Visual and Critical Studies News

Posted on Thursday, November 8, 2012 by Matthew Harrison Tedford

The Cast of La Bamba 2: Hell Is a Drag

"I wrote a sequel to From Dusk Till Dawn when I was in seventh grade."

So began the filmmaking career of Rob Fatal (MFA 2012). His obsession with film proceeded apace, but it took him a surprisingly long time, he says, to realize that there was a person called a director -- that movies didn't just spring into existence like Athena from Zeus's head.

Inspired by Quentin Tarantino, Mel Brooks, and Robert Rodriguez, Fatal began writing screenplays at age 12. "I loved camp and sci-fi films before I even knew they were genres." At 19 he borrowed his father's camcorder and made a 30-minute film about DJs with magical turntables. "It was accidentally campy. It was accidentally bad. But it had a lot of sincerity." Much to his surprise, it did well, even getting into a couple of festivals.

Film Maker, Filmmaker, or Artist?

Fast forward a few years. Fatal was still working in film and experimenting with video art, but not quite to the point of considering himself a filmmaker, and certainly not an "artist," whatever that meant. But one day, in the midst of editing a video documenting an experimental opera by Fatal's collaborator/mentor Juliana Snapper, he recomposed portions of the footage into a new composition and showed it to CCA faculty member Cheryl Dunye. Dunye delivered the unexpected news that what he was doing was art, and urged him to apply to CCA's MFA program. The faculty there, she said, were pushing the boundaries of genres, and dealing with gender politics and racial identity -- fields of study Fatal had been researching for years in his graduate program at Sacramento State University. CCA presented Fatal with a place to finally bridge his dual love of film theory and practice.

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Posted on Monday, July 9, 2012 by Matthew Harrison Tedford

For Visual and Critical Studies alumna Susan Miller, who just received her degree in 2012, the final semester of graduate school proved to be a series of both great challenges and great successes. Simultaneously, she researched and wrote her thesis while co-curating a major exhibition at the Oakland Museum of California, Modern Cartoonist: The Art of Daniel Clowes, an effort that had been decades in the making.

Before she ever arrived at CCA for graduate school, Miller had already built a long curatorial career distinguished by hard and impassioned work and the desire to give artists a platform to be heard. "I was drawn to the Bay Area's vibrant community of artist-run spaces," she explains of her 1986 move to San Francisco. She left the Institute of Contemporary Art Boston, where she was the promotions director, to be a part of San Francisco's collectivist and grassroots contemporary art scene. From 1988 to 1992 she served as the program director of Capp Street Project (which later became affiliated with CCA's Wattis Institute) before moving to New Langton Arts in San Francisco, which she headed from 1993 to 2005.

At Capp Street Project, Miller produced exhibitions and installations of work by Mowry Baden, Shu Lea Cheang, Mel Chin, and Ursula von Rydingsvard, among many others. After moving to New Langton Arts, she focused the programming on important local artists who had yet to receive the critical writings and public exposure she felt they deserved. Some of her "profile" exhibitions there surveyed the work of the local artists Jim Pomeroy, Tony Labat, and Jeanne Finley (now a CCA faculty member).

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Posted on Thursday, June 28, 2012 by Amanda E. Gross

from Team JuaBar IMPACT 2012 project proposal

Within the next few weeks, the three teams of CCA students who won IMPACT Social Entrepreneurship Awards will be heading to Alaska, Tanzania, and Mexico to attempt innovative social transformations. Bolstered by the support of their $10,000 IMPACT grants and their community partner organizations, the teams -- KVAK TV, JuaBar, and 20/20 FOTO -- will work to empower three different communities to address pressing local concerns. Each team brings together a mix of graduate and undergraduate students from different academic programs.

IMPACT is one of the anchor programs at CCA's Center for Art and Public Life, providing students with opportunities to build relationships for social change. It is about innovation, community, collaboration, and making. It celebrates the entrepreneurial drive of CCA students combined with their desire to create a tangible, positive influence within a specific community.

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Posted on Thursday, May 31, 2012 by Lindsey Westbrook

Oyster Culture
Cameron & Co, 2011
Paperback, 144 pages, $19.99

This book authored by Gwendolyn Meyer (Individualized Major 2004) and edited by Doreen Schmid (MA Visual Criticism 2005) features more than 150 photographs and evocative text describing this singular aspect of food culture. It focuses on the oyster farms of West Marin in northern California, including the Tomales Bay Oyster Company, Drake’s Bay Oyster Company, and Hog Island Oyster Company. It also includes 18 delicious oyster recipes prepared for the home cook from West Marin restaurants, chefs, and oyster farmers, including Osteria Stellina, Station House, the Marshall Store, Nick's Cove, and more. The book is about the pleasures of oysters, and the rich intersection between oyster farming and culinary culture in this unique region. Oyster farming itself is in the limelight these days, particularly in West Marin, and this book is aimed at all readers who have an interest in locally sourced food.

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Posted on Thursday, May 10, 2012 by Lindsey Westbrook

Will Brown is an actual guy. A very cool and nice guy, according to all who know him, plus a CCA Curatorial Practice graduate student. Once upon a time, not too long ago, Will was spending a lot of time by himself down at 3041 24th Street, which some of you may recognize as the address of the late, great Triple Base gallery. Triple Base was founded in 2006 by CCA Curatorial Practice grads Joyce Grimm and Dina Pugh (both class of 2006) and finally closed in 2011. Toward the end there, the space's main "resident" who was keeping it up and running and officially occupied was their friend Will.

If you've been down to that block of 24th Street in the last few years, around Harrison and Folsom, you know that it has become a lovely haven of art and food while retaining its Mission District feel. So three friends of Dina and Joyce (two of them also alumni of CCA grad programs) decided to step up and take over the lease. The idea of running their own experimental/conceptual gallery space, once conceived, seemed like an offer they couldn't refuse.

The question that almost derailed everything was what to name this new venture, but under their self-imposed 11th-hour wire came the stroke of genius. "Will Brown" is of course a spoof on commercial gallery naming conventions. It is also a benign inside joke, and a well-meant tribute to a friend. Keeping it in the family, so to speak. The three of them also liked the idea of operating as a singular, semi-authorless entity.

The three new proprietors of Will Brown (the gallery) are David Kasprzak (MA Curatorial Practice 2011), Lindsey White (MFA 2007), and Jordan Stein (a 2005 MFA grad of the San Francisco Art Institute). Far easier than picking a name was selecting the theme of their first show, which opened on January 27 and closed March 4. The provocative premise, like the gallery's name, was a refutation of art business as usual, and specifically a play on art ownership and art-world transactions. Illegitimate Business featured artworks and ephemera "with a peculiar provenance," in other words acquired by their (anonymous) lenders under less-than-totally-up-and-up circumstances. The original concept came from old conversations with the curators' artist friends Zachary Royer Scholz (MFA 2006, MA Visual and Critical Studies 2009) and Brion Nuda Rosch.

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Posted on Thursday, April 19, 2012 by Mitchell Schwarzer

Mitchell Schwarzer gives his introduction at the CCA faculty retreat

On February 4, 2012, the faculty at California College of the Arts gathered at the college's San Francisco campus for a retreat focused on the state of the arts across our many disciplines. In the morning, 25 short presentations offered insights into challenges and opportunities faced by practitioners and thinkers in recent times. The word aired most frequently was crisis: the crisis of the Great Recession; the crisis of Global Climate Change; the crisis of understanding and working within a discipline in our digital age.

Watch the video of all the presentations (91 minutes), shot and edited by Yoni Klein (Photography 2012)

The economic downturn has produced an economic squeeze within most of our disciplines. Art directors, as Alexis Mahrus remarks, have diminished roles in shaping an illustration. Smaller profit margins reduce the flexibility and time given over to experimentation. Branding and celebrity worship take up a larger slice of the creative pie. Some presenters, like Sue Redding of Industrial Design, see no problem in this conflation of art and business and, furthermore, dispute the notion of a crisis. Yet many presenters feel that the economic crisis is not only real but wielding dangerously asymmetrical impacts. Demand remains strong for high-end craft goods and blue-chip fine art. Some small nonprofits are struggling to survive. To Ignacio Valero of Critical Studies, the priority given over to luxury items can be attributed to the ongoing influence of classical economic policies that privilege individual decision making over collective social and natural needs. Likewise, Sandra Vivanco of Diversity Studies notes that economic inequalities have greatly worsened over the past few years, especially in the developing world. Contemporary society is forging a timeless, spaceless way of conducting business, a race for lucrative and short-term gains that concentrates investment more than ever in the hands of a few.

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Posted on Monday, February 27, 2012 by Jim Norrena

Production stills from CCA's newest "drama queens": Candacy Taylor, Greacian Goeke, Susan Sobeloff, and Jennifer Roberts

"I regard the theatre as the greatest of all art forms, the most immediate way in which a human being can share with another the sense of what it is to be a human being." -- Oscar Wilde

In the last year a growing number of CCA graduates -- each representing a unique program of study -- has tapped into the Bay Area's richly diverse and proliferating performing arts scene to have a full-scale world premiere of their work brought to fruition. Among these impressive alumnae are:

Candacy Taylor (MFA Visual Criticism 2002)

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Posted on Thursday, February 16, 2012 by Jim Norrena

CCA at CAA

Please join California College of the Arts at the College Art Association’s 100th annual conference in Los Angeles February 22–25. CCA faculty and alumni will be participating in various panel discussions throughout the conference. (See event schedule below.)

We invite you to drop by the CCA booth at the conference’s Book and Trade Fair to meet esteemed members of our faculty. We're looking forward to meeting you!

Special Reception for Alumni

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Posted on Tuesday, February 7, 2012 by Lindsey Westbrook

More American Photographs
CCA Wattis Institute, 2012
Paperback, 106 pages, $28

As the United States slowly emerges from its most significant economic downturn since the Great Depression, the [CCA Wattis Institute] reexamines the well-known photography program of the Farm Security Administration (1935-44). In More American Photographs, 12 contemporary photographers were commissioned to travel the United States, documenting its land and people. These new works are presented alongside historical images by original FSA photographers such as Dorothea Lange in a catalogue whose design was inspired by Walker Evans's seminal book American Photographs. The featured photographers include Walead Beshty, Esther Bubley, Larry Clark, Roe Ethridge, Walker Evans, Katy Grannan, William E. Jones, Dorothea Lange, Russell Lee, Sharon Lockhart, Catherine Opie, Gordon Parks, Martha Rosler, Collier Schorr, Ben Shahn, Stephen Shore, Alec Soth, Hank Willis Thomas (MFA and MA Visual Criticism 2004), and Marion Post Wolcott. The exhibition was curated by Wattis director Jens Hoffmann, who contributes an essay, and the book is designed by Graphic Design faculty Jon Sueda.

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Posted on Tuesday, February 7, 2012 by Lindsey Westbrook

Making Race: Modernism and "Racial Art" in America
University of Washington Press, 2011
Paperback, 256 pages, $40

Jacqueline Francis (Visual and Critical Studies and Painting/Drawing faculty) explores the flowering of racial art rhetoric in criticism and history published in the 1920s and 1930s, and analyzes its underlying presence in contemporary discussions of artists of color. She specifically looks at the cases of Malvin Gray Johnson, Yasuo Kuniyoshi, and Max Weber, three New York artists whose work was popularly assigned to the category of "racial art" in the interwar years of the 20th century. The term was widely used by critics and the public at the time, and was an unexamined, unquestioned category for the work of non-whites (such as Johnson, an African American), non-Westerners (such as Kuniyoshi, a Japanese-born American), and ethnicized non-Christians (such as Weber, a Russian-born Jewish American). The discourse on racial art is a troubling chapter in the history of early American modernism that has not, until now, been sufficiently documented. Francis juxtaposes the work of these three artists in order to consider their understanding of the category and their stylistic responses to the expectations created by it, in the process revealing much about the nature of modernist art practices.

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