The first exhibition to present the history of the influential Creative Growth Art Center in Oakland, California, is on view at the John Michael Kohler Arts Center
from May 21, 2022 through May 21, 2023. Creative! Growth! surveys the work of eight key artists and others affiliated with Creative Growth, the preeminent center for artists with disabilities in the United States.
Considering the organizations history and legacy through the lens of the present, Creative! Growth! focuses on work by artists who wereor remainaffiliated with Creative Growth, including Dwight Mackintosh, John Martin, Dan Miller, Tony Pedemonte, Judith Scott, William Scott, Nicole Storm, and Monica Valentine. Photographer and documentary filmmaker Cheryl Dunn presents a selection from her more than 20 years of documenting the artists at Creative Growth, including footage of their annual fashion show. Creative! Growth! is curated by Matthew Higgs, director and chief curator of White Columns in New York.
Creative Growth is perhaps the most visionary arts organization I have ever encountered, said Matthew Higgs. Its grassroots approach to encouraging and supporting the creative process forcefully reminds us of the real potential for art, at a local, national, and international level.
Rendered in distinctive, kinetic line work, Dwight Mackintoshs subject matter reflects his experiences, through events and objects, from a lifetime of institutionalization. His drawings feature orderly lines of boys, sometimes with genitalia exposed; buses that are empty or full; and self-portraits of his own tonsillectomy. The work is characterized by repetitive flowing text and "x-ray" views of loosely drawn, yet tightly composed figures. The looping text is often illegible to the viewer, but it is so essential to Mackintoshs expression that it is sometimes the only visual element on the page.
Dan Miller is being represented by a large scroll drawing. His artwork is composed of obsessive overlays of words and imagery that often build to the point of abstraction. Each work contains a written record of Millers interests in hardware stores, light bulbs, electrical sockets, and familiar people; however, only a few words are identified in its final stage. Largely unable to speak, Miller was taught at an early age to write words and numbers in order to communicate. This became the primary influence on his artistic practice, transforming text into graphic elements and employing an abstracted visual language as a tool of inquiry and expression.
John Martin creates drawings, ceramics, and woodwork that synthesize his memories of a family farm in Mississippi with his modern life in Oakland. Martin commonly depicts images of trucks, snakes, pocket knives, cell phones, and other items from his collection of found objects, which have informed his oeuvre since he joined Creative Growths studio. His interpretations both describe their function and subvert practicality through his outrageous animal mash-ups, oversized Leatherman tools, and mysterious text. Fish become knives, alligators become saws, Martin himself becomes a Nokia phone, a multi-tool is splayed open to reveal a grinning shark. His wry sense of humor is evident in all of his compositions, translating utilitarian imagery into a graphic and animated aesthetic. Creative! Growth! will feature an installation of about fifty of his ceramic tools.
Both Tony Pedemonte and Judith Scott work in abstraction wrapping multi-colored yarn around objects and forms to create sculptures. Scott, who was blind and deaf, was drawn to forms that echoed the body, or adhered to the initials object original shape. Her wrapped sculptures, abstract in shape, were sourced from hand-built armatures made of discarded or found materials, often concealing an inner structure or cache of items. Her practice was marked by her independence, self-direction, and for never repeating a form or color scheme in her multimedia textile sculptures. Pedemonte, who is working at Creative Growth today, likens his constructions to sea creatures, reminding him of past family fishing trips. He works with high energy and intention, following his intuition and rarely pausing to consider his next move. Pedemonte begins by constructing armatures of wood and reclaimed materials that become nearly concealed with layers of yarn and thread. His sculptures are distinguished by their smooth texture, limited palette, and geometrically driven configurations that simultaneously conceal the works interior and offer intimate views through complex webs left open in its fibrous layers.
William Scotts fundamental interest lies in reimagining public and private life as a more peaceful and positive existence. On view is a selection of his earlier paintings in which he begins to develop his utopic visions of Praise Frisco and its inhabitants. These are being shown alongside a hand painted suit, which he wore to his recent exhibition opening at Studio Voltaire in London, and is the primary subject of one of Cheryl Dunns films to be shown in the gallery.
Nicole Storm works through performance, drawing and sculpture to create dense compositions that include her notes, often awash in vibrant hues. She moves seamlessly between mark making with paint markers to painting with a brush, working and reworking the surface until she feels it is finished. This exhibition features some of her newest work in the form of large, painted panels.
Monica Valentines primary practice takes the form of optically charged sculptures composed of foam shapes that are densely covered with beads and sequins. Valentine is blind and wears prosthetic eyes, having lost her sight at birth. Working with great dexterity, Valentine threads sequins and beads onto thin pins, then uses her hands to feel along the foam form to find their placement. The process is rhythmic and calculated. Valentines exacting standards of bead size and color, foam shape and material, result in forms that are whole and perfect in their being. Visually rich and luminous, her sculptures are either monochromatic (red is her favorite color), or blooming with multiple hues across the visual plane as Valentine creates layers by juxtaposing the colors of sequins and beads.
Dwight Mackintosh (19061999) began making artwork late in life, after spending over fifty-five years in institutions; he was interned at age sixteen. Upon his release at age seventy-two, Mackintosh came to Creative Growth in Oakland. Mackintosh practiced in the Creative Growths studio until his death in 1999. Mackintosh's work has been exhibited internationally, including a retrospective exhibition at the Collection de lArt Brut in Lausanne; Fraenkel Gallery and Rena Bransten Gallery, San Francisco; Gavin Browns enterprise, New York; and the Berkeley Art Museum. His work is part of the permanent collection of the Studio Museum in Harlem, the American Folk Art Museum, New York; the Trinkhall, Belgium, and the Collection de lArt Brut, Lausanne.
John Martin was born in Marks, Mississippi, in 1963, and has been working at Creative Growth since 1987. In 2014, Martin was invited to create a site-specific installation as part of Facebooks inaugural Artist-in-Residence program at the Frank Gehry-designed campus in Palo Alto, California.
Dan Miller was born in 1961 in Castro Valley, California, and has been affiliated with Creative Growth since 1992. Miller has had solo exhibitions at White Columns, Andrew Edlin Gallery, and Ricco/Maresca Gallery in New York; Galerie Christian Berst in Paris; and Diane Rosenstein Gallery in Los Angeles. His work was selected for the Venice Biennale in 2017 and has been included in exhibitions at the Museum of Modern Art, New York; Smithsonian American Art Museum, Washington, DC; and Berkeley Art Museum, among others. Millers work is included in the permanent collections of the Smithsonian American Art Museum, Museum of Modern Art, Centre Pompidou, Paris, American Folk Art Museum, New York; Berkeley Art Museum, Trinkhall Museum, and the Collection de lArt Brut, Lausanne.
The earliest work of Tony Pedemonte (b. 1954) consists of abstract drawings that begin with a figure and become obscured with energetic mark making and sweeping gestures that reach beyond the papers edge. Eventually, Pedemonte began to incorporate materials within his immediate surroundings into his works on paper, including yarn and wood scraps. It was such tendencies that led to the eventual shift to the creation of three-dimensional sculptures, for which he is known. Pedemontes energetic practice is akin to an athletic or performative feathis process and aesthetic are grounded by the use of his body as a tool for expression. Pedemonte is a recipient of the 2021 Wynn Newhouse Award.
Judith Scott (19432005) was a visual artist, isolated from outside influence due to Down syndrome, deafness, and decades of institutionalization. She created fiber sculptures during her tenure in Creative Growths studio from 1987 until her death. Born in Ohio with her fraternal twin sister Joyce in 1943, Scott was institutionalized at the age of seven at the Columbus State School. She remained in state institutions until 1985, when her sister became her legal guardian and brought her to California. Scott entered the Creative Growth Studio, initially displaying little artistic interest until a visiting artist workshop with the sculptor Sylvia Seventy, during which Scott discovered the medium of fiber art. Scotts work has been exhibited at the Brooklyn Museum in New York in a retrospective exhibition and is part of the permanent collection at the Museum of Modern Art in New York, the Centre Pompidou in Paris, and the Smithsonian American Art Museum in Washington DC, among many others. Her work has also been shown at Gugging, Austria; the Museum of Everything, London; the Smithsonian American Art Museum Washington, DC; White Columns, Barbara Gladstone Gallery, Gavin Browns enterprise, Ricco/Maresca, New York; and Rena Bransten Gallery, San Francisco.
William Scott was born in 1964 and started working at Creative Growth in 1992. He is a highly skilled self-taught painter and social theorist who creates utopian visions of the past, present, and future. This manifests in his paintings in several genres; self-portraits, architectural renderings, portraits of pop culture icons, and imaginings of a peace-loving future.
Scott has had solo exhibitions at White Columns and Ortuzar Projects in New York. His work has been included in group exhibitions at the Hayward Gallery and the Museum of Everything, London; BAMPFA, Berkeley; Gavin Browns enterprise and Ricco/Maresca, New York; and Gallery Paule Anglim, Minnesota Street Project, and Rena Bransten Gallery, San Francisco. Scotts work is included in the permanent collections of the Museum of Modern Art in New York, Trinkhall Museum in Belgium, the Studio Museum in Harlem, the Oakland Museum of California, and the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art.
Nicole Storm has been working at Creative Growth for 27 years and has recently expanded her practice to include immersive site-specific installations. For Storm, the process of creation is paramount to the final painting. Storm doesnt simply sit or stand while workingshe walks the building, rides the elevator, and hides in corners, carrying her work around as she adds layers and detail to her paintings. This is a key component of her process, and its ambulatory nature functions as a way for her to gather and harvest visual information and work through her ideas. Although Storm is not performing for anyone, watching her work is akin to watching a contemporary performance piece; she hums, takes breaks to dance, engages others in conversation, and then suddenly decides to move her artwork and clipboard to another location. The peripatetic nature of her process is the work itself, and what we have are the remains. As a natural progression of her creative process, Storm has begun directing the installation of her work for gallery exhibitions. Hanging work from the lighting grid, layering her paintings on the wall, spreading on the horizontal and vertical planes, and weaving everything together by painting on and around the works, her installations become active environments that continually evolve and become her new studio. Storm's most recent exhibition at White Columns in New York was proclaimed one of the best gallery shows of 2021 by Roberta Smith in The New York Times.
Monica Valentine was born in 1965 in San Mateo, California, and has been working at Creative Growth since 2012. Color dominates and informs much of Valentines life, and her ability to feel the color of an object by its temperature (a form of synesthesia) is just one way that she uses color to orient and empower herself in her environment.