By Nicholas Katzban
On April 5, both Metro Pictures and Paula Cooper Gallery in New York City hosted concurrent opening receptions for exhibitions and sales of work to benefit the John Baldessari Art Studio Building on the CalArts campus, and provide endowed scholarships for students in the School of Art. President Steven D. Lavine’s remarks to the gathered guests spoke to the sense of collaboration and camaraderie CalArts breeds: “Virtually everyone we called said, ‘why didn’t you call before? I’ve been waiting to do something for CalArts.'”
In total, 53 works from alumni, faculty and friends created over the past four decades were on view and for sale in the two galleries. At Metro Pictures, color came to the forefront. Work such as Pieter Schoolwerth’s (Art MFA 93) portrait of The Supper at Emmaus re-makes Caravaggio’s stark chiaroscuro with thick, gestural brushwork. When asked about themes now visible in previously unrelated oeuvres, Lavine said, “While every work is different, there’s a kind of consistency of invention that makes this look like a museum show of pieces chosen to be together, as opposed to what alumni and friends donated, and that’s pretty remarkable.” Remarkable indeed. At 7 pm the collective My Barbarian began a performance/processional, which led the guests from Metro Pictures to the next event site, Paula Cooper Gallery.
Dressed in silver robes, My Barbarian carried iPads, iPhones and portable monitors while harmonizing the following refrain: “Tell us of the future/Tell us what you see/Tell us what will happen/Will it affect me.” The digital was crashing headlong into the monastic for three city blocks during a refreshingly balmy New York dusk.
At Paula Cooper, the school’s renowned history of conceptual art was more evident. When asked what guided the decision of which artists were invited to donate work, Tony Oursler (Art BFA 79), who led this unprecedented exercise in alumni networking, said, “Oh, it was very systematic,” with a self-effacing smile. “We made a huge list of everyone involved in the school that we could think of, and we asked those artists to think of other people.”
In addition to fundraising, the evening enabled a lively meeting of disparate artistic minds. Oursler said, “I met someone tonight I didn’t even know went to CalArts. A very important photographer, Marcia Resnick (Art MFA 73).” He continued, “it’s interesting for me to see what was going on before I was there, and what’s been going on since.” Liz Glynn (Art MFA 08), one of the more recent grads to donate work, enforced the sense of pride that filled the room, “You see echoes of different generations among the artists, but also some real diversity of approaches.”
Pieces from the show are also available for purchase through Artsy.
The CalArts Benefit & Auction will be on view at Metro Pictures and Paula Cooper Gallery through April 19, 2014, and continues with a sale at Christie’s May 14th.