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In Plain Sight

Not on view
9/18/2019 - 12/9/2019
Organizing institution: Mills College Art Museum

In Plain Sight features artworks by Kathryn Andrews (Los Angeles), castaneda/reiman (San Francisco), Dario Robleto (Houston), and Weston Teruya (San Francisco), and is guest curated by Daniel Nevers. In Plain Sight points to the covert systems that shape our environments and perceptions. A seeming paradox, the phrase “hiding in plain sight” simultaneously implies obscurity and exposure, secrets under cover of the obvious. Through layering, embedding, substituting materials, the artists in IPS gives form to otherwise intangible forces.

In Plain Sight centers aesthetic strategies that reward what the writer Rebecca Solnit calls “slow seeing” — a discipline that practices observation to allow for the content of artworks to make a meaningful impression. Sculpture is emphasized throughout the exhibition, blurring the boundaries between object, image, and text, to provide a conceptual anchor for subjects concerning transformation and authenticity. The artists in the show reference history, art history, pop culture, science, and identity to underscore that, in addition to reason, our understanding of the world is informed by our complex emotional relationships to phenomena that sensory perception takes for granted.

Interpretive texts will focus on impressions and implications of the phrase “hiding in plain sight,” tying it to our current moment through recognition of political and social movements, yet also examining its origin and meanings in other contexts. The exhibition will be accompanied by a digital publication with commissioned essays by Joanna Fiduccia (New Haven) and Anne Lesley Selcer (San Francisco), as well as a personal essay from the curator.


Kathryn Andrews mines pop culture for invisible power structures, specifically the ways images and artifacts from advertising and media are imbued with a sense of authority through scale and repetition. Her “Black Bars” series centers obfuscation by printing heavy black rectangles in ink inside the Plexiglas panes that form the front of the frames for her large-scale paintings—themselves a mix of painted surfaces, screen-printed photographs, and actual objects from movie memorabilia auctions mounted inside four-inch-deep aluminum boxes. Yet what activates these pieces are the titles. Because of the ubiquitous nature of Hollywood movie culture, Andrews makes a calculation that viewers need only see a corner or a sliver of each prop for the brain—triggered by language—to fill in the missing pieces. Combatively humorous, the works challenge viewers to contort their bodies to see around the opaque black shapes. Frustratingly, surface and depth collapse, preventing us from seeing the bigger picture. Only by accessing a shared language and a common cultural currency can we stop wrestling and instead see through the obstructions blocking our view. The background images and their constituent parts evoke juvenile visual puns and clichéd metaphors about desire and lust, shining a spotlight on the presumptive straight male voice of authority and further complicating it by being authored, in this case, by a woman.

Conceptually motivated by “what it means to hang a landscape over a mantelpiece,” the artistic duo castaneda/reiman deconstruct and reconfigure images from their vast personal collection of flea market canvases to create installations that blur the lines between sculpture, photography, and painting. Combining common building materials with ceramics and bronze, their work seduces us with signifiers of good taste: nature-inspired color palettes, industrial-chic raw materials, and an artful mix of high and low. Loaded with implications about ownership, control, and power, their work traces the evolution of “the landscape” from high art to sentimental kitsch to pretty pictures of desire. Often arranged in layers, piles or stacks, the pieces of their installations coalesce to form a deliberately disorienting interplay between interior and exterior, original and copy, genuine and fake. What lingers is a sense of tension between an appreciation for beautiful things and the fear that they may one day disappear.

Dario Robleto makes research-based works that are informed by collaborations with experts from a variety of scientific disciplines. He has explored the mysteries of the human heart, outer space, and the deep sea, creating sculptural works that take the form of reliquaries designed to attract the attention of alien life forms, and curio cabinets that organize and enumerate found collections of fossils or shells. Inspired by Carl Sagan and Ann Druyan’s Golden Record project, he embeds historical recordings of the human heart or songs that are personally meaningful to him into his sculptures and installations by scraping and sprinkling audiotape onto the objects. His work gives physical dimension to the invisible force of longing and desire that drives so much human interaction.

Weston Teruya mixes elements of sculpture, painting, and drawing to record and transform community histories and personal experiences related to specific locations and spaces. He re-creates everyday objects such as gates, locks, rakes, and brooms using recycled paper materials marked with traces of their past use: real estate signage, foreclosure documents, marketing materials for technology startups, copies of archival photographs, and other found imagery. His work points to issues of access and survival in cities facing accelerated displacement and massive shifts in cultural makeup. His pieces function as simulacra and as talismans—cheap knockoffs holding the place of the genuine article, and lovingly crafted artifacts imbued with a sense of shared history and power. In either case, the burden of their load has been lightened, making it not only easier to carry them forward from one place to the next, but also, perhaps, making it a little easier to just plain carry on.


Wednesday, October 2, 2019
Artist Lecture: Dario Robleto
7pm, Mills College, Danforth Lecture Hall
Dario Robleto has had numerous solo exhibitions since 1997, most recently at the McNay Museum, San Antonio, TX (2018); Menil Collection, Houston, TX (2014); the Baltimore Museum of Art (2014); the New Orleans Museum of Art (2012); and the Museum of Contemporary Art, Denver (2011). His work has been profiled in numerous publications and media including Radiolab, Krista Tippet's “On Being”, and the New York Times.

Wednesday, October 23, 2019
Curator Walkthrough
7pm, Art Museum
Daniel Nevers expands on themes and ideas raised in the exhibition In Plain Sight. Nevers received an MFA in studio art from Mills College ('08) and is currently executive director at the Berkeley Art Center. He has taught studio art and curated independent projects at colleges and galleries throughout the Bay Area. Nevers will be joined by IPS artists Brody Reiman, of casteneda/reiman and Weston Teruya. 

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