DARK: A Group Exhibition

Bruce Nauman “Dark”, Steel. 1968

Bruce Nauman “Dark”, Steel. 1968

Dark the exhibition centers on the response of five artists to the Bruce Nauman artwork titled, Dark, which is in Southwestern College’s permanent collection. Featuring the work of local artists that are consistently elevating the San Diego art scene, the exhibition is a small, much needed look at an underrecognized artwork in the school’s collection. Unbeknownst to many, the college’s collection contains stellar works by modern artists and contemporary heavy-hitters such as Nauman, Stella, Morris, and Baldessari, (who was a teacher at SWC during 1962-68).

Nauman has often been referred to as “the artist’s artist”. His influence on contemporary art legends is understated at times, and exaggerated at others. Regardless if you understand the depths of clairvoyance present in his art, his influence on other artists as prolific (or perhaps more so), is something that all creatives strive for. Much like how many say a lady dresses for other women, I find that artists are often not creating for the world at large as much as they are for themselves and their peers. In 1989 Nauman noted the importance of “Dark” in his oeuvre, “The feelings I had about that piece and the way it functioned for me were important for a long time. I was able to make a statement in it that let things out of me that I hadn’t been able to get out before.”

A small and unassuming gallery, I was in particularly struck by the generous space allocated between each work. This is not because it deterred from the enjoyment of the exhibition, but rather the opposite, it allowed for each artwork to shine in its own space. The room utilized by artist Andrew Alcasid was minimal, but sensationally immersive. Playing with the idea of light and dark in a literal sense as well as an idealistic journey. Entering the space you are emerging from the light into darkness, which is overwhelming for the senses if you venture all the way into the room. Alcasid’s piece is a nod to his “minimalist art voyage”, which is deeply connected to his mentors and his own artistic evolution, the work is impeccable in its execution and a magnificent example of his talents. In all honesty, each of the pieces on display are executed brilliantly and with such impeccable attention to detail that they mimic the clean, sleek lines of the 4x4 steel Nauman work in its original state.

This is not simply an exhibition, but an exploration into the psyche of artists. As often occurs, the binding thread of this show isn’t solely the premise or conceptualized theme, but the overall impact of each piece shown. In limiting the amount of artwork on display, the viewer is allowed to wander through the space with less immediacy and more time to fully digest the impact, meaning, and influence of each work properly. In addition, the focus on presentation for each work provides viewers with an exhibit that displays talented artists working across different mediums and ideologies. Although each has taken their inspiration from Nauman, the interpretations diverge, therefore the output is as varied as their individual expressive styles. It is quite unusual, but upon reflection I noted that each piece stayed with me, becoming more synonymous with Nauman’s piece as my mind tried to work out how each was directly responding to the artwork.

Daniel Barron Corrales showcased a new artwork that was not necessarily what one would expect of the artist. The piece is comprised of a nominal object (it appears to be an excavator trowel), encased in a sleek stitched velvet exterior placed atop a rotating platform. Encircling the work is a long cord that adds to the piece like a sculptural drawing. The artwork by Walter is another stunning example of artistic expression at its finest. A collaborative piece of sorts, the concrete structure was cast by JXL studio. Affixed to the top of the sculpture is a small non-coated steel plate. This plate allows for the work to offer an active element that engages those who sit with the work long enough or time their visit impeccably. Water droplets are dispelled on a timer, the work is in a constant state of erosion and change. Much like the Nauman piece her steel has started to rust and in just a few weeks the state of the work will no longer be what it once was.

If you find yourself questioning the exhibition and are at a loss or seeking meaning in Nauman’s piece, look no further than the critique by Von Meier. He declared the piece a winner (it was created for a contest that sparked much controversy), and wrote a formidable essay on “Dark” in defense of his decision. “The word ‘DARK’ is inscribed on the underside — buried,” his essay read. “What more apt poetic image could there be for expressing the fundamental role of any educational institution: To bury the darkness of all forms of ignorance, prejudice and stupidity. “On the side facing upward there is light. It is not spelled out. Very often truth does not appear spelled out — in the same ways falseness and ignorance very often do.”

Thomas DeMello. Dark resonse, Site specific. 2019

Thomas DeMello. Dark resonse, Site specific. 2019

Exhibition on view: February  7 - March 5, 2019

South Western College, Campus Art Gallery.

900 Otay Lakes Rd. SAN DIEGO, CA 91910

SouthWestern College

  1. Bruce Nauman: Prints 1970-1989. Nauman, Bruce, John Yau. Edt Christopher Cordes

  2. BY GABRIEL SANDOVAL  SUN STAFF | 05/21/2015| http://www.theswcsun.com/shining-light-on-dark/