UC Santa Cruz’s Institute of the Arts and Sciences presents West Coast Premiere of Maria Gaspar: Compositions

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Portrait of Maria Gaspar, photo credit: Mark Poucher

The California Central Coast’s premier space for contemporary art, UC Santa Cruz’s Institute of the Arts and Sciences, is opening a new exhibition beginning on September 26, 2023 that goes through March 3, 2024. Entitled Maria Gaspar: Compositions, it is the first West Coast solo exhibition by the Chicago-based, Guggenheim-winning artist. Bringing together newly commissioned and existing artworks engaging the demolition of a wing of the Cook County Department of Corrections, the largest single-site jail in the United States, Compositions forms complex questions of how debris from the jail’s destruction might, through collaboration and social transformation, become the building material for a liberated world.

Compositions introduces our audiences to existing artwork by this important, award-winning artist, and also a new, major series of sculpture created for Visualizing Abolition, our thematic programming on prisons and abolition,” explains Dr. Rachel Nelson, director of the Institute and co-curator of the exhibition. “Asked to think about the relationship between art and prison activism, Maria has offered us aesthetically rich acts of alchemy, transfiguring materials that were made to confine – like iron prison bars and concrete walls – into that which can create a new, more just society.”

With large-scale sculptures of demolition equipment, delicate hole-strewn works-on-paper, a 60-hour time-lapse video of the bulldozing of the Cook County Jail building, paintings of a cloud-filled sky, and other works, Compositions offers an immersive environment in which to reflect – and act – on the artist’s provocations. The exhibition is accompanied by a selection of short films developed through the artist’s collaborations with people incarcerated. Throughout the exhibition’s duration, sculptural renderings of the jail’s fragments will be sonically and visually activated through performances.

The acclaimed composer and theorist James Gordon Williams, assistant professor of music at UC Santa Cruz, will perform an improvised musical piece using the jail’s iron bars on October 7, 2023, 4-5:30 p.m. and the artist will speak about her practice. Workshops with the artist will also be held, with dates TBA.

Also on view at the Institute is Sadie Barnette: Family Business, a multi-sited exhibition organized with the San José Museum of Art (SJMA) that explores the artist’s family history to reveal the personal—and shared—experience of Black repression and resistance in the United States.

Maria Gaspar: Compositions and Sadie Barnette: Family Business are part of the major public scholarship program, Visualizing Abolition, an ongoing initiative exploring art, prisons, and justice. Visualizing Abolition highlights the creative work underway by artists, activists, and scholars to imagine alternatives to current injustices. Visualizing Abolition is organized by UC Santa Cruz Professor Gina Dent and Dr. Rachel Nelson, in partnership with Lauren Schell Dickens, San José Museum of Art chief curator.

The Institute of the Arts and Sciences Galleries are located at 100 Panetta Avenue, on the westside of Santa Cruz and are open Tuesday-Sunday, 12pm-5pm. Admission is free to the public. More information athttps://ias.ucsc.edu/.

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