CCA Wattis Presents the Exhibition *Moby-Dick*

The CCA Wattis Institute for Contemporary Arts will present the exhibition Moby-Dick from September 22 through December 12, 2009, in the Logan Galleries on the San Francisco campus of California College of the Arts. The exhibition is free and open to the public, with an opening reception on Tuesday, September 22, from 6:30–8:30 p.m.

Moby-Dick is the second show in a trilogy of Wattis Institute exhibitions that are based on canonical American novels. The first, The Wizard of Oz, was presented in fall 2008; the third will be Huckleberry Finn, coming in fall 2010. All three stories concern exploration and (self-)discovery, and the corresponding exhibitions function as metaphorical journeys through which the audience experiences various notions of America’s reality, both contemporary and historic. Established and emerging contemporary artists from around the world are invited to address the key themes of the books and the eras in which they were written. Moby-Dick, the story of Captain Ahab’s obsessive pursuit of a white sperm whale on the ship Pequod, still resonates with artists more than 150 years after its first publication. The exhibition will feature 32 artists, more than half of whom have been commissioned to create new work in response to the novel’s wide-ranging and evocative themes.

Bookending Moby-Dick—opening and closing the exhibition—are two photographs of the sea by Hiroshi Sugimoto. The first is an image of the Atlantic Ocean, taken not far from the Pequod’s fictional Nantucket launch site. The second depicts the site of the ship’s sinking in the Pacific Ocean. Visitors will also encounter a large-scale clay whale sculpture by the Argentinean artist Adrián Villar Rojas; the artist will construct the piece on site over a period of two weeks leading up to the opening. Working on site as well are Ellen Gallagher and Edgar Cleijne, who will debut a new film and video installation inspired in part by the phenomenon of “whale fall,” in which dead whales sink to the ocean floor. Posters depicting the ocean by Felix Gonzalez-Torres will be available in the galleries, free for visitors to take away.

In addition to the contemporary artworks, the exhibition will include a large number of Rockwell Kent’s famous illustrations made for the 1930 Lakeside Press edition of Moby-Dick and various 19th-century whaling artifacts such as harpoons and scrimshaw. All of these components will address in various ways the novel’s myriad concerns, including religion and faith; obsession, death, and defeat; race, class, and social status; friendship; homosexuality; absurdity (in both characters and ambitions); naive utopias; and, of course, humanity and humor.

Participating Contemporary Artists
Kenneth Anger, Matthew Benedict, Mark Bradford, Marcel Broodthaers, Angela Bulloch, Tom Burr, Tacita Dean, Marcel Dzama, Ellen Gallagher and Edgar Cleijne, Felix Gonzalez-Torres, Rodney Graham, John Gutmann, Susan Hiller, Evan Holloway, Peter Hutton, Colter Jacobsen, Brian Jungen, Buster Keaton, Rockwell Kent, Mateo López, Jorge Macchi, Kris Martin, Henrik Olesen, Paulina Olowska, Damián Ortega, Jean Painlevé, Kirsten Pieroth, Richard Serra, Andreas Slominski, Hiroshi Sugimoto, Adrián Villar Rojas, Orson Welles

About the CCA Wattis Institute
The CCA Wattis Institute for Contemporary Arts was established in 1998 in San Francisco at California College of the Arts. It serves as a forum for the presentation and discussion of international contemporary art and curatorial practice. Through groundbreaking exhibitions, the Capp Street Project residency program, lectures, symposia, and publications, the Wattis Institute has become one of the leading art institutions in the United States and an active site for contemporary culture in the Bay Area. For more information about the Wattis Institute, visit

About California College of the Arts
Founded in 1907, California College of the Arts (CCA) is noted for the interdisciplinarity and breadth of its programs. It offers studies in 20 undergraduate and seven graduate majors in the areas of fine arts, architecture, design, and writing. The college offers bachelor of architecture, bachelor of arts, bachelor of fine arts, master of architecture, master of arts, master of fine arts, and master of business administration degrees. With campuses in San Francisco and Oakland, CCA currently enrolls 1,740 full-time students. Noted alumni include the painters Nathan Oliveira and Raymond Saunders; the ceramicists Robert Arneson, Viola Frey, and Peter Voulkos; the filmmaker Wayne Wang; the conceptual artists David Ireland and Dennis Oppenheim; and the designers Lucille Tenazas and Michael Vanderbyl. For more information about CCA, visit