On Friday, Starting Here: A Selection of Distinguished Artists from UCSB opened its second phase at the university’s Art, Design & Architecture Museum and expanded to the College of Creative Studies Gallery, turning what was already a very strong exhibition into a not-to-be missed event. It should not be a surprise that so many important artists have come through UCSB over the years, but it is nonetheless exciting to see work by such incredibly diverse and accomplished artists.
The first phase of the exhibition, which opened in May, featured work by 16 artists, including pieces by two of the most important American sculptors of the 20th century, Richard Serra and Mark di Suvero. For two artists who are known to work on epic scales, the examples on view are understandably modest, but within the gallery space they retain a feeling of the monumental. In particular, Serra’s Untitled, weighing in at 1,300 pounds, seems to forcefully dominate the space around it, while simultaneously retaining a visual elegance produced in part by the slightly out-of-square top edge.
Sharing the room with di Suvero and Serra is Yoshiro Ikeda, whose oversized ceramic vessels with intricate glazes were one of the many wonderful surprises in the show; as was WTC in Four Moments by Dinh Q. Lê, which is one of the more sublimely beautiful pieces of video art that I have seen. Lê’s four-screen installation displays moments from before, during, and after the attack on the Twin Towers, as well as the buildings’ reconstruction. In each case, the image has been stretched and distorted beyond the point of recognition, giving only fleeting hints of the moments documented.
For the second phase of the exhibition, SBCC instructor Nathan Hayden has transformed the lobby of the museum with his iconic black-and-white wall paintings, which have effectively transformed the space and created a wonderful juxtaposition to his series of precisely executed mini-drawings that hang inside. Hayden is one of the younger participants in this show and, in the span of a few short years in Santa Barbara, has been featured in many of our most important venues. He is currently featured in a show at L.A.’s CB1 Gallery and is definitely someone to keep your eye on.
Other artists like Mary Heebner, Ann Diener, John Nava, Hilary Brace, Hank Pitcher, and Penelope Gottlieb, all of whom have made important contributions to our region’s visual art scene, are well represented, and it is a thrill to see them all together.
The expansion of the show includes another 32 artists and takes advantage of the gallery inside the College of Creative Studies, just a short walk from the main museum, where one can find paintings by Pitcher and Leslie Wayne, sculptures by Christopher Miles, and installations by Halsey Rodman.
Starting Here (on view through August 10) does a wonderful job of highlighting the rich visual art tradition at the university over the past 60 years. It is an important reminder that this tradition continues and that we should be paying close attention to those emerging artists who study here. If the work on display in this show is any indication, there is a constant stream of future distinguished artists who are certain to make their mark on the art world after they leave UCSB.