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Summer 2013

Left to Right: Abigail Rodriguez SC '16, Nidhi Gandhi PO '15, MCLA Director Isabella Rojas, and Benjamin Kersten PO '15 visiting David Siqueiros' America Tropical.

By Ben Kersten PO'15, Curatorial/Research Intern, Summer 2013

As an intern at the Pomona College Museum of Art, I was allowed privileged access into the walls of an esteemed educational institution. I traveled to Rome with an art history professor, experiencing the fieldwork aspect of art history by sitting in an artist’s apartment and interviewing her about her works which I would soon photograph, catalog, and write about back at the museum. Working with supervisors who love what they do and being able to pick their brains about all that a museum director oversees, responsibilities of a curator, or different kinds of cleats used to mount paintings let me see many of the necessary elements it takes for an art museum to operate successfully. Being surrounded by and handling artworks, framing them while giving the public entry into their intellectual and expressive intricacies, raises the stakes quite a bit. In the end, I’ll be able to point to works I matted and framed, illustrate my encounter with the artist in focus in a published interview, and speak about my recent and revealing exposure to the LA’s art scene from a few wonderful field trips.

One of these fieldtrips, in fact the first fieldtrip, was to the Mural Conservancy of Los Angeles where we met Isabel Rojas-Williams, the Executive Director. Despite having spent the last two scholastic years in the Los Angeles area, this guided look into public art around the city gave me a much greater appreciation for and understanding of the social-political art movements of Los Angeles. It was fascinating to learn about how the organization restores, preserves, and documents murals around the city, not just because they fall under the “esteemed” category of art, but because of how these significant works of public art are intertwined with historical and contemporary issues and artistically cultivate cross-cultural understanding. Walking down Olvera Street and peering over the edge of the freeway, a mural I had driven past a few times finally registered. Glenna Boltuch Avila’s L.A. Freeway Kids features seven children, from diverse backgrounds. It’s impossible not to feel compassion for each of their smiling faces. This is why public art is important. It can be a unifying factor in the world, as we celebrate each child despite their differences. We realize that we are all those optimistic and kindhearted children, carrying carrying those values with us into the future as we move forward together.

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By Shayda Amanat SC'14, Curatorial/Research Intern, Summer 2013

On Tuesday, August 6th, I went on a field trip with Rebecca McGrew and a number of other interns; we visited artist Iva Gueorguieva at her studio in Downtown Los Angeles, met with Irene Tsatsos at the Armory Foundation in Pasadena, and had a meeting with artist Scott Benzel to discuss his work. Each meeting provided a different lens into the art world.

Iva’s studio visit was my favorite part of the trip. Her studio actualized the traditional, romantic idea of an artist’s space: we met her at a warehouse downtown, traveled up a dark, narrow staircase and ended up in her studio, which had paint splattered on the floor and materials strewn about. Iva was truly a pleasure to meet; she is full of energy and enthusiasm, especially when describing her works. First she explained her process, which includes a repetitive method of layering and painting. Her explanations drew on the history of abstraction, especially when they touched on the concepts of depth and space in her work. Although her works are extremely abstract, Iva explained the narratives and inspirations behind each work. In addition to discussing her art, we had a conversation about the challenges of the gallery world.

Meeting with Irene Tsatsos of the Armory was interesting because of the Armory Center’s unique mission and Tsatsos’ history of varied institutions. She gave us a tour of the space while describing their program of artist educators. Over lunch, she provided us with an account of her varied career, describing what it was like to work in both a traditional museum and an alternative space.

Finally, our meeting with artist Scott Benzel gave us a look into the world of performance and installation. He described the context and research behind a number of his projects, each of which reflects on the history of a time or place. Unlike Iva’s work, which was incredible personal, Scott’s art was more distanced and involved a lot of research. The two can be seen as opposites: Iva’s artwork was very raw and could speak to anyone, while Scott’s work needed a complete understanding of very specific art histories.  

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Left to Right: Benjamin Kersten PO '15, Nidhi Gandhi PO '15, and Abigail Rodriguez SC '16 visiting Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA) under Levitated Mass.

By Nidhi Gandhi PO'16, Curatorial/Research Intern, Summer 2013

Even after two years of attending Pomona College, I’ve never been to the Los Angeles County Museum of Art – literally one of the most famous and popular museums in LA. When the museum staff decided to take us on a fieldtrip there to meet a LACMA curator and see the exhibit “James Turrell: A Retrospective," I of course immediately transformed into a kid from sheer anticipation. We got there with just enough time to run up the huge red staircases, get a little confused about where we were going, and finally get into the Turrell exhibit a little after our entrance time. My minimal exposure to Turrell’s art (who, by the way, graduated Pomona College ’65, CGU ’73) consists of the Pomona College Skyspace, Dividing the Light, and his infamous Roden Crater – a minute fraction of his total work. The exhibit went chronologically, presenting his work from his initial concept sketches of light and geometrical light projections to entire rooms that altered light and space, his recent exploration of holograms, and a dedicated area about the Roden Crater.

I expect that in public locations I’m supposed to act a little more like the twenty-year-old woman I am, but this exhibit just constantly amazed me. My favorite areas were his room installations: being immersed in these spaces is an experience in being completely manipulated and vulnerable to the interplay of light, space, perception, and sensation. After wandering and wondering through all this, we were fortunate enough to have lunch with Ilene Fort, a curator at LACMA famous for organizing the exhibit “In Wonderland: The Surrealist Adventures of Women Artists in Mexico and the United States.” She was upfront and direct about curating and museum work in a large institution, which is completely different from working in a place like the Pomona College Museum. After that we were free to wander the vast treasures of LACMA, including the Henri Matisse exhibit, the Hans Richter: Encounters show, and under the Levitated Mass, where we took numerous photos while “holding” the huge rock. The Hans Richter show was particularly appealing to me, as I took a class last semester on the changing art scene in Berlin over the last century. I was able to visit LACMA for the first time, meet a wonderful curator who offered some poignant and pointed advice, and see THE best James Turrell exhibit right now, all for free. All in all, a successful day as an intern at the Pomona College Museum of Art.