To start off the New Fall Season we did the First Thursdays in Santa Barbara, the First Fridays in Ventura, then went down to Los Angeles. The not-to-miss show was the lovingly installed Francisco Zuniga Centennial Tribute show at Jack Rutberg. Rutberg's next show, Jordi Alcaraz will also be a not-to-miss show opening on 12 October [going to 21 December].
Elsewhere, there were the luscious big Cecily Brown's at Gagosian, which, in spite of all the hype, were worth the trip. She really does paint better when she goes big and stupid. In Culver city it was the usual madness at the Lurie brothers, clean serenity at Luis De Jesus, chicken at Gaby's, aural fun at Nye + Brown, and the usual intelligence at Walter Maciel's. Cherry & Martin continues to drift--they looked completely lost--while NYC-connected George Billis continues their retrenchment back into the photo-based, seemingly abandoning their initial forays into abstraction. Surely the New Yorkers aren't going to make the old LA mistake of staying stuck in the late 70s as if Kaprow wrote his essay last year instead of 1977? or maybe that is where they think LA is at. It's the market they say. Yes, but oh so predictable and boring.
Then we passed on the opening of Linder's soft-core at Blum & Poe to pursue other more personally lucrative opportunities and much needed libations downtown at our favorite hole-in-the-wall. Art-wise, the Downtown Art Walk was spectacularly underwhelming. Not even any dirty little secrets any more. Oh well, c'est la vie.
In Ventura, the Museum of Ventura County offered up an odd mix that taken as a totality reveals meanings that I do not think the new director and staff curators would want to intend, but nevertheless are there: The trio of shows start off with the much-needed retribution of the Moses Mora-HB Hanrahan Tortilla Flats mural project celebrating the multi-ethnic Tortilla Flats neighborhood that thrived between the courthouse and beach in pre-1963 Freeway Ventura. The show laments its demise and destruction with the intrusion of 101. The psychological impact of the show is enhanced by their new exhibition designer [an area the museum needed major improvement on].
However, the show is juxtaposed -- and I mean "no transition, difficult to tell if it was even a separate exhibition" juxtaposition--with a totally whitebread, no-where-near-museum-quality show of "party" wear worn in Ventura during the same time period. This strange duo was augmented by another George Stuart collection show in back.
So what you ended up with was a disturbingly politically dubious combination of three shows starting out with a show lamenting how powerful white men in suits destroyed and marginalized all the residents of color in downtown and Westside Ventura [incidentally, or not-so-incidentally, the same area that is now Ventura's new art zone], followed immediately by an incredibly amateurish whitebread display of white-privilege partying [white-men and women in suits] during the exact same era--a show which, itself, marginalizes the very same ethnic groups celebrated 20 feet earlier, followed by the George Stuart collection show which is an unapologetic collection that is all about white, upper-class privilege.
No irony in sight, or admission of consciousness of the museum's role, which is itself standing on old Tortilla Flats land.
The juxtaposition produces a powerful possible reading of deep-set, unconscious racism and classism--explicitly supported by the museum, which has also benefitted from the takeover of the Tortilla Flats land. This surely wasn't the curator's intent- but oh, the audience saw it that way.
The overlap of timeframe for the content of the first two shows only enhanced the more disturbing sub-text. Not pretty.
In a way, it's an incredible embarrassment for the Ventura Museum staff. Museum's don't get to beg off by light of ignorance or lack of intention. They are cultural institutions and the very act of placing things in their public exhibits implicitly conveys meanings and contexts they need to be sensitive to and cognizant of. That is their job. In this case, it is a disturbingly unconscious re-contexting containing classist and racist sub-texts by juxtaposition. It is a terribly choice. What were they thinking? I suspect they weren't. Thinking that is: the whole thing smacks of someone being asleep at the wheel.