O.C. Museum of Art refashions biennial as triennial
The Orange County Museum of Art has announced that it is re-conceiving and relaunching its California Biennial as the California-Pacific Triennial in 2013.
The new exhibition will present California art within the context of a broad cross-section of countries from the Pacific Rim – including Asia and Latin America. The first California-Pacific Triennial will be June 30-Sept. 22, 2013.
"It's a complete retooling of the idea," said Dan Cameron, OCMA's new chief curator since January. "It's not just California looking at California, but California looking at itself in a larger, international context."
Cameron, who hails from New York and New Orleans, said when he came to Southern California, he noticed that the sprawling, Getty-sponsored initiative "Pacific Standard Time" (which mostly concludes this month) had changed the context in which California art was being addressed.
"With the heavy emphasis on this region, and all these shows, with the combined institutional weight, exhibitions, research and catalogs, I began wondering, 'Do we need another California Biennial?' It would start to seem provincial," Cameron said. "Looking at California art as a self-contained category didn't really make much sense."
So Cameron accepted OCMA director Dennis Szakacs' challenge to make the biennial more relevant and exciting. He noticed that the West Coast has no recurring, international survey exhibition, and that a lot of the demographic of California's populace originates from countries in the Pacific Rim.
"The Pacific has replaced the Atlantic as where global commerce and global international exchange happens," said Cameron, 55. "We really wanted to raise the bar for art happening in California and see the work in an international context."
Cameron, who has organized and advised biennials in New Orleans, Taipei, Istanbul and Yokohama, Japan, seems like a natural choice for expanding the reach of OCMA's biggest exhibition. He specializes in contemporary artists working in Asia and Latin America, and has visited countries in those regions many times.
"We wanted to continue organizing a major survey of California art, but only in a way that brought intellectual ambition and new knowledge to the discussion of contemporary art in Southern California," OCMA director Szakacs said in a statement. "Dan Cameron's arrival at OCMA will provide such a vision to the California-Pacific Triennial, and the exhibition will offer audiences here information and ideas unavailable elsewhere."
A BIENNIAL WITH HISTORY
Retooling one of the West Coast's longest-running biennials is no small affair. The Newport Beach-based museum has been presenting tightly conceived and organized biennials since 1984, back in the days when it was the Newport Harbor Art Museum.
Many artists obtained their first major exposure in the California Biennial, including Mark Bradford, Ruben Ochoa, Daniel Joseph Martinez, Pearl C. Hsiung, Jane Callister and Tim Sullivan.
In total, the biennial has presented more than 245 California artists, including international artists who have roots here or call the Golden State home.
"The Orange County museum is really doing fine organizing a California Biennial, but once you raise the bar in terms of the geographic scope, it is not feasible to try to do it every 24 months," Cameron explained. He said doing the extensive group exhibition every three years will instill more anticipation among the art-loving audience.
"People have a certain biennial fatigue now," he said. "Everyone was jumping on the biennial bandwagon for a while. If this exhibition were being done according to the same timetable, it would have to happen this summer. There's no way that could happen."
Cameron said he's using the Asia-Pacific Triennial from Brisbane, Australia, as his model. "It really has become the most important recurring Asian art exhibition. I've seen it twice. It's an absolutely brilliant show."
Artists in OCMA's California-Pacific Triennial are expected to come from China, Japan, South Korea, Indonesia, Australia, Mexico, Guatemala, El Salvador, Nicaragua, Costa Rica, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru and Chile. A full list of participating artists will be announced early next year.
In the meantime, if you are hankering for an art biennial now that OCMA's California Biennial is off the calendar this year, you might consider visiting "Made in L.A.," the first Los Angeles biennial, June 2-Sept. 2 at the Hammer Museum, LAXART and the Los Angeles Municipal Art Gallery at Barnsdall Park.
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