Dynamic Exchange: The Pacific Rim Triennial


The Orange County Museum of Art is hosting its first ever Pacific Rim Triennial, with the help and leadership of newly appointed Chief Curator Dan Cameron. The museum has enlisted some of the most well-known university art galleries in this countywide exhibition to help involve all the communities in this awesome event. "The Triennial will continue to position O.C. as playing a significant role in the international art community," says participating gallery, Grand Central Art Center's Director and Chief Curator, John Spiak. "It also reestablishes the important history of OCMA and its decades of contributions to the art world, with important exhibitions throughout the 1980s, 1990s and 2000s."

"The exhibition design for the Triennial sets up, what I hope will be very dynamic exchanges between artists whose work appears highly divergent, while pulling the viewer into the process of locating the common ground between them," says Cameron -- who organized the exhibition. "My goal is for our public to experience the Triennial as a genuine celebration of artistic possibilities, nurtured here or brought to California from all these nations and peoples with whom we share the Pacific Ocean."

Cameron's vision for the intelligent and thought-provoking selection of works in this triennial has no umbrella thesis (thematic or political). With his 30+ artists on exhibit, there are pleasant discoveries, tasty epiphanies and strange yet wondrous works.

In the museum, as a part of the Triennial, L.A. artist Mitchell Syrop's Giacometti's Bar Mitzvah is stunning. Playful and witty, Syrop invokes a humorous reaction to the sculptor, Alberto Giacometti. The objects involved in the installation are poetic and modern, giving weight, ambiguity and intrigue to the historical, abstract figurative master.

Danial Nord's No Exit installation also is striking. With bright lights and terrifying apocalyptic sound bites, viewers are asked to lay down and stare up at this ominous sculptural series of open doors and lights. Without any other guidance or suggestion, this is a very emotive installation.

In conjunction with this event, OCMA asked many galleries to participate, including local university art exhibitors: Coastline Community College's Art Gallery, Chapman University's Guggenheim Gallery and Cal State Fullerton's Grand Central Art Center.

Grand Central Art Center also exhibits works by Colombian artist, Adriana Salazar. Salazar often creates location specific works that address mortality. Salazar served as an artist-in-residence for two months at Grand Central Art Center, during which she decided to investigate the transitional moments between life and death, through art objects. Salazar pairs a mesmerizing installation at the museum with her creepy and hypnotic exhibition at Grand Central. In a large, dark exhibition space, five long tables are lit with ghostly lighting, displaying the relics of real life for visitors. On these tables you can witness what is left behind after death; symbols of our human experience that live on after we cannot. These objects include metal or ceramic implants, joints, ligaments or bones that could not be burned in the crematorium.

Adriana Salazar, Nothing Else Left (2013), installation. | Courtesy of the artist and Grand Central Art Center.

"Salazar has decided to rescue as many cremated artificial body parts possible," Spiak explains. "These parts remain as solid as they were inside their bodies and are nevertheless considered residue. She found their value in this very ambiguity. They embody the question of the status of our own existence on a physical level: their materiality creates confusion between those objects as parts of a physical body and our own body, thus opening the gap between our certainties and uncertainties, beyond the matter of human death itself."

Adriana Salazar, Nothing Else Left (2013), installation. | Courtesy of the artist and Grand Central Art Center.

Adriana Salazar, Nothing Else Left (2013), installation. | Courtesy of the artist and Grand Central Art Center.

Salazar's installation in the museum rests on similar laurels. A creepy bed of dead roses, slightly moving and swaying -- just ever so slightly -- standing tall in a large, white gallery.

The artists involved with Coastline Community College Art Gallery's Triennial exhibit of three Pacific Rim artists in one gallery space -- from Los Angeles, Guatemala, and China -- touches on similar notions of the unseen, but in very different ways.

In the center of the gallery space, your attention immediately is drawn to large amorphous abstract sculptures. Dario Escobar from Guatemala transforms the space with, what looks like a game of Pick Up Sticks gone awry--all made from factory pool cues. "This mess in the middle, these cues, are a distraction when looking from one side of the gallery to the other, you're sort of forced to look through these expanding forms," says Coastline Community College Art Gallery's Director, David Michael Lee. With the help of a dozen or more college students, Escobar constructed instinctual sculptural compositions with 150 mass-produced Chinese pool cues. The pool cues have never been used, and even still have the numbered, "made in China" stickers on them.

Transparent Sculptures by Dario Escobar. Installation view. | Image courtesy of Coastline Community College Art Gallery.

Transparent Sculptures by Dario Escobar. Installation view. | Image courtesy of Coastline Community College Art Gallery.

"I'm interested in complete experiences that involve all the senses through this work, Escobar says. "To produce a work with modern art forms, with products industrially manufactured in China or in any other country of Asia or Latin America -- it's a way of rethinking modernity in contemporary terms, it is to assume its absence in countries like mine where the modernity never completely arrived."

Transparent Sculptures by Dario Escobar. Installation view. | Image courtesy of Coastline Community College Art Gallery.

Brice Bischoff, also on display in the Coastline Community College Art Gallery, creates unique photographic works in the famous Bronson Caves in Southern California. Colorful performances by Bischoff were documented with a long-exposure, giving an ambiguous visual narrative to the viewer. The photographs touch on the history and architecture of these notorious caves, often used throughout history in films. The images end up looking like relics of a supernatural experience in rainbow colors; haunting psychoactive fuzzy objects that seem to float in space or hover through the caves.

Bronson Caves by Brice Bischoff. | Image courtesy of Coastline Community College Art Gallery.

Bronson Caves by Brice Bischoff. | Image courtesy of Coastline Community College Art Gallery.

Bischoff's eerie series plays on the presence that the Bronson Caves have had in the history of cinema, while also creating a new vision of the caves. "I [wanted] to amend Robert Smithson's original proposal, 'Towards the Development of a Cinema Cavern', that was first introduced in his essay 'A Cinematic Atopia,' [from] 1971. I amend that the Cinema Cavern Smithson writes about be set at the Bronson Caves and 'the ultimate film goer' would be captive on a boulder not watching a screen endlessly [as Smithson suggests], but observing endlessly all the fictional realities dancing before them, films following films, performed throughout the history of the Bronson Caves."

Spring, 2008 by Stella Lai. | Image courtesy of Coastline Community College Art Gallery.

In the same space, just across from Bischoff's unique and eerie photographs are meticulously rendered paintings by Chinese artist, Stella Lai. Chinese art traditions infuse Lai's compositions, with one even painted on traditional silk. Her gouache paintings use traditional Chinese compositions, but she uses juxtaposing contemporary imagery, both brightly rendered and slightly humorous in context. Panda bears fornicating on top of clouds, polluted skies fill the backgrounds of her artworks. Opposed to Bischoff's colorful photographs--both touching on story telling and tradition -- they complement each other nicely, visually and contextually. In the center of the gallery space, large sculptural artworks immediately catch your attention as you enter the space.

The Guggenheim Gallery at Chapman University also explores story-telling in their participation in the Pacific Triennial. The Guggenheim Gallery is exhibiting work by York Chang and Mitchell Syrop, while they both delve into the fabrication of narratives and supposed truths through the authority of the written word. Mitchell Syrop uses self-deprecating words and phrases as visual images, and what connections may lie in between. Large oversized scribbles of words and lightly layered energy through phrases, erased and then rewritten, and then erased and rewritten again. If it weren't so pretty to look at, so clean and so minimal, it would be uncomfortably intense and overwhelming--Cy Twombly meets Jackson Pollock kind of work.

Syrop & Chang, installation view. | Image courtesy of the Guggenheim Gallery at Chapman University.

A textual obsession imbues Chang's work with baggage as well. He is keenly interested in the possibility that text has to create history and authority--particularly with reference to the "visceral realists," a fictitious historical art movement created by Chang. Chang is inspired by the power text has to create and hold truths. Chang aims to "pose questions of identity and authorship in creating heroes," which are versions of poetic improvisation on art history's typewriter.

Mitchell Syrop's work at Guggenheim Gallery at Chapman University.

York Chang at the Guggenheim Gallery, at Chapman University.

York Chang's installation at Guggenheim Gallery. | Image courtesy of the Guggenheim Gallery at Chapman University.

"Chang's work often explores fiction and deception, blurring conventional notions of authorship, appropriation, and credibility in cultural production," according to Guggenheim Gallery Director Marcus Herse.

"Where Syrop is direct, expressive and sometimes goes blue, Chang answers in his deadpan, sly and calculated style," Herse says. "The pairing of their different methods of investigation provides commonalities, and exciting new constellations and timbres of their respective work, while showing the continuation of conceptual approaches in L.A.'s most recent art history."

The art represented by these institutions present an insightful glance at life and expression along the Pacific Rim, through contemporary art.

Mitchell Syrop. Detail. Image courtesy of the Guggenheim Gallery at Chapman University.

The Grand Central Art Center Triennial exhibition will be on view thru Sept 22, as will the Coastline Community College Gallery. The Guggenheim Gallery Triennial exhibition will be on view thru Sept 14.

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Top Image: Bronson Caves by Brice Bischoff. Image courtesy of Coastline Community College Art Gallery.

About the Author

Evan is the Editor in Chief of Inland Empire Weekly, Culture Magazine, and Rogue Art Research & Writing (RARW).
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