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CCA Wattis Institute for Contemporary Opens Exhibition Based on Canonical American Novels
Angela Bulloch, Night Sky: Mars from Venus: 12, 2007. Grid of 12 squares: pre-shrunk neoprene, aluminum and black powder-coated aluminum, adjustable brackets, LEDs, various cables, 1 DMX controller, various transformers, various LED-controllers. 104 3/4 x 78 3/4 in. (266 x 200 cm). Vanmoerkerke Collection, Belgium and courtesy Esther Schipper Gallery, Berlin. Photo: Carsten Eisfeld, Berlin, 2007

SAN FRANCISCO, CA.- 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 The Adventures of 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

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September 22, 2009

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