Gallery opens eclectic expo

Thirty-six underexposed photographs of a pale and hazy clown’s face with a bulbous red nose, blood-red lips and blood-shot eyes are displayed in a four-by-nine matrix at the Yale University Art Gallery.

“Continuous Present,” the first contemporary art exhibition at the gallery since 2002, opened today. The exhibition, curated by Modern and Contemporary Art curator Jennifer Gross, features a selection of work by 11 contemporary artists, including Rodney Graham, Roni Horn and On Kawara. Their work spans a broad array of media, such as film, video, photography, painting and sculpture.

The sound of clomping hooves greets visitors at the gallery. A drop-down screen displaying Rodney Graham’s four-minute loop film, “City Self/Country Self” marks the entrance to the exhibition hall. Here begins the break from the mundane world.

Graham’s film introduces the overarching theme of the exhibition — the capacity of art to influence physical and intellectual engagement with the world. The works illustrate the complexity of the simple things that people take for granted: Peter Fischli and David Weiss, for instance, created a choreographed chain reaction where physical energy is used to activate into motion physical objects such as water bottles and car tires. On Kawara’s date paintings, on the other hand, show nothing but a date.

The various media manage to create an eclectic collection without confusing the viewer, said Elisabeth Thomas ’10, an art history major who helped organize the exhibit.

“I think the exhibit’s especially interesting because there are so many artists and so many different types of media, from video and photography to painting and sculpture, all working with the way we experience the world now,” Thomas said. “It’s thought provoking, but also really playful.”

Curator Gross said she chose a diverse selection of media because she wanted to emphasize a wide array of practices that define what viewers perceive as contemporary art.

“I wanted to do an exhibition that would immediately defy what we think of as contemporary art,” she said. “Contemporary art isn’t just of the moment.”

She added that there is currently a shift from high modernism to more expressive art, and the idea that modern art is synonymous with abstract art is “a myth.”

Many of the pieces focus on the common theme of time, and capture it in unique ways. Roni Horn’s series of underexposed clown photographs, for example, show the futility of trying to preserve an instant as a universal truth, said Nancy Nichols ’09, who also worked on curating the exhibition.

“In declining to fix the moment, Horn refuses to fix her subject’s personal identity,” Nichols said.

Similarly, Gabriel Orozco’s simple pencil drawings exemplify the attempt to express time in a personal manner by channeling the emotion and rhythm in the artist’s body during the act of drawing. With a method reminiscent of Jackson Pollock’s, Orozco created his drawings by closing his eyes, drawing his breath and giving free reign to his pencil.

Gross explained that the present of artistic creation process is not limited by time: “Artistic inquiry is often motivated by a singular aspiration. The artist doggedly revisits, repositions this question or vision in his or her studio. The resulting works yield a refraction of the artist’s experience for the viewer and offer the opportunity to live in the continuous present.”

The exhibition will be on display until Jan. 10.


  • Moravecglobal

    UC Berkeley deficit did NOT curtail sports. UC Berkeley’s Leadership Crisis
    UC Berkeley’s recent elimination of popular sports programs highlighted endemic problems in the university’s management. Chancellor Robert Birgeneau’s eight-year fiscal track record is dismal indeed. He would like to blame the politicians in Sacramento, since they stopped giving him every dollar he has asked for, and the state legislators do share some responsibility for the financial crisis. But not in the sense he means.

    A competent chancellor would have been on top of identifying inefficiencies in the system and then crafting a plan to fix them. Competent oversight by the Board of Regents and the legislature would have required him to provide data on problems and on what steps he was taking to solve them. Instead, every year Birgeneau would request a budget increase, the regents would agree to it, and the legislature would provide. The hard questions were avoided by all concerned, and the problems just piled up to $150 million of inefficiencies….until there was no money left.

    It’s not that Birgeneau was unaware that there were, in fact, waste and inefficiencies in the system. Faculty and staff have raised issues with senior management, but when they failed to see relevant action taken, they stopped. Finally, Birgeneau engaged some expensive ($3 million) consultants, Bain & Company, to tell him what he should have been able to find out from the bright, engaged people in his own organization.

    From time to time, a whistleblower would bring some glaring problem to light, but the chancellor’s response was to dig in and defend rather than listen and act. Since UC has been exempted from most whistleblower lawsuits, there are ultimately no negative consequences for maintaining inefficiencies.

    In short, there is plenty of blame to go around. But you never want a serious crisis to go to waste. An opportunity now exists for the UC president, Board of Regents, and California legislators to jolt UC Berkeley back to life, applying some simple check-and-balance management principles. Increasing the budget is not enough; transforming senior management is necessary. The faculty, Academic Senate, Cal. Alumni, financial donators, benefactors and await the transformation.
    The author, who has 35 years’ consulting experience, has taught at University of California Berkeley, where he was able to observe the culture and the way the senior management operates.

  • Moravecglobal

    Stsrt small in higher education: stop UC Berkeley subsidy for foreign tuition. Californians subsidize the tuition of foreign students at UC Berkeley (UCB) in the guise of diversity while instate student tuition/fees are doubled. UCB Chancellor Robert J Birgeneau displaces Californians qualified for public UCB with a $50,600 payment from foreign students.

    UC Berkeley is not increasing enrollment. Birgeneau accepts $50,600 foreign students and displaces qualified instate Californians (When depreciation of assets funded by Californians are in foreign and out of state tuition calculations, out of state and foreign tuition is more than $100,000 + and does NOT subsidize instate tuition).
    Like Coaches, Chancellors Who Do Not Measure Up Must Go: remove Birgeneau.

    More recently, Chancellor Birgeneau’s campus police deployed violent baton jabs on students protesting Birgeneau’s tuition increases. The sky will not fall when Birgeneau and his $450,000 salary are ousted.

    Opinions make a difference; email UC Board of Regents

  • Moravecglobal

    Every qualified California student must get a place in public University of California (UC). That’s a desirable goal for UC. However, UC Berkeley Chancellor Robert J. Birgeneau displaces Californians qualified for education at Cal. with foreigners paying $50,600 tuition.
    Paying more is not a better education. UC tuition increases exceed the national average rate of increase. Birgeneau has doubled instate tuition/fees. Birgeneau jeopardizes access to Cal by making it the most expensive public university.
    UC President Mark Yudof uses tuition increases to pay for faculty & administrator salary increases. Payoffs like these point to higher operating costs and still higher tuition and taxes. Instate tuition consumes 14% of Cal. Median Family Income. President Yudof is hijacking our families’ and kids’ futures: student debt.
    I agree that Yudof and Birgeneau should consider the students’ welfare & put it high on their values. Deeds unfortunately do not bear out the students’ welfare values of Birgeneau, Regent Chairwoman Lansing and President Yudof.
    We must act. Birgeneau’s campus police deployed violent baton jabs on students protesting Birgeneau’s tuition increases. The sky will not fall when Chancellor Robert J Birgeneau ($450,000 salary) ‘honorably’ retires.
    Opinions to UC Board of Regents, email