Collectors Group Acquires New Works for the Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego (MCASD) By Spencer Finch, Catherine Opie, and Jack Whitten

. April 27, 2012 . 0 Comments

At the 2012 Collectors’Selection Dinner on Wednesday, April 25, MCASD’s International Collectors and Contemporary Collectors voted to purchase new works for the Museum’s collection: a luminous overhead sculpture by Spencer Finch, Rome (Pantheon, Noon, June 14, 2011); a keystone work by celebrated photographer Catherine Opie, Burnt House from Burlington and Ninth Street (1990); and a precocious abstract canvas by seasoned New York artist Jack Whitten, Chinese Sincerity (1974).

Spencer Finch, Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego

Whether grand or subtle, Spencer Finch’s works translate the experience of a place or a perception in time to another realm altogether. His “specific” depictions—the pink of Jackie Kennedy’s pill box hat, the color of his dreams, sunlight in the Pantheon—are unlikely, but perhaps also accurate. His recollections blend scientific observation with poetic gesture. Often, Finch filters “found” light to bridge an actual locale with a recalled memory. Rather than depict a scene’s physical contours, he evokes the moment and mood of a place by controlling the light with the use of simple color filters. He links locales and actions, which are separated by time and space, through the recollection of sensory information. Rome (Pantheon, Noon, June 14, 2011) connects the architecture of Rome’s Pantheon, with its single circular skylight, to the Museum’s Robert Venturi-designed skylight in the Axline Court in La Jolla. Finch approximates the Pantheon’s oculus with an expansive scrim-covered lens, installed overhead. The overlay of Finch’s minimal sculpture brings a geometric clarity to Venturi’s star-shaped lantern. More than a simple play of forms, the installation also filters the clear California sunshine to approximate the quality and color of light Finch experienced on a recent summer’s visit to Rome.

In her photography Catherine Opie represents various types of communities: the people, places, and issues that bind us together. As such, her landscapes of mini-malls, freeways, and residential neighborhoods are similar to her portraits of friends, family, athletes, and club members. Opie presents her subjects with a formal clarity that often references art history from 20th-street photography to 16th-century portraiture. Burnt House from Burlington and Ninth Streettakes the form of a triptych, with a large central photograph depicting a house near MacArthur Park in Los Angeles that has been destroyed by fire, flanked on either side by panels containing objects, possessions of the former tenants retrieved from the house. The unique piece with its inclusion of objects encompasses and anticipates the key themes and subjects that would emerge in Opie’s work, including her numerous series exploring family and domestic space. As in so many of the artist’s photographs of architectural settings, the home establishes the domestic environment as a microcosm of the larger world, a porous boundary between public and private, the self and society.

Abstract painter Jack Whitten came of age in segregated Alabama, where he participated in sit-ins and other civil rights protests before moving to New York City in 1960 to study art. Initially influenced by Abstract Expressionism, Whitten’s early gestural paintings paid homage to figures such as Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and the artist has continued to make “memorial paintings” as tributes to figures and friends who have influenced him. Despite Whitten’s frequent invocation of political figures and events in the titles of his paintings, his work has remained resolutely abstract since the 1970s, when he began radical experiments to relinquish compositional control, eliminating the hand, gesture, and paintbrush itself. Works like Chinese Sincerity were not painted so much as “processed,” to use the artist’s term, using large troughs of paint, which is pulled across the surface with varying implements—rakes, squeegees, and even the artist’s afro-comb—techniques more commonly associated with photography and printmaking. The resulting surfaces are at once atmospheric and tactile, revealing rich layers of underlying colors.

Each year, MCASD’s curatorial staff organizes an exhibition of works to be considered for acquisition by the Collectors, and these works are then selected by ballot at the Annual Selection Dinner. This year the Museum offers a special thanks to Northern Trust, the exclusive corporate sponsor of the 27th Annual Selection Dinner. This year’s dinner featured a three-course meal designed especially for the groups by Tapenade. Floral arrangements were provided by Adelaide’s La Jolla.

About the Collectors

For the past 27 years, MCASD’s premier membership groups—the Contemporary Collectors and the International Collectors—have provided significant funds for the acquisition of new works for the Museum’s collection through their annual dues.

International Collectors is co-chaired by David C. Copley and Joan and Irwin Jacobs. Contemporary Collectors is co-chaired by Nancy and Matt Browar and Drs. Stacy and Paul Jacobs.

Thanks to the Collectors’ support, MCASD has added 93 works to its collection—works that were collectively purchased for approximately $3 million and that today are valued at over $12.6 million. Some of these acquisitions are now on view at MCASD La Jolla as part of the exhibition Prospect 2012, on view through May 30, 2012.

The support of the International and Contemporary Collectors has allowed MCASD’s curators to discover new artists, enrich the MCASD collection, and build an engaged and informed community of collectors in San Diego.

In addition to the Annual Selection Dinner, International and Contemporary Collector Members receive VIP access to all Museum exhibitions, art tours, lectures, literary, film, education, and performing art programs. For more information about joining the group, please contact Heather Cook at or 858 454 3541 x165.

Category: Museum News

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