*This is the last of two writings reconnecting with the arts in Southern California. The vibe was warm and inviting by critically engaging diverse audiences. The trip welcomed and felt like home.
In the last seventeen years, I’ve attended numerous exhibition openings. The ART AS PROTEST show at the Orange County Center for Contemporary Art was packed with numerous visitors the entire evening. Never experienced an opening with that much energy and buzz. It felt and was the right place to be.
Tyler Stallings juried the exhibit from over 500 pieces of art. His background includes Chief Curator at the Laguna Art Museum and Program Director at the Huntington Beach Art Center. Currently, he is Director of Sweeney Art Gallery and Artistic Director at the Culver Center of the Arts. I had the pleasure of meeting Mr. Stallings along with participating artists.
From Stallings’ statement: “This occurs when the materiality of art, with its physical presence in the world, acts as a small island of respite for reimagining possibilities within the ephemeral, untouchable flows of capital and information that just do not stop. In this dystopian world that I describe here, art becomes a form of science fictional or speculative technology, creating portals to other imaginaries. Hopefully, enough of these islands will merge in the future and become a continent dominated by the free flow of imagination. In this present time, the Orange County Center for Contemporary Art’s ‘Art As Protest’ is one such island of loud voices.”
Photographer Elon Schoenholz’s Protest Grid explores expression after the Trump election. From his statement: “Going to marches and photographing people with their signs was a way to use the technical photographic skills I’ve developed as a commercial photographer, and broadcast the voices of the marchers, so that people not at these events would see their faces and read what they had to say.” Schoenholz’s clients include LACMA, The Getty Foundation, MOCA, and many others.
Adam Prince’s #HailToTheTweet or E Pluribus Ego stood out. The wall sculpture highlighted a new reality in presidential discourse and characters. On the other hand, artist James Berson presented himself with the Peaceful Protest Helmet. Berson: “These 9 helmets are my first prototypes for a Peaceful Protest Helmet product (which may one day be mass produced). This helmet is designed to reduce police brutality and other forms of violence, at protests, by acting as a deterrent for violence.”
My piece America Red, White, and Blue was right at home in the exhibit. The artwork records how patterns of power and inequality can be spread through distance, speed, and the repurpose of intention. A Mossberg 500 shotgun was used as a vehicle of mark making and commentary. ART AS PROTEST can’t be silenced and must be seen.