New Exhibition at San Francisco Art Institute Draws Inspiration from Mayan Archeology and John Cage

Production still, 2016. Photograph by Stephanie Smith. Mariana Castillo Deball. Feathered Changes, Serpent Disappearances. San Francisco Art Institute, Walter and McBean Galleries, April 14–July 30, 2016

Berlin-based artist Mariana Castillo Deball reveals gaps in the often unquestioned narratives of museology and archaeology in a new exhibition at San Francisco Art Institute’s (SFAI) Walter and McBean Galleries. The show features new work by Deball inspired by the archaeological archives of the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco and the visual art of composer John Cage.

Working with conservators, museum professionals, and archaeologists in the fields of Mayan and pre-Columbian artifacts, Deball follows narratives of archaeology beyond the artifacts themselves to reveal the convoluted timeline of culture and the complexities of material history. Her work connects the gaps of known history with chance discoveries to imagine archaeological narratives that embrace randomness, speculation, and a love of mystery.

For Feathered Changes, Serpent Disappearances, Deball creates rubbings, sculpture, and pottery as a set of studies on the sometimes haphazard dispersal, recombination, and interpretation of artifacts over time. Deball also takes inspiration from John Cage’s philosophy of chance. From 1951 onward, Cage turned to the I Ching as an art-making oracle, allowing it to generate randomized compositions in his stead. Deball applies Cage’s process to the manufacture and placement of the pieces and incorporates original Cage etchings into the exhibition including a score and supplementary maps from his Changes and Disappearances series.

Deball developed this exhibition while in San Francisco as Artist-in-Residence of the SFAI + Kadist Fellowship.

Feathered Changes, Serpent Disappearances is on view from April 14 to July 30, 2016.