Wanaawna, Rio Hondo and Other Spirits
Curated by Cassandra Coblentz
Wanaawna, Rio Hondo and Other Spirits expands Caycedo’s Water Portraits series (ongoing since 2015) in which photographs of rivers and waterfalls are mirrored, altered, and remixed as printed fabric works, still images, and videos. The resulting imagery conjures bodies of water as living entities and as active political agents in environmental conflicts, rather than as resources for humans to exploit.
OCMA’s exhibition explores Caycedo’s critique of a European conception of “landscape,” in which the framing and picturing of nature operates as a device of colonization. Instead, her portraits depict rivers, mountains, forests, and minerals as subjects with physical and spiritual agency, not mere resources for humankind to use. The show includes newly created works made in bodies of water, including the Santa Ana and San Gabriel Rivers, the Pacific Ocean, and Kuruvunga Springs (the exhibition title refers to the Tongva name for the Santa Ana River, Wanaawna; Rio Hondo is a tributary of the Los Angeles River). Through performance, in which Caycedo will experiment with submerging the Water Portraits in water and wrapping them around the body, among other actions, she will create new imagery that builds upon indigenous medicinal and shamanic visions.
Underworld Stories Told in Tree Time
For the exhibition Underworld Stories Told in Tree Time, Daniel Duford looks to Gary Snyder’s poem The Way West, Underground to explore new narratives about our relationship to the natural world. Snyder’s poem tracks a mythological Black Bear across time and space from Oregon to Asia then northern Europe, and finally down to Neolithic caves. The bear travels counter-clockwise, a symbolic move that rejects a Eurocentric lens and trajectory of conquering territory in order to control resources. Duford believes that we are currently in a “story crisis,” because our stories have become literally and figuratively “trapped under the pavement” of urban growth at the expense of the natural world. In the stories Duford tells through his art, the renewal of natural resources is a means of resistance to dominant narratives that value the destruction of nature for the sake of growth and civilization. He portrays the earth as a living entity with the power to regenerate and survive over time.
Underworld Stories Told in Tree Time brings together a series of Duford’s narrative paintings, prints, and drawings that depict underground migrations and edge dwellers who emerge from the wild to tell ancient stories. Treating the landscape as an essential character in the work, Duford develops the concept of “tree time,” or the slow perception of tree growth as a model for a longer narrative arc in the story of the North American landscape, potentially over centuries. Duford’s “tree time” also acknowledges non-human players in the story and values their viewpoint.
A Man, A Monster and The Sea
Curated by guest curator John Silvis
A Man, A Monster and The Sea is Mulyana’s debut exhibition in the United States, comprising three immersive environments that depict oceanic life. Mulyana’s large, visually kinetic installations are composed of intricately constructed modules of organic shapes that coalesce into vividly colored clusters of abstract forms. The soft forms appear bound together by an invisible force as they occupy the floor, wall, and ceiling.
To create his vibrant portrayal of an unadulterated underwater world, Mulyana re-purposes yarn and employs diverse communities of knitters in Indonesia. He considers the act of knitting and crocheting as a form of meditation and prayer. The collaborative process of making the components of his installations invokes ideas of spirituality, togetherness, and a communal ethos.
The central character of Mulyana’s mythology, the Mogus (monster), represents his alter-ego and is an acronym that combines the Gurita (octopus) with his clan name, Sigarantang. The Mogus, as well as other marine creatures he creates, are metaphors for the beautiful, yet fragile diversity of the coral reefs that provide crucial sustenance and protection to all forms of sea life, and are being destroyed at a rapid pace by human intervention. Within the magical world he creates, Mulyana appeals to our collective consciousness to care for each other and the environment.
ROBERT ZHAO RENHUI
Robert Zhao Renhui’s debut museum exhibition in the United States features two bodies of work that highlight the ubiquitous presence of flies and butterflies in our environment. Inspired by scientific methods of categorizing fly types, Zhao Renhui appropriates scientific tools to explore the boundaries, systems, and methods humans use to control fly populations, stemming from a dismissive attitude that belies their necessity. While the fly is seen as a nuisance, the Monarch Butterfly, on the other hand, is seen as a beautiful creature; it is a symbol of transformation.
In Effect, suspended fly traps and lures reflect Zhao Renhui’s fascination with the countless devices and methodologies invented by humans to exterminate insects. His investigation of fly extermination methods continues with one hundred different fly pheromones applied to photographic panels in a warm yellow hue that references the color of commercially produced flytraps. In He Counts The Stars And Calls Them All By Name, a large photographic lexicon documenting 4,784 specimens from a single family of flies (the Hover fly), Zhao Renhui draws the viewer’s attention to their ubiquitous presence in our ecosystem despite their near invisibility in human consciousness.
Zhao Renhui’s work exposes the overlooked contradictions, assumptions, and tensions inherent in our relationship with nature. Rendering the unseen visible, and the ignored critical, this multidisciplinary exhibition amplifies the intersections of insect and human, and natural and urbanized environments.
Spectrums of Reference
Ximena Garrido-Lecca explores the impact of natural resource exploitation on different social groups and cultures, with a particular interest in how industrialization and urbanization have historically affected the relationship between nature and culture. Increasingly, nature is considered to be in the service of science and technology, reduced to a mere object, as opposed to an ancient conception of nature as a living force. In her work, Garrido-Lecca blurs the boundaries between nature and culture by creating synthetic objects made from natural resources.
For this exhibition, the artist investigates contemporary uses of silicon. In its pure form, silicon is mostly found in sands and dust as silicon dioxide or silicates. More than 90% of the earth’s crust is composed of silicate minerals, making it the second most abundant element on earth, after oxygen. Silicon is most commonly used today in the production of computer chips and solar panel technology, both of which have a history of development and production in California’s Silicon Valley. In this new body of work, Garrido-Lecca repurposes silicon scraps used to make computer chips and fragments from discarded solar panels into various forms, including a stained-glass window and vessels inspired by Pre-Columbian ceremonial ceramics. By connecting ancient ritualistic cultural practices, natural resources, science, and technology, Garrido-Lecca questions belief systems and the capitalist drive to produce new technologies.
Curated by guest curator Melanie Ouyang Lum
Yang Yongliang’s practice is rooted in his deep respect and reverence for Chinese art history, specifically classical Chinese landscape paintings (shanshui). The landscapes in this school of thought are landscapes of the mind—contemplative compositions in which the Chinese literati (scholar/artist/court official) would imbue their ideologies into images of mountains, rivers, and trees. Yongliang grew up in Shanghai in an era of rapid urbanization and, while a student of tradition, he also embraced new media to make sense of the changing world around him.
The exhibition takes its name from Yongliang’s seminal virtual reality work Eternal Landscape (2017), in which he mastered new technologies to “paint” a Song Dynasty shanshui landscape, furthering his exploration of the interconnectedness between tradition and modernity. For OCMA’s exhibition, film, video, photography, and a virtual reality work create a contemplative space for viewers to journey into the landscape of the artist’s mind.
An Earth Song, A Body Song: Figures with Landscape
from the OCMA Permanent Collection
Curated by Daniel Duford
An Earth Song, A Body Song: Figures with Landscape from the OCMA Permanent Collection features artworks that position the human figure as an integral part of the earth and landscape. It criticizes traditional landscape and environmental art that often ignores the human presence and presents a pure image of nature ripe for human exploitation. The works on view emphasize the ways humans have used the land to colonize and abuse its natural resources. The title references Langston Hughes’ poem Earth Song, which celebrates the sensuous earth and the coming of spring. Like the poem’s subject, the bodies referenced in these artworks are sensuous, alive, and speaking from the margins of an earth in crisis and worthy of protection. The exhibition includes work by Viola Frey, Daniel Joseph Martinez, Richard Misrach, Kori Newkirk, Nancy Spero and Leon Golub, and others.