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Sour grapes or valid complaints?

June 4, 2010 - 7:14 pm

Larry Caveney (left) and Anna Stump at The Garage Gallery in San Diego

As the Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego (MCASD) is busy getting ready to open the doors to Here Not There: San Diego Art Now this weekend, pockets of artists who didn’t get into the regional art exhibition are busy putting together some shows of their own.

Recently, Larry Caveney, a local artist and owner of The Garage (which is, quite literally, Larry’s garage that he uses to show art in from time to time), took a quick break from hanging Rejected from Here Not There: San Diego, a group show he put together after receiving his rejection letter from MCASD.

His Rejected show, he says, started as an angry response to his not being accepted into the show, but it has evolved into something more.

“Of course,” explains Caveney, sitting in front of a blown-up copy of his rejection letter hanging on the wall, “there’s some sucking on sour grapes — there’s always that — and maybe it was that initially, but now it’s about getting together, networking and realizing it’s not the end of the road.”

Caveney says his biggest complaint about the museum’s show is the way MCASD handled the rejections. Most of the artists who applied, he says, didn’t get the letters until after the list of artists who made it into the show was posted on the museum’s website.  He says that some artists he knows never received a rejection letter at all.

“I’d like to ask the museum about their selection process, too,” Caveney said. “It’s that process, that model, that I think has outlived itself. It’s dead.”

Caveney said he was also a little concerned that too many of the artists in the Here Not There show are graduates of the University of California at San Diego’s masters of fine arts program.

“I was actually expecting it to be a clean sweep from UC San Diego,” said local artist Anna Stump, who will be showing her art and rejection letter in Caveney’s show. “And I’m glad it wasn’t. I know some of the artists in there are pretty much outsiders. I had no idea that they were artists. That’s cool. That means that they pulled from corners that were deeper.”

Stump says that she would have preferred to see less established gallery artists in the show, though, and she, too, questioned the museum’s curatorial process. She said she felt Lucía Sanromán, the MCASD assistant curator who organized and curated the show, went on relatively few studio tours when hundreds of artists had applied for the show.

“It’s just disappointing,” Caveney said. “I mean, when’s the last time we’ve actually had a regional show in that museum?”

Sanromán was too busy preparing for the show’s opening to talk to CityBeat at deadline time, but Claire Caraska, MCASD communications associate, was ready with a list of exhibitions in which the museum has featured San Diego artists.  Click here to read or download the list, which states, “In the past 40 years, MCASD has organized six survey exhibitions of San Diego artists.”

Caraska also said Sanromán would respond to the rejected artists’ complaints as soon as she had time.

Another artist whose rejection letter sparked some inspiration is Kelly Hutchison, also known as Dark Vomit, a local artist and curator who’s currently putting together The San Diego Undead Show, a group show he says he started organizing soon after receiving his rejection letter, which was addressed to one “Ms. Hutchison.”

“Now I can just laugh at the whole thing,” explains Hutchison. “It made me realize that there are two different worlds going on in San Diego. There’s one  world that I’ll never be a part of and one that I’ll always be a part of and I’ve accepted that.”

Hutchison, too, had the idea of hanging all of the artists’ rejection letters with the show, but because so many artists submitted work (one artist who’s even in the MCASD show) he decided to move away from the rejection-show idea and just go with something new altogether.

“I decided to go out and do something positive and show what art is really like in San Diego,” Hutchison said.

See the San Diego art for yourself:

  • Here Not There: San Diego Art Now opens to the public on Sunday, June 6, at MCASD’s La Jolla location.
  • Rejected from Here Not There: San Diego opens from 7 to 10 p.m. Saturday, June 5, at The Garage, 4141 Alabama Street in North Park.
  • The San Diego Undead Show opens July 24 from 6 p.m. to midnight at Visual Art Supply, 3524 Adams Avenue in Normal Heights.

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