Patrick Quan's Accidents, Failures, and Fantastical Landscapes

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Installation view of "Accidents and Failures" in the atrium of the Culver Center of the Arts. | Photo by Nikolay Maslov and courtesy of UCR ARTSblock.

In Partnership with UCR ARTSblock: UCR ARTSblock's mission is to provide a cultural presence, educational resource, community center and intellectual meeting ground for the university and the community.

In his sprawling installation, "Accidents and Failures," artist Patrick Quan transforms numerous spaces in the Culver Center of the Arts into contemplative and confrontational portals for the viewer to interact. Quan is the latest artist in residence to develop a project under the Culver Arts Research Laboratory (CARL) Program at UC Riverside's ARTSblock. The result is a site-specific, multi-media exhibition, combining Quan's new sculptures and photographs arranged in the Culver's grand atrium, the Hammond Dance Studio and the Media Room. Failure and accidents are important concepts in his working method. Both notions, embodied in the show's title, can lead to a "success" which can then become its own failure, too. It is a feedback loop that allows the artist to explore in his work the nature of observing and understanding objects, and then providing the same investigative experience for the viewer.

Ann Hamilton's Corpus at MASS MOCA. | Photo: takemabibelot/Flickr/Creative Commons License

Quan's intention to is resonate the practices of "arte provera," an art movement from the 1960s, and associated at first with Italy, but then spread throughout Europe and the U.S., that had as its main tenant the use of cheap and accessible materials. Quan utilizes the same approach to create an environment that provides a platform for one to separate themselves from their consciousness through odd combinations of elements. The first of these odd pairings is presented in the Spanish Colonial Revival architecture of the main atrium where Quan dispersed shredded, black, plastic garbage bags, implying a stark contrast between material and space.

Quan's attempt in this combination is similar to Ann Hamilton's Corpus (2003-2004) in which a gallery at MASS MOCA was occupied with paper dropped from mechanisms overhead. Hamilton's installations often employ the use of everyday household materials to create patterns and lines that interact with the specificity of its space. Quan's choice of using industrial material such as plastic bags and merging it with the atrium's classical space is traced in the same variable as in Hamilton's installation, but the act of positioning the materials on the ground is performed otherwise. Machines that dispense paper installed on the ceiling resulting in patterns and lines to be formed organically and by chance activate Ann Hamilton's placement of paper. Daily observations of the atrium's natural light distribution in the space and the traffic flow of patrons entering the space motivates Quan's constant repositioning and placement of the plastic bags that inherently stimulates the forms, shapes and lines presented in the exhibition. Regardless of their process, both installations evoke a window into a fantastical landscape: Hamilton's installation is voluminous, ethereal and unearthly, while Quan's work is dormant, torrential and underworldly.

Installation view of Accidents and Failures in the Hammond Dance Studio located on the second floor of the Culver Center of the Arts. | Photo by Nikolay Maslov and courtesy of UCR ARTSblock.
Installation view of Accidents and Failures in the Hammond Dance Studio located on the second floor of the Culver Center of the Arts. | Photo by Nikolay Maslov and courtesy of UCR ARTSblock.

In contrast to the turbulent dreamscape in the atrium, Quan continues the combination of classic and contemporary imagery in the Hammond Dance Studio located on the second floor of the Culver. Quan channels the minimalist shapes and patterns often found in the work of landscape architecture and artist Isamu Noguchi by creating a Zen-like garden of bent aluminum shards. A regional example can be found in Orange County at the Noguchi Sculpture Garden, near South Coast Plaza Shopping Center.According to Quan, deciding what materials to use and how to lay them took time to compose.

Noguchi Sculpture Garden / Ben Kraal/Flickr/Creative Commons License 

He says, "I had to find a relationship with the space, as well as how my work would relate to the space. The process is remotely like moving into a house or designing your garden. You have to come into terms with it but ultimately, be content with it." It took daily visits to the Culver Center and multiple rearranging of the installation before he could define the space as "settled." "I started the installation in the dance studio with about ten pieces of bent aluminum," Quan stated. "After my visit, it felt like the room was consuming my work and there wasn't a conversation between the two." In less than 24 hours from his last visit at the dance studio, Quan produced over 100 bent aluminum pieces that resulted in an ideal connection between sculpture and architecture. The sunlit Hammond Dance Studio, its light, maple floors and cool, aqua velvet drapery suddenly became flooded with waves of polished, aluminum scalene triangles. Quan affirmed that it's less horrific as the black trash bags in the Culver Atrium. "I was aiming for a contrast (from the Culver Atrium). There's a sense of serenity, and even with the way the aluminum shards are scattered- there's a sense of order."

Installation view of Accidents and Failures in Media Room at the Culver Center of the Arts. | Photo by Nikolay Maslov and courtesy of UCR ARTSblock.
Installation view of Accidents and Failures in Media Room at the Culver Center of the Arts. | Photo by Nikolay Maslov and courtesy of UCR ARTSblock.

Detailed photographic shots of a painting and a painting detailing a photograph are the final installment of the exhibition, which takes place both under a soffit in the atrium and in the Media Room, located on the second floor, adjacent to the dance studio. Quan's attempt to break down the dichotomy between photographs and paintings comes from his own practice of constantly questioning if the work that had just been completed could be more than what it is; specifically, if it is reproduced into another medium. Two opposing claims by mid-twentieth century philosophers, Walter Benjamin and Roland Barthes, come to mind when investigating Quan's thought process in creating his own work. Benjamin's expressed that the "aura" in photographs is lost when it's reproduced. Meanwhile, Barthes refutes that photographs do have an aura, and that aura is of lost time and lost memories. Quan's exploration of reproducing a detail of a photograph into a painting, and vice versa, led to his own quandary. "I started to wonder what element in the photograph did I take away when I translated its detail into a painting, and likewise with the painting into a photograph?" He continues to question if there was a sudden disruption or miscommunication during the transition, particularly if the mark-making found in a painting have the same significance as if it was captured as a detail in a photograph. As for a photograph being translated into a painting; He marvels at the ephemeral detail that may have been stripped away. Quan, whose art practice ventures into various media believes that the perplexity of these inquiries could be applied into drawing, sculpture and film. He considers his work as a vehicle for stirring up a conversation and at the same time, as a channel to tune in and sink your own curiosity.

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"Patrick Quan: Accidents and Failures" is organized by UCR ARTSblock's Culver Center of the Arts, and curated by Tyler Stallings, Artistic Director, Culver Center of the Arts & Director, Sweeney Art Gallery, University of California, Riverside. It is part of a series of a Culver Arts Research Laboratory (CARL) projects. Support is provided by UCR's College of Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences (CHASS) and the City of Riverside.

The exhibition is on view through September 28, 2013. There will be a closing reception on Saturday, September 28, 6-9 PM, free admission. Please visit artsblock.ucr.edu for further information.


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