EXHIBITIONS: Flatlanders on the Slant

Photo: The original Slant Step (cropped)
Photo: The original Slant Step (cropped)


Here is more of the description from the Speaking Slant Step exhibition in 2006:

“The slant step’s appearance in Nauman’s life coincided with a breakthrough in his studio work while a student here at UC Davis. His work was transformed from its original concern with painterly figurative abstraction and later concern with minimalist sculpture into a conceptual practice that has since become the archetype for an entire era in art making.

“Nauman’s shift in emphasis has brought him vast international acclaim. The rather silly and useless object from a Marin County thrift store thus served as an historical turning point in the recent history of art.”

More Exhibitions.

By Dateline staff

The Nelson Gallery this summer puts a whole new slant on the fourth Flatlanders exhibition.

This year’s show, scheduled to open Thursday, July 12, comprises a new generation of works inspired by the Slant Step, the seemingly useless object forever linked to renowned UC Davis artists William T. Wiley and Bruce Nauman.

Oh, and the original slant step? It will be on display, here, too.

Renny Pritikin, the Nelson director, curated the first Flatlanders show in 2006, showcasing the arts scene of the Sacramento-Davis flatlands. He followed up with new shows in 2008 and 2010.

This year brings a guest curator, Joy Bertinuson, adjunct faculty member at American River and Sierra colleges, and a show with a slightly different title: Flatlanders on the Slant, in which 50 or so artists from around the region offer their takes on the slant step. Three of those artists are due to participate in a panel discussion from 4:30 to 5:30 p.m. immediately preceding the exhibition's opening.

Covered in green linoleum, the step was an unassuming object when Wiley rescued it from a Marin County salvage shop in 1965. He gave the step to Nauman, who kept it in his studio for inspiration (see box).

“A simple footstool utterly unsuited for its intended purpose because its dysfunctional slant made it impossible to find comfortable footing, the Slant Step became an inspiration for Wiley, Nauman and many others precisely because of its failure and ambiguity as an object,” reads a Nelson Gallery description from a 2006 show, Speaking Slant Step, at the Buehler Alumni and Visitors Center.

Forty years earlier, Wiley organized the Slant Step Show at the Berkeley Gallery in San Francisco. An account in the San Francisco Chronicle told of "slant steps made of bread, of colored plastic with electric lights inside, of wood and metal and silk and probably of chewing gum, too: It’s that kind of show."

Now comes Flatlanders on the Slant, in celebration of (sort of) the 50th anniversary of the original slant step show and featuring a lineup that includes:

Faculty — Robin Hill, Hearne Pardee, Annabeth Rosen, Gina Werfel and Wiley himself.

Alumni — Chris Daubert, Stephen Giannetti, Matthew Gottschalk, Stephen Kaltenbach, Lisa Marasso, Liv Moe, Tony Natsoulas, Robert Ortbal, Frank Owen, Maija Peeples-Bright, Mick Sheldon, Peter VandenBerge, Gerald Walburg and Patricia Wood

Said Bertinuson: “I approached the Nelson about organizing this exhibition because UC Davis is where the slant step began its (new) role as muse for those early artists making works in its likeness. The inspiration for the show came with my discovery that some of those original artists, many of whom have remained in this region, have continued to be interested in the thing after 47 years!

“While it started as a local phenomenon, its appeal has reached internationally, and has crossed genres; it is for these reasons that it should not be forgotten.”


Flatlanders on the Slant

WHEN: July 12-Aug. 17


• 4:30 p.m. — panel discussion with Stephen Kaltenbach, Liz Moe and Ron Peetz, among the exhibition’s participating artists

5:30-7:30 p.m. — exhibition opening

GALLERY'S REGULAR HOURS (SUMMER): 11 a.m.-5 p.m. Monday-Thursday and Saturday; and Friday by appointment

WHERE: Nelson Gallery, Nelson Hall

CATALOG: A fully illustrated catalog will be available.

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Dave Jones, Dateline, 530-752-6556, dljones@ucdavis.edu

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