Experimental artwork is celebrated in “R.S.V.P. Los Angeles: The Project Series at Pomona,” which is currently on display at the Pomona College Museum of Art. Curator Rebecca McGrew, along with the entire museum staff, organized the exhibit, which opened this past Saturday. The exhibition consists of works from various underrepresented contemporary Los Angeles artists.
McGrew envisioned the Project Series nearly two decades ago. A draft of the 1998 mission statement outlines the series’ intent to promote underrepresented artists from Southern California and to explore experimental art.
“The Project Series enhances the Museum’s role as a laboratory for exploring innovative, cross-disciplinary collaborations and ideas and to serve as a catalyst for new knowledge,” the statement reads.
Two decades later, this statement holds true, evident in the artwork displayed at the opening. The visuals vary greatly. Part of the exhibit features Wakana Kimura’s piece “One trifle-beset night, t’was the moon, not I, that saw the pond lotus bloom.” Her work depicts elements found in ancient Japanese mythology, using a combination of traditional and unconventional mediums. Another part of the display features Naotaka Hiro’s striking “Four Legged (Toe to Heel),” an impressive aluminum cast of his own body.
“I love the interaction of the white, silhouette-type patterns with the messy, watercolor shapes and the way it looks like calligraphy. It’s really interesting and beautiful,” Paskalina Bourbon PO ’19 said of Kimura's piece.
The series has been praised for its visually, politically and historically complex themes.
“It is deeply unsettling but also beautiful,” Davis Menard PO ’17 reflects of Hiro’s work. “The way the process is visible in the final product is interesting. I think he’s getting at some of that deep psychological stuff about how you imagine yourself.”
Yet this collaborative and innovative spirit is evident not only in the artwork itself, but also in the complex and cooperative process by which the exhibition was put together.
The stereotyped image of the solitary, inaccessible artist is a far cry from the artists participating in the Project Series. All participating Project Series artists work collaboratively with faculty and students. Featured artist Michael Parker PO ’00 emphasizes that his art is an immensely synergic process.
His work, the fourteen-foot long piece titled “The Unfinished,” required transportation assistance from a number of people. Because of Parker’s participatory philosophy, he invites anyone that assists him in the creation, transport or process of his work to sign the piece.
Due to the experiential nature of Parker’s artwork, the piece had to be adapted to fit in the venue of Pomona’s museum. The scale of his piece, “The Unfinished,” which is a 137-foot replica of an ancient Egyptian obelisk, was adapted as a graphite rubbing of the actual work.
“It’s like I’ve made these very experiential projects, and I think that one of the big challenges for me in this show is to see how by just having the formal elements shown, how the ideas that I’m interested in can also be explored,” Parker describes.
This Saturday’s triumphant gallery opening aligns with McGrew’s goal of supporting underrepresented L.A. artists.
“The Project Series reflects the increasing cultural and geographic diversity of the Pomona student body, the Los Angeles region, and indeed, the nation as a whole,” she explains.
When asked how art at Pomona has changed since his time here as a student, Parker replied, “It’s changed a lot. There are more art students now than there were when I was here for sure—it’s grown a lot.”