Museums

California’s Triumphant Triennial

by Carolina A. Miranda on July 11, 2013

A detail from “No Exit” by L.A. artist Daniel Nord. The viewer lays inside a carpeted room, staring at the above sculpture, which dangles from the ceiling. An audio track features an array of dialogue from apocalypse-themed movies. Perfect for my apocalyptic mood.

A detail from “No Exit” by L.A. artist Danial Nord. The viewer lays inside a carpeted room, staring at the above sculpture, which dangles from the ceiling. An audio track features an array of dialogue from apocalypse-themed movies. Perfect for my apocalyptic mood. (all photographs by the author for Hyperallergic)

LOS ANGELES — In a world where art seems to consist primarily of hyper-conceptual M.F.A. verbiage, it’s a relief to go to a museum show and actually have something to see. The California-Pacific Triennial, now on view at the Orange County Museum of Art (OCMA) in Newport Beach, California, definitely offers a feast for the eyes: paintings, video, light and sound installations, embroideries, synthetic skeletons, dead roses, a pop interpretation of Bernini (complete with Truck Nutz) and stoneware sculptures of little girls squatting in ways that are as innocent as they are bawdy.

Eerily beautiful: Colombian artist Adriana Salazar animated dead flowers harvested from the garbage of an Orange County cemetery.

Eerily beautiful: Colombian artist Adriana Salazar animated dead flowers harvested from the garbage of an Orange County cemetery.

The show was organized by curator Dan Cameron, the man behind Prospect New Orleans. It represents a re-launch of the old California Biennial, which has been around since 1984. Now held every three years, the survey has expanded its scope beyond California to include the entire Pacific Rim. The result: a lot of energy and some new names.

The exhibition offers a lot to see — so much that it is impossible for me to offer a coherent opinion based on a 90-minute press preview. Certainly, some of the usual biennial fare is on display (artists recontextualizing stuff), but a quick first-look reveals a deep interest in politics, the surreal and popular culture. This is definitely a show I’m going to go back to.

Mark Dean Veca’s installation “Pete’s Place” is inspired by Bernini’s Cathedra Petri in Rome, complete with Truck Nutz fringe. Here, the artist is seen giving visitors a lesson on how to sit in a papal-style throne.

Mark Dean Veca’s installation “Pete’s Place” is inspired by Bernini’s Cathedra Petri in Rome, complete with Truck Nutz fringe. Here, the artist is seen giving visitors a lesson on how to sit in a papal-style throne.

Seattle-based artist Akio Takamori produces intricately-made stoneware sculptures, such as “Squatting Girl in Yellow Dress,” from 2012, above.

Seattle-based artist Akio Takamori produces intricately-made stoneware sculptures, such as “Squatting Girl in Yellow Dress,” from 2012, above.

Right at the entrance to the museum, Tijuana-born artist Hugo Crosthwaite has created a series of pieces inspired by Mexican political theater of the 1920s and ‘30s. The photo doesn’t begin to convey the rich level of details in these pieces.

Right at the entrance to the museum, Tijuana-born artist Hugo Crosthwaite has created a series of pieces inspired by Mexican political theater of the 1920s and ‘30s. The photo doesn’t begin to convey the rich level of details in these pieces.

Giacometti’s Bar Mitzvah, a steel sculpture L.A.-based artist Mitchell Syrop.

Giacometti’s Bar Mitzvah, a steel sculpture L.A.-based artist Mitchell Syrop.

Triennial curator Dan Cameron leads a tour of the show.

Triennial curator Dan Cameron leads a tour of the show.

A side room contains a fragile installation by Beijing artist Lin Tianmiao, featuring a tidy array of synthetic human skeletons covered in silk thread. Each thread dangles off the bone and pools into a puddle of color on the floor. (It was impossible for me to get the piece into a single frame.)

A side room contains a fragile installation by Beijing artist Lin Tianmiao, featuring a tidy array of synthetic human skeletons covered in silk thread. Each thread dangles off the bone and pools into a puddle of color on the floor. (It was impossible for me to get the piece into a single frame.)

Tiffany Chung is a Vietnamese artist who works with lowbrow decorative items such as pompons, sequins and beads. Seen here, a pair of sculptural pieces — inspired by bullhorns and loudspeakers — that speak to a mood of protest.

Tiffany Chung is a Vietnamese artist who works with lowbrow decorative items such as pompons, sequins and beads. Seen here, a pair of sculptural pieces — inspired by bullhorns and loudspeakers — that speak to a mood of protest.

A detail of an installation by Robert Legorreta, a collection of records that examines the appropriation of Latin culture in the U.S.

A detail of an installation by Robert Legorreta, a collection of records that examines the appropriation of Latin culture in the U.S.

Whiting Tennis, who hails from Seattle, garners a salon-arrangement of his painted works, which feature bizarre bits of invented architecture. A good wall for lingering.

Whiting Tennis, who hails from Seattle, garners a salon-arrangement of his painted works, which feature bizarre bits of invented architecture. A good wall for lingering.

Figures clad in surreal outfits, holding onto unidentifiable objects and weird shapes. San Francisco artist crosses the language of coloring books with the truly bizarre. Would love to see more of these.

Figures clad in surreal outfits, holding onto unidentifiable objects and weird shapes. San Francisco artist John Bankston crosses the language of coloring books with the truly bizarre. Would love to see more of these.

“Látex,” a two-channel video installation by Yoshua Okón, from Mexico City.

“Látex,” a two-channel video installation by Yoshua Okón, from Mexico City.

Peruvian artist Fernando Bryce regularly examines historical episodes in his work (by creating exquisite ink-on-paper drawings of news clippings.) Seen here: a wall-sized array of pieces exploring the 19th century German colonization of Samoa and Papua New Guinea.

Peruvian artist Fernando Bryce regularly examines historical episodes in his work (by creating exquisite ink-on-paper drawings of news clippings.) Seen here: a wall-sized array of pieces exploring the 19th century German colonization of Samoa and Papua New Guinea.

In the hands of Australian artist Raquel Ormella, a flag is turned into a delicate lace by burning out little holes bit by bit.

In the hands of Australian artist Raquel Ormella, a flag is turned into a delicate lace by burning out little holes bit by bit.

A wall-sized installation by Indonesian artist Eko Nugroho presents political aphorisms in a wild installation featuring some pretty spectacular embroidery. (Sample text: “Mints & Politic both contain Artificial Sweetener”).

A wall-sized installation by Indonesian artist Eko Nugroho presents political aphorisms in a wild installation featuring some pretty spectacular embroidery. (Sample text: “Mints & Politic both contain Artificial Sweetener”).

Gabriel de la Mora, from Mexico City, repurposes found objects in abstract ways. Seen here: “The weight of thought,” from 2013, made from discarded leather and plastic shoe soles.

Gabriel de la Mora, from Mexico City, repurposes found objects in abstract ways. Seen here: “The weight of thought,” from 2013, made from discarded leather and plastic shoe soles.

The California-Pacific Triennial is on view at the Orange County Museum of Art (850 San Clemente Drive, Newport Beach, California) through November 17.

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  • Linda Kallan

    I thought Karapetian’s “ice block/stone wall”
    piece was exquisite.

  • skywaterblue

    California’s got it going on.

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