2010 Southern California Biennial

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Courtesy of Nina Waisman

Orange County’s Museum of Art presents its “2010 California Biennial,” which showcases emerging California artists. The curator of this exhibition, Sarah Bancroft, handpicked each of the artists whose work is on display.

Bancroft’s stated goal is “to capture the compelling range of art and art practices happening across the state today.” Bancroft succeeds in creating a diverse collection that shows California artists heading in a more technologically modern and youthful direction with their art, but for the most part fails in finding impressive artists.

For the number of artists’ works that are on display, it’s unfortunate that the majority are neither very thought-provoking nor dynamic.

Minimalist paintings in various shades of blue by John Zurier prove drab and uninteresting. These large paintings in either light blues or dark ocean blues don’t make me reminisce about fond memories I had lying in the grass staring up at the sky. They just make me sad when I walk by.

Tom Mueske’s drawings were equally underwhelming. His art consisted of scribble-esque images. I remember in middle school when it was popular to take a highlighter and write some word out a couple of times, creating layers, then going over it in pen. Unfortunately, in essence, that’s what Mueske does. If the lines were cleaner and the work more complex, the idea could have been more successful.

Slightly more interesting is some of the photography on display. Photographers Glenna Jennings and Lindsay Macdonald utilize modern technology to make their work stand out.

Jennings photographs her female subjects holding up guns, successfully grabbing the viewers’ attention. Macdonald’s photographs equally grab attention, but her choice of weaponry is Photoshop. She places random shocking images into seemingly normal photos. Both artists take photographs that are youthful, energetic and bold, but in my opinion, their works are better geared towards being inside a magazine than hung inside a museum.

One artist whose installation I really enjoy is Nina Waisman from Tijuana. Her installation takes up a large room. Audio equipment and electronics connect to rods and hang down waist level from the ceiling and run continuously.

Each rod is connected to different audio equipment. Outside movement causes the rods to react, and each play a different noise. Walking through the installation is similar to walking through a chaotic farm or school. Small children are taking tours in an adjacent room as I continue zig-zagging in and out of this room, creating a rumpus and probably wreaking havoc upon innocent tour guides.

Alas, my joy at creating a silly distraction soon faded as I came across work by artist Carlee Fernandez. Lying on a wool mat in the middle of the floor are pieces to a ritualistic costume alongside guns and three taxidermy animals: a young leopard, a large lobster and a white rabbit.

This makes me cry on the inside, as I am an animal lover. The items are supposed to represent the “interplay between life and death.” The taxidermy specifically symbolizes the rebirth of the creatures. This display was effective in filling me with disgust.

Nearing the end of the exhibition, I no longer feel bad about being a distraction to the tour guides earlier. As I circle around back to the front of the museum I stop at a large piñata version of what resembles the Scooby Doo Mystery Machine. If you take off your shoes you can go inside the decorated van.

One of the docents who recently finished giving elementary school children a tour of the exhibit approaches and tells me that she wouldn’t let the children inside this van’s room out of fear they’d get out of control. She hadn’t been inside yet and thought it might have been a terrible idea.

She hands me one of the small laser lights they say you should use to draw with when you get inside. We step in. It’s a small room, so you have to crawl and sit. However, once you take out the laser and point it at the wall, you can create any image you want thanks to the special resin coating on the walls. The museum cut up pieces of cardboard and made stencils for the public. The docent picked up a stencil of a hand peace sign. I can’t believe she didn’t know about this, nor take the little kids inside. It would have been heaven for a six-year-old.

Disgruntled at my overall experience, I head over towards to the conveniently located Fashion Island to cheer up. Despite my negative experience, I still recommend visiting the exhibition because without public criticism, these artists will think they are awesome. The “2010 California Biennial” exhibition runs until March 13, 2011.

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