Stories That We Tell: Art and Identity
January 18 – March 3, 2018

Opening Reception
Thursday, January 18, 5:30-8:00 PM
University Art Gallery (UAG), UC San Diego

Gallery Hours: Tuesday – Thursday, 11:00 am – 4:00 PM,
Open Fridays by Appointment

Curated by Tatiana Sizonenko, Ph.D., ‘13

Stories that We Tell: Art and Identity celebrates UC San Diego artists who paved the way for greater inclusion by inventing new means to address issues of race and gender. The seven internationally famous artists featured in the exhibition—Eleanor Antin, Barbara Kruger, Faith Ringgold, Martha Rosler, Miriam Schapiro, Lorna Simpson, and Carrie Mae Weems have been honored with major exhibitions at leading museums and recognized with prestigious awards. All were members of the Visual Arts Department, but this is the first time that they are exhibited on campus together.

The multi-layered narratives of the Stories that We Tell not only construct their identities as artists and individuals but speak more pointedly to what it is to be female and to be black in our society. Employing the body as not only a social but also a political site, these artists rebelled against the older modernist paradigm of femininity and productivity, patriarchal and voyeuristic attitudes that had permeated Western visual culture. Through serial imagery, photo and text, documentary and decoration, humor and pathos, media and craft techniques, the exhibition presents works that expose, test, and contest the institutional structures, aesthetic strictures, and deep-seated prejudices confronting black and white women artists who made their way to the highest level of the art world.

Their pioneering works profoundly challenged the modernist division of high art from the “minor” arts of decoration and gender-based distinctions connoting woman’s work, instead favoring a more inclusive aesthetics. Embracing the broad recognition that most Americans are varied mixtures of ethnic backgrounds and thus race is inevitably a central part of identity in America, they also explored to the extreme racial stereotypes in art, so as to deal openly how race affected identity. Through their works and teaching, these UC San Diego artists have inspired a generation by helping forge a new aesthetic inclusive of the stories and experiences of artists from ever-more diverse backgrounds.

The exhibition features important and historic pieces by the artists, some for the first time in San Diego. On view in the gallery: Eleanor Antin’s rare installation The Nurse and the Hijackers (1977) and a selection of little-seen large photographs from the best-known conceptual work 100 Boots (1971-1973); Carrie Mae Weems’ Not Manet’s Type (1997), an exquisite and ironic photo-text series; Martha Rosler’s large prints from Tijuana Maid (1975), a novel in postcards, the video work Vital Statistics of a Citizen, Simply Obtained (1977), and Know Your Servant Series, No. 1: North American Waitress, Coffee Shop Variety (1977), a phototext installation; Lorna Simpson’s multi-piece photo-text installation Details (1996); Barbara Kruger’s You Substantiate Our Horror, (1985), an epic photographic work; Faith Ringgold’s Seven Passages to a Flight (1995), a classic hand-stenciled quilt; and Miriam Schapiro’s early painting Black Window (1972) and a large-scale collage, Natalia (1986).

Stories that We Tell is organized in partnership with the Los Angeles Museum of Art, the Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego, the Museum of Photographic Arts, Special Collections Library at UC San Diego, Electronic Arts Intermix, and the following fine art galleries: Eric Firestone Gallery, Mitchell-Innes & Nash, and Ronald Feldman Gallery. The exhibitions will be supplemented by lectures of participating and visiting artists, and will bring back to campus UC San Diego graduates who went on to establish distinguished artistic careers that contribute significantly to the broadening the diversity of art and curatorial professions. Thus, this exhibition will contribute to an increase in campus awareness concerning issues of diversity within contemporary artistic practice and the place of women in contemporary art.

Stories that We Tell is the featured 2017-18 exhibition of the Art into Life: Visual Arts @ 50 series. From its foundation in 1967, the Visual Arts Department has been at the forefront of expanding the boundaries of art. Art into Life is a two-year program of exhibitions and events celebrating the contributions of department faculty, alumni and students to making art the exciting and diverse field it is today. The programming in 2016-17 looked at the role of department in developing new forms of politically and socially-engaged photography, in pioneering artificial intelligence as aesthetic production, in presenting the border as a site of collaboration and creativity, and in helping define post-formalist and neo formalist painting. The 2017-18 series further explores the department’s contribution to culturally-conscious art as well as innovative new media and speculative design practices. The exhibition program kicked off with Provoking Change, featuring art made during the early history of the department, at the intersection of avant-garde and radical political movements. It continues with Stories that We Tell, centering on art concerned with identity, race, gender, feminism, and art production in the critical years of the 1960s-1990s. The following Kaprow Happening Now will highlight the legacy of Allan Kaprow and his contemporary relevance, while The Agency of Art will present how art has become a vehicle for analyzing and reframing key intellectual and social issues of the day. The program will conclude with the Undergraduate Art Show, curated and mounted under the direction of a faculty advisor.

Exploring theoretical movements in art from the early days of the department until now, Art into Life: Visual Arts @ 50 emphasizes the department’s historic achievements through works created by the artists connected to it. The series is designed to open a dialogue on the future of the department by presenting new synergies between political and social activism, art, and science, with environmental concerns playing a key role. Students and faculty from various departments across campus will collaborate in this program and showcase the interdisciplinary nature of the Visual Arts at UC San Diego.

The curator would like to recognize special contributions of the anniversary committee of faculty chaired by Professor Jack Greenstein and that of Kim MacConnel.

We would also like to recognize the following individuals who assisted with the installation: Tad Linfesty, Drei Kiel, Lucas Coffin, Pam Whidden, Josh Magistrelli, and Jimmy Muller.

Our sincere thanks for the loans of important artworks that made this exhibition possible: Stephanie Barron, Lynda Claassen, Jill Dawsey, Michael Govan, Kathryn Kanjo, Deborah Klochko, Marco Nocella, Jennifer Samet, Eve Schillo, and many colleagues who assisted with these loans.

Martha Rosler Guest Lecture, February 26, 2018

Martha Rosler from UCSD Visual Arts on Vimeo.