A new slate of Fresno Art Museum exhibitions battles in a bright, murky world
I got a sneak peek yesterday at the Fresno Art Museum’s lineup of summer/fall exhibitions. Each of the exhibitions stands alone, but the fact that they open at the same time and are presented in one big rush also increases the collective statement they make. I’m impressed with the idea of the museum occupying two seemingly contrarian vantage points: both as a place to take a stand against the world but also to take refuge from it.
It’s as if the difference between shooting on the front lines and holed up happily in a bunker isn’t as great as we might think.
Three of the shows, in particular, stand out for their political shadings:
• Heather Wilcoxon’s “Her Truth: Selected Images 1995-2018.” She is the museum’s Council of 100 Distinguished Woman Artist of 2019, the 31st consecutive recipient of the honor. Battered and floundering ships, grim private prisons and decaying houses can be seen as distress signals about political and environmental dysfunction.
• Nick Potter’s “Constructed Utopias.” New paintings by the London-born artist (and Fresno State professor) in his first one-person exhibition at the museum bounce between idealized buildings and those that depict dysfunction. In a Hockney-like swimming pool, the water is murky and a menacing red light spills out over the tops of palm trees. In Potter’s eerie, futuristic buildings, you get a sense of a society at struggle.
• Carmen Hoyos’ “The Path.” The Bogota-born artist, now a resident of Fresno, has created a buoyant, colorful and vividly escapist site-specific installation using various pieces in Plexiglas and cellophane. It begins in the museum’s expansive lobby space, sails down the corridor past the administrative offices and then wanders into the sculpture garden. In the pervasive negativity in our world today, she writes, her purpose is to fight back with bold happiness.
Michele Ellis Pracy, the museum’s executive director and chief curator, says that by the time they’re separate installations are installed, there always seems to be an underlying purpose for them that marries them together.
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“I think Carmen, and Heather and Nick are all talking about facing head on the reality of our times,” Ellis Pracy says. “You can either be pro-current situation or anti-current situation. In each case, they’re speaking their minds through their artwork. Heather and Nick have done it by making those feelings known very strongly if we’re depressed about things or unhappy about the situation. Whereas Carmen’s approach is to forget about it for as long as you’re in this building.”
Two other exhibitions are featured:
• Catie O’Leary’s “A Natural History of Collage.” She takes original engravings from antique books and creates intricate and whimsical landscapes woven together by layering meticulously cut-out pieces of paper.
• Will Bullas’ “M is for Masterpiece.” Ready for a dose of humor? The works shown are Bullas’ illustrations from an alphabet book written by David Domeniconi.
After pre-opening festivities on Friday evening at the museum, the exhibitions officially open to the public on Saturday, July 20. They continue through Jan. 5. You’ll be hearing plenty more about them from me in the coming months.