry is free. Parking will cost you nothing on weekends. Come by as we debut a number of new large-scale projects featuring art that questions the boundaries between graffiti and the gallery wall and some phenomenal interactive sculptures powered by – what sounds like the least likely set of words here? – electric fans?
Yes. Again, stay tuned.
The photographs in this post were taken by (in order): Josh Hawkins (One of the most popular groupings in Masking), fotoahoy (Artist Nicolas Shake walking through Tested Ground – the pale sculpture behind him is his Two Broken Shovels, 2016), Mikayla Whitmore (A visitor in Moritz Fehr’s Colosseum), Josh Hawkins (A dancer performing Erick Hawkins’ Plains Daybreak in the Braunstein Room), and Josh Hawkins/UNLV Photo Services (Four visitors playing Museum I-Spy on Art and Music Day). Thanks to the other photographers who have visited us this year: Checko Salgado, Zachary Krill, Ed Fuentes …