NEWS: Whitney Museum Appoints Marcela Guerrero and Rujeko Hockley as Assistant Curators

From left: Marcela Guerrero and Rujeko Hockley.

The Whitney Museum has announced that it has appointed Marcela Guerrero and Rujeko Hockley as assistant curators. The museum’s deputy director for programs and chief curator, Scott Rothkopf, said, “Marcela and Ru have distinguished themselves as two of the brightest and most passionate curatorial voices of their generation. Having worked across the country in California, Texas, and New York, they add a wide range of knowledge and new field-specific expertise to the Whitney’s curatorial team. Their scholarly acumen is matched by a frontline commitment to emerging artists, and I have no doubt their contributions to the Whitney’s program and collection will help broaden and reshape our narratives of the art of the United States, both past and present.”

Marcela Guerrero has been a curatorial fellow at the Hammer Museum in Los Angeles since 2014. She will also have a hand in curating—with Cecilia Fajardo-Hill and Andrea Giunta—the upcoming Hammer exhibition “Radical Women: Latin American Art, 1960–1985,” for the Getty Foundation’s Pacific Standard Time: LA/LA. Prior to the Hammer, she worked at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston as a research coordinator for the International Center for the Arts of the Americas. She has also written for a variety of arts publications, such as ArtNexus, Caribbean Intransit: The Arts Journal, and Gulf Coast: A Journal of Literature and Fine Arts.

For the last four years, Rujeko Hockley has been an assistant curator of contemporary art the Brooklyn Museum. While there, she contributed to a number of programs and exhibitions, including “Kehinde Wiley: A New Republic,” “LaToya Ruby Frazier: A Haunted Capital,” and “Tom Sachs: Boombox Retrospective, 1999–2016.” Before her stint at the Brooklyn Museum, Hockley was a curatorial assistant at the Studio Museum in Harlem. She also worked at the Museum of Contemporary Art in San Diego. Hockley has contributed her writing to many publications: Aperture, Artforum, and the San Francisco Arts Quarterly, to name just a few.

January 24, 2017

The cake sculpture Pat Lasch created for MoMA’s fiftieth anniversary in 1979. Photo: Pat Lasch.

New York–based artist Pat Lasch, a first-generation feminist sculptor known for pieces that simultaneously critique and celebrate symbols of femaleness and domesticity—such as wedding veils, dresses, and cakes—recently found out that a sculpture commissioned from her by New York’s MoMA, made for the museum’s fiftieth anniversary in 1979, has been discarded, writes Randy Kennedy of the New York Times.

The sculpture, a multitiered cake made from paper, wood, and paint, was disposed of sometime during the late 1990s, when the museum was cleaning out its storage facilities and found that the work had deteriorated profoundly. Lasch is in the process of organizing a retrospective of her work at the Palm Springs Art Museum—her first—scheduled to open in March. She contacted MoMA to see if they’d be willing to lend the work for her show. There was a great deal of silence on the museum’s behalf for a long time. Then, last fall, MoMA’s head registrar, Stefanii Ruta Atkins, send Lasch an email: “I regret to inform you that, following a thorough review of paper records and a physical search of our storage locations, we have not been able to locate the object. Please accept my sincere apologies as well as my very best wishes for the success of your show in Palm Springs.” In a statement, the museum said that the piece was never meant to be preserved as a part of its permanent collection (it does, however, own one of the artist’s paper wedding veils). Kynaston McShine, a renowned curator who commissioned the piece from Lasch in 1979 when he worked for the museum, was approached by the Times for a comment. He has yet to respond.

Lasch’s work has appeared in exhibitions at SculptureCenter, PS1 (now MoMA PS1), and the New Museum. She believes the work was thrown out because she has not had as high-profile a career as many of her peers. Ann Sutherland Harris, a longtime admirer of Lasch’s work, as well as an emerita professor at the University of Pittsburgh, said, “Pat is a survivor. She has kept at it and stayed true to making very ambitious but in some ways very quiet work that transforms things we think we know.”

January 24, 2017

James Merle Thomas. Photo: Elizabeth Weinberg.

Maximilano Durn of Artnews reports that James Merle Thomas has been named the executive director of Philadelphia’s nonprofit art space, Vox Populi. Thomas is a professor of global contemporary art at the Tyler School of Art at Temple University, and has written for several art publications, such as Bomb, Artforum, and Triple Canopy.

“For nearly three decades, Vox Populi has served as a foundation for some of Philadelphia’s most innovative artistic production,” said Thomas. “At a time when principled commitment to supporting non-commercial and experimental arts is more crucial than ever, I am excited by Vox’s rich institutional history and its dedication to visual art, performance, and curatorial practice.”

Thomas is replacing Bree Pickering, who left Vox Populi last October for a directorship at Australia’s Murray Art Museum Albury.

January 24, 2017

Moshe Gershuni. Photo: Dan Porges.

The painter and sculptor Moshe Gershuni, who lived and worked in Tel Aviv, has died, reports Melanie Stern of Haaretz.

Gershuni studied at the Avni Institute of Art and Design, where he was taught by artists Yehezkel Streichman and Avigdor Steimatzky. He had his first solo exhibition at the Israel Museum while he was in his early thirties. Just a bit later he was asked to teach at Bezalel—Academy of Arts and Design, Jerusalem. He did not last long, however—he was asked to leave the school after organizing a revolt against the institution’s administration. He also taught at the Beit Berl School of Arts, where he was considered an influential professor.

Gershuni caused some controversy in 2003 when he was awarded the Israel prize for art, but refused to attend the ceremony because he did not want to shake hands with Ariel Sharon, who was Israel’s prime minister at the time. “My conscience prevents me from going on the podium—it’s not the time for ceremonies and celebrations,” said Gershuni. Limor Livnat, who was Sharon’s minister of culture, rescinded the award as a response to the artist’s gesture. Gershuni asked Israel’s high court of justice to intercede regarding Livnat’s decision, but nothing came of it. The panel who nominated Gershuni for the prize wrote that “He offered a riveting version of involved radical-political art. In the 1980s, he led a bold move with his free and wild paintings, dealing with Israeli mythologies and topics related to the Jewish spiritual world.”

Gershuni has had many exhibitions in Israel, and has been the recipient of numerous prizes, such as the Israel Museum’s Aika Brown prize in 1969; the Minister of Education and Culture Prize for a Young Artist in 1988; the Tel Aviv Museum’s 1995 Mendel and Eva Pondik Prize; and an award from Israel’s LGBT community in 2003 for his many contributions to culture. Naomi Gibon, the artist’s dealer since the 1980s, said, “His paintings impacted my life and the course of [my] gallery. Without him, I wouldn’t have devoted my life to art.”

January 24, 2017

Scott Pruitt, Trump’s choice to head the Environmental Protection Agency.

Right before Donald Trump’s inauguration last Friday, over 400 American architecture firms—such as Leers Weinzapfel Associates, Smith-Miller + Hawkinson Architects, Lorcan O’Herlihy Architects, Lake Flato, and ZGF Architects LLP—signed an open letter addressed to Donald Trump on climate change, writes Allison Meier of Hyperallergic. The campaign was organized by the Chicago-based organization Architects Advocate, which formed in September.

The letter asks that Trump, who’s gone on record to deny that climate change exists, commit himself to finding more sources of renewable energy, give funding for renewable energy technologies, and honor the Paris Climate Agreement. Right before leaving office, Barack Obama transferred $500 million to the Green Climate Fund. This subsidy meets part of the $3 billion Obama promised on behalf of the agreement—the US currently owes $2 billion more, according to The Guardian. It is now up to Trump as to whether or not the full agreement will be met.

In the letter, the architects state that they “are dedicated to creating healthy, productive, and safe communities for all” in a “way that is economically viable, socially equitable, and environmentally sustainable.” Trump nominated Scott Pruitt to head the Environmental Protection Agency. Pruitt has spoken out against the government regulating water and air pollution.

The full letter may be read here.

January 24, 2017

Ira Goldberg

Ira Goldberg, who has been the executive director of New York’s Art Students League since 2001, is stepping down from his post at the end of this month to live in Spain, writes Colin Moynihan of the New York Times.

Goldberg has been associated with the nonprofit art school since 1979, when he took a drawing class there taught by Robert Beverly Hale. “It has been the greatest privilege of my life to have been part of the Art Students League. [It] will always be with me, heart and soul,” said Goldberg. Artist Timothy Clark, a longtime teacher at the league, will be its interim executive director starting February 1.

January 24, 2017

Women’s March Los Angeles. Photo: Kalina Michalska.

Julia Halperin of the Art Newspaper writes that organizations such as London’s Bishopsgate Institute, the New York Historical Society, and the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History in Washington, DC, are adding banners, signs, pins, hats, T-shirts, and other items from the January 21 Women’s March against Donald J. Trump’s presidency—which started in Washington, DC, then spread across the globe—to their archives to properly document this historic moment.

The New York Historical society has already collected about twenty signs from marches in New York and Washington, DC, in addition to a small trove of protest art from Victory Garden, a women’s art collective based in New York. The Bishopsgate Institute has taken in anywhere from fifty to 100 leaflets, signs, and photographs for its archives. And curators from the National Museum of American History have been collecting items all throughout the 2016 campaign and afterward, including the march and Trump’s inauguration. Philadelphia’s Temple Libraries’ Special Collections Research Center has collected a significant amount of materials from its city’s march, where 50,000 people participated.

January 24, 2017

November Paynter

The Museum of Contemporary Art Toronto Canada has appointed November Paynter as its new director of programs.

Paynter was previously the founding associate director of research and programs at SALT Istanbul and Ankara from 2011–16. She has also served as the director of the Artist Pension Trust in Dubai, was a consultant curator at the Tate Modern, the assistant curator for the 2005 International Istanbul Biennale, and a curator for Istanbul’s Platform Garanti.

“I am excited and honored to step into this role at a crucial moment as MOCA finalizes the renovation of its new venue. I particularly look forward to shaping the attitude and direction of the program, while retaining the institution’s meaning for the local art community by putting relationships at the center of the operation,” said Paynter. Julia Ouellette, chair of the museum’s board of directors, said, “We are thrilled that November will bring her unique experience building institutions and working within cultural networks to MOCA as we usher in this new phase for the museum.”

January 24, 2017

Visitors to “Wild Noise/Ruido Salvaje” in Cuba. Photo: Lisette Poole / New York Times.

Randy Kennedy of the New York Times writes that the Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes in Havana will not be loaning the Bronx Museum any artworks for “Wild Noise/Ruido Salvaje,” a collaborative exhibition between the two institutions. The first half of “Wild Noise” opened at the Museo Nacional in the summer of 2015 with a loan of more than eighty pieces from the Bronx Museum’s permanent collection. The Bronx Museum will now plan on exhibiting about sixty works pulled from various private and public collections outside of Cuba.

As reported last August, four of the Bronx Museum’s board members resigned over disagreements regarding the direction the museum was being taken in by its director, Holly Block. There was a great deal of contention over the “Wild Noise” exhibit, in addition to a plan to fundraise $2.5 million to gift Cuba with a replica statue of Cuban revolutionary leader, Jos Mart (the original sits at the outskirts of New York’s Central Park).

Block did not confirm whether or not the loan was stopped due to fears surrounding Trump’s presidency. “We didn’t get a no from them but we also didn’t get a final yes,” said Block. The Bronx half of the exhibition has been pushed back a number of times, as there were fears that the artworks could have been taken by the US government because of lawsuits filed by Americans over properties that were confiscated by Fidel Castro when he took power in 1959. The US State Department put forth a ruling to protect the works from seizure late last year. The Museo Nacional, however, still did not respond.

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