In a marked departure from past New Work exhibitions at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (SFMOMA), Not New Work: Vincent Fecteau Selects from the Collection presents drawings, paintings, and sculptures from the museum’s holdings chosen by the San Francisco-based artist. Over the past year, Vincent Fecteau has sifted through thousands of objects in SFMOMA’s collection, gradually narrowing his choices down to approximately 25 works that have rarely, if ever, been on display at the museum. The resulting exhibition features artists ranging from well-recognized names such as Judy Chicago, Max Ernst, and Jess to the lesser-known Richard Feralla, Ralf Humphrey, and Dorothy Reid. Organized by Fecteau in close collaboration with SFMOMA Assistant Curator Apsara DiQuinzio, this latest New Work presentation will be on view from July 25 through November 8, 2009.
In organizing the exhibition, Fecteau examined the museum’s collection through his own aesthetic lens, deliberately seeking out overlooked and idiosyncratic works that have seldom been on view. His final selection offers thought-provoking juxtapositions and an eclectic group of objects, providing a different way for visitors to appreciate SFMOMA’s collection. The exhibition also represents the artist’s attempt to depict a more complicated aspect of collecting, one that questions traditional ideas of what constitutes a masterpiece.
“Fecteau has a deep interest in narratives that often go untold but are present nonetheless,” says DiQuinzio. “This exhibition reflects his desire to talk about how the story of an art object extends beyond what is typically seen in the museum. It also serves as a diagram of how Fecteau moved through the collection, and poses important questions about what makes a work of art relevant, interesting, and worthy of attention.”
The presentation also creates an opportunity for the museum’s conservation team to thoroughly study and maintain some of the more unsung yet fascinating objects in the collection. SFMOMA Deputy Head of Conservation Michelle Barger states: “Many of these pieces have been in storage for a long time. Our work is so often driven by exhibition schedules—it’s wonderful to be able to give due consideration to pieces that normally we might have less time for.”
Exhibition highlights include Pandora Dawn (1959), a quiet, small-scale oil painting by Jess that entered the collection in 2000; a large-scale latex painting by Robert Overby from 1971; a figurative drawing by the artist known as Tom of Finland (Touko Laaksonen); a ceramic work by Ron Nagle; an aluminum sculpture by Lynda Benglis; and sculptures by Dorothy Reid, Eric Rudd, and Christopher Wilmarth.
While the museum devotes more than half of its exhibition space to the display of its own collection, only a fraction of its holdings are on view at any given time. Over the past decade, SFMOMA has acquired more than 13,000 works, 95 percent of which were donated, thus doubling its holdings to more than 26,000 objects. In focusing on these far reaches of the collection, Fecteau’s New Work presentation celebrates the extraordinary diversity of SFMOMA’s holdings and investigates museum practices regarding classification and context.
In conjunction with Not New Work: Vincent Fecteau Selects from the Collection, SFMOMA has commissioned Fecteau to create an artist’s book, in which he has chosen to focus on a particular work in the exhibition—Christopher Wilmarth’s plywood-and-glass sculpture New (1968). The publication will consist of approximately a dozen loose postcards depicting Wilmarth’s sculpture. Enclosed in a plastic sleeve, the cards will be available for purchase at the SFMOMA MuseumStore ($10) soon after the exhibitions opens.
Fecteau (b. 1969) lives and works in San Francisco, and is known for his abstract sculptures made from papier-mâché and collaged elements. Modest in size, his inventive forms waver between the recognizable and wholly imagined, evoking preparatory models or architectural studies even as they are finished sculptures. Fecteau is also devoutly interested in the handmade object, rigorously exploiting its myriad textures and permutations. He often develops his work in series, evolving groups of sculptures simultaneously in a slow process of continual reduction that can take years to complete. Like scientific models, which attempt to visualize something that cannot be directly observed, Fecteau’s sculptures function as physical representations of the experience of making them.
SFMOMA recently featured several of Fecteau’s sculptures (one of which is in the collection) in the recent group exhibition Passageworks: Contemporary Art from the Collection (2008). Fecteau had his first solo museum exhibition at the Berkeley Art Museum in 2002, and a recent presentation at The Art Institute of Chicago in 2008. In addition to numerous group exhibitions—including the 2002 Whitney Biennial—Fecteau’s art has been featured at greengrassi, London; Daniel Buchholz, Cologne; Feature Inc., New York; and Gallery Paule Anglim, San Francisco; among others. He was awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship in 2005, and Artforum magazine cited his greengrassi show as one of the best of 2000.
ABOUT THE NEW WORK SERIES
From its inception in 1987, SFMOMA’s New Work series was conceived as a means to feature the most innovative expressions of contemporary art. Artists such as Matthew Barney, Sherrie Levine, and Christopher Wool were given their first solo museum exhibitions through the program, establishing the series as an important vehicle for the advancement of new art forms. Over the ensuing decade, New Work featured artists such as Glenn Ligon, Kerry James Marshall, Tatsuo Miyajima, Doris Salcedo, Luc Tuymans, Kara Walker, and Andrea Zittel, among many others. After a four-year hiatus, SFMOMA reintroduced the New Work series in 2004, and has since showcased work by Edgar Arceneaux, Phil Collins, Rachel Harrison, Marilyn Minter, Lucy McKenzie, Wangechi Mutu, Felix Schramm, Paul Sietsema, Mai-Thu Perret,and Ranjani Shettar, among others.
The New Work series is organized by the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art and is generously supported by Collectors Forum, the founding patron of the series. Major funding is also provided by Martha and Bruce Atwater, the Mimi and Peter Haas Fund, and Robin Wright and Ian Reeves.