UNEARTHED: Found + Made at Oakland Museum of California

Today from our partners at Art Practical, we bring you Vivian Sming’s review of UNEARTHED: Found + Made at Oakland Museum of California. The author notes, “[The] democratic approach of placing contemporary art and local clubs side by side compresses and erases hierarchies, providing a slice of history, place, and time.” This article was originally published on January 26, 2016.

Installation view, UNEARTHED: Found + Made, 2015-2016. Courtesy of the Oakland Museum of California. Photo: Johnna Arnold.

Installation view, UNEARTHED: Found + Made, 2015-2016. Courtesy of the Oakland Museum of California. Photo: Johnna Arnold.

In the late 19th century, anthropologist Franz Boas rejected the methods of museological display that grouped objects by their typology. Boas dismissed the practice of creating an evolutionary progression between disparate cultural artifacts—an approach susceptible to scientific racism—and instead favored a contextual approach that placed objects together by their location, history, and culture. The Oakland Museum of California (OMCA) is a rare instance of a museum that takes such an approach toward art. The works in the museum’s collection are not displayed through a linear understanding of art history, but rather are arranged by their cultural concepts. Here, contemporary works are treated as a sliver of Californian history, positioned next to landscape paintings from the days of the Gold Rush. By using this methodology, OMCA reveals the timeless fixations that continue to preoccupy the region’s inhabitants and artists, highlighting the Californian landscape in particular, which has ceaselessly captured the public’s imagination.

Currently on view at OMCA, UNEARTHED: Found + Made looks toward the ground as a source of meditation. It’s the first in a series of future exhibitions that pair contemporary artists with niche cultural organizations around the Bay Area, furthering the museum’s anthropological approach. Curated by Christina Linden, UNEARTHED features works by Oakland-born, Los Angeles-based artist Jedediah Caesar as well as artists from two local clubs, the California Suiseki Society and the San Francisco Suiseki Kai. Largely comprising found materials from the Californian landscape, the exhibited works transport viewers to far and distant lands that simultaneously lie on the earth’s surface and exist within the imagination.

Read the full article here.