This group exhibition brings together a diverse array of works on loan and new commissions that explore the representation of the body in landscape. Our bodies are important political spaces. They are sites of vulnerability and exchange, formed in relation to forces of power and social expectations. In public, bodies of color, disabled bodies, female identifying, trans and non-binary bodies are policed and surveyed; while at the same time they are not typically represented in our shared civic spaces. The assembled works on view invite the viewer to consider what does it mean for our bodies to feel grounded and safe in public? To feel seen? To be represented? To belong?
A historic property, Montalvo was originally home to politician and patron of the arts James Duval Phelan. Phelan was the first popularly elected Senator of California, active in the movement to restrict Japanese and Chinese immigration to the United States. His failed reelection campaign featured the racist slogan, “Keep California White.” Montalvo’s 175-acre park contains a number of neo-classical figurative allegorical sculptures and portrait busts. These works were part of Phelan’s original art collection.
Figurative western sculpture has typically favored idealized representations exemplified by the austere, white marble statuary of the classical tradition. This tradition has perpetuated narratives of whiteness claiming and occupying public space to the exclusion of other identities and body types. The works on view in this exhibition unsettle and destabilize this prevailing narrative. They open up critical dialogue and claim space for wider representation and inclusion in our public spaces.
Some artists in this exhibition use figuration to examine stereotypical fears, questions and assumptions about bodies. They celebrate bodies not typically represented in our public spaces. Other works challenge formal definitions of figuration and prompt a reconsideration of how our bodies might communicate our histories if freed from the constraints of physics and normative narratives of fixed bodies and identities. Many use the body as a tool to create, leaving traces of their own bodies in their work.
The exhibition will be accompanied by a series of related programs and will open with a celebratory performance festival.
This exhibition is made possible through the support of our lead sponsor, the Marcus Family Foundation.
Additional support generously provided by the Jo and Barry Ariko Fund for Artistic Programs and Sally Lucas.