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'Triennial' art has Pacific Rim flavor

The work of 32 artists from 15 countries makes up the exhibit at the Orange County Museum of Art in Newport.

June 29, 2013|By Michael Miller
  • Akio Takamori's "Squatting Girl in Blue Dress" left, and "Squatting Girl in Striped Dress" are on display during f the 2013 California-Pacific Triennial at the Orange County Museum of Art.
Akio Takamori's "Squatting Girl in Blue Dress"… (SCOTT SMELTZER,…)

By the time you enter the doors of the Orange County Museum of Art and look for the first work of art on display, you'll probably have stepped on it already.

The Newport Beach museum's inaugural "2013 California-Pacific Triennial" exhibit, which opens Sunday, begins with an incongruous speed bump that stretches from the tree in front to a strip of lawn near the door. The speed bump is actually an installation by Chilean sculptor Sebastian Preece, who contributed other municipal-themed touches around the grounds.

But as curator Dan Cameron readily noted, many spectators will simply walk over (or past) the speed bump. The intended effect, he said, is a subtle one: the encroachment of an urban environment on a private space like the museum.

"It's something you would step over and not even see as being out of place," Cameron said Friday as the museum hosted a media preview of the show, which brings together works from around the Pacific Rim.

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The concept of spotlighting the overlooked dominates much of the exhibit, which comprises the work of 32 artists from 15 countries bordering the Pacific Ocean. Among the pieces on display are a collection of semi-wilted flowers, rescued from cemetery dumpsters, that Colombian artist Adriana Salazar embalmed and set on rotating motors; a wall of mostly obscure Latino-themed album covers; and a pair of fabric ceilings from condemned Mexican buildings that Gabriel de la Mora saved and hung in all their cracked, stained glory.

In short, the title of a recent Art Garfunkel song, "Everything Waits to Be Noticed," might make an alternate name for OCMA's triennial. And that theme applies culturally as well.

Before leading a walk-through tour, Cameron explained that some of the represented regions, such as Central America and Southeast Asia, had spotty exposure in galleries until recent years. The triennial, which replaces the California Biennial that OCMA has hosted since 1984, serves partly as a celebration of the Pacific's increased importance as a cultural hub.

"The Pacific Ocean really has taken on a kind of a primacy in our world today," said Cameron, who came on as curator in 2011. "Just as trans-Atlantic commerce and exchange of ideas built this country and established the government and traditions of the United States, so, moving into the 21st century, movement across the Pacific Ocean, I think, has become the most important theater or platform for the exchange of ideas and cultural expressions.

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