Expanding the Horizon
The First California-Pacific Triennial
He believes in the power of memory, says Dan Cameron. The best art
is the kind you can’t get out of your mind. Now, the newly appointed
curator of the Orange County Museum (OCMA) has brought together works
by 32 artists from 15 countries for the first California-Pacific
Triennial. Deutsche Bank is partner to the promising exhibition, which
includes numerous artists from the bank’s collection. A preview.
made nearly 80 studio visits in dozens of cities between China and the
American west coast to bring together artists from countries like
Guatemala, Indonesia, Vietnam, Mexico, and Australia. In the new California-Pacific
Triennial, the 53-year-old curator seeks to demonstrate how varied and
exciting the art of the Pacific region really is. To Cameron’s mind, an
important change in paradigm is currently taking place: the
transatlantic exchange between New York, Paris, London, and Berlin that
has left its mark on 20th-century art is increasingly being replaced by
the cultural and artistic exchange among the Pacific coastal states.
According to Cameron, national borders are becoming increasingly
porous. This is why the curator found the Triennial’s predecessor, the
1984-formed California Biennial,
out of date. While the renowned show at the OCMA documented current
trends on the west coast scene, the new concept radically expands the
As was the case for the last four runs of the California Biennial,
Deutsche Bank is once again the Triennial’s main sponsor. The show
promises to establish itself as one of the most important art events in
the region. This is also due to the unconventional eye Cameron casts on
art production on both sides of the Pacific. One very important new
feature is that the OCMA does not only honor young artists; now, a
majority of participants are so-called “mid-career artists” born
between 1950 and 1980.
There are known positions such as Fernando Bryce and Darío Escobar,
both of whom investigate the repercussions of colonialism in very
different ways. Bryce’s drawings resemble comic strips and are based on
historical images and texts. His 89-part series South Sea
from 2007 can be seen at the OCMA; the artist, who lives in Lima and
Berlin, made drawings from entire pages of Wilhelminian magazines and
newspapers for the work—an eerie expedition into Germany’s
much-repressed colonial past. On the other hand, Darío Escobar’s
sculptures made from baseball bats, skateboards, or soccer balls
grouped in clusters point to the banalization of cultural values. The
artist, who lives in Guatemala and New York, deconstructs everyday
things into reduced objects that allude to folk and conceptual art, but
also to the dominance of western consumerist and entertainment culture.
For the Triennial, Escobar has created a large-scale installation.
Lin Tianmiao was one
of the first Chinese women artists to experience an international
breakthrough in the 1980s. She works with materials and techniques that
carry “typically female” connotations: she weaves and sews with needle
and silk thread. Lin Tianmiao became known for her everyday objects
enmeshed in cotton thread. At the OCMA, her work All the Same (2011) is on view—a memento mori of wrapped skulls and bones.
The use of traditional techniques and formats is characteristic for many of the Triennial artists, including Michael Lin, who like Bryce is represented by the Deutsche Bank Collection
and has created a large-scale commissioned work for the bank in Hong
Kong. Li became known for his room-sized floral wall and floor pieces.
The blossom motifs derive from old Taiwanese textile art and are a
fixed part of the local image repertoire. Today they are reproduced
industrially in the thousands. Lin’s works have much to do with his
biography: at the age of nine, he moved with his family to Los Angeles,
where he later studied art. After returning to Taiwan, Lin became aware
of the tension between his western upbringing and the eastern legacy—a
tension that also characterizes Taiwan’s social development.
Mark Dean Veca
also works with traditional designs that can cover entire rooms, but
they are from a completely different background: his works are based on
the flower and tendril arrangements of 18th-century French fabrics and
wallpapers, into which he inserts street art and comic motifs. The
bright red and orange hues give the works an almost hallucinogenic
effect that brings Californian psychedelic art of the late 1960s to
A true rediscovery is Pedro Friedeberg.
In his paintings, he combines religious symbols from all kinds of
cultures. Their geometric structures are reminiscent of M.C. Escher and
Nintendo computer games. The 1936-born artist is considered to be the
last living Mexican Surrealist. Along with the Hand Chair,
Friedeberg, as he explains, has “invented several styles of
architecture, as well as one new religion and two salads.” His bizarre
paintings and objects have absolutely nothing to do with “good taste,”
and a certain sense of humor is required to appreciate them.
Of course, artists from the younger generations are also present at OCMA—for instance the American Farrah Karapetian, whose photograms depict demonstrations and public protests, the Australian video artist and freestyle skater Shaun Gladwell, and Eko Nugroho,
one of the better known figures on the Indonesian art scene. His
paintings, videos, and silhouette works investigate the social
conditions in his native country. On the one hand, they bear a strong
Islamic influence, and on the other they are influenced by a globalized
western value system. Nugroho, whose work is also part of the Deutsche
Bank Collection, often visualizes this contrast in the form of hybrid
fantasy creatures who hide their faces behind masks or helmets.
“Perhaps the most important aspect of my work as an artist,” says
Nugroho, “is communicating my experiences to audiences from different
geographical, cultural, and social backgrounds.”
This approach practically predestines Nugroho for the first
California-Pacific Triennial. The show demonstrates how exciting and
broadly based the artistic exchange can be within the Pacific region.
Dan Cameron’s decision to give up the local focus of the California
Biennial and to open it to developments in the “neighboring countries”
is a cogent one. In the final analysis, California is basically a
multi-ethnic state whose everyday life and culture are in large part
determined by the vast migration movements from South America and Asia.
2013 California-Pacific Triennial
6/30 – 9/22/2013
Orange County Museum of Art (OCMA)
Newport Beach, California