- Slate of Exhibitions Explore Abstraction, Activism and Identity Through Variety of Perspectives and Media
The Jan Shrem and Maria Manetti Shrem Museum of Art at the University of California, Davis, opens its fall season with exhibitions focused on internationally acclaimed sculptor Deborah Butterfield, pioneering Chicano activist artist Malaquias Montoya, and abstract painter Ayanah Moor. The exhibitions start Oct. 1.
“From three very different points of view, this season celebrates artists dedicated to changing our world,” said Founding Director Rachel Teagle. “Deborah Butterfield, one of UC Davis’ most recognized alumnae, came of age when sculptural practice was a male-dominated field. Malaquias Montoya is a preeminent professor emeritus and master printer whose impact defined the field for generations of Chicanx artists. Pairing these exhibitions demonstrates the UC Davis art legacy in all of its diversity.”
As we confront a changing environment, now is the time to look again at what Butterfield’s horses can teach us." — Rachel Teagle
Teagle added, “Bringing new perspectives to visitors is also part of this ever-evolving legacy. Ayanah Moor’s first solo show in California, ‘Undercover’ introduces an emerging voice exploring ‘social abstraction’ and like Montoya before her, subverting conventions to reveal how identity is shaped under the cover of practices that were once assumed to be neutral and objective.”
‘Deborah Butterfield: P.S. These are not horses’
This career-spanning survey of Butterfield, one of the most important sculptors working today, celebrates 50 years of her work, ranging from her most recent wildfire sculptures to rarely exhibited pieces including ceramics made while studying at UC Davis.
This is Butterfield’s first solo museum exhibition in California since 1996, and since receiving the Lifetime Achievement Award from the International Sculpture Center in 2022. Born in 1949 in San Diego, California, Butterfield is known for remarkable equine sculptures crafted from detritus and found materials such as mud, scrap metal, driftwood and fallen branches. Collected by nearly 90 major public and private institutions throughout the United States, her distinctive work is instantly recognizable to art lovers and travelers alike.
“Deborah Butterfield’s art increasingly advances the urgent concerns of environmental change,” said Teagle, who curated the exhibition. “During the last decade, her experimentation with materiality has taken new forms, with bodies of work using discarded plastics and wood sourced from wildfires. As we confront a changing environment, now is the time to look again at what Butterfield’s horses can teach us.”
With “P.S. These are not horses,” Butterfield returns to the place she considers her artistic and equine home. She began exploring the form and presence of horses as a student at UC Davis, where she graduated with a Bachelor of Arts degree in 1971 and a Master of Fine Arts degree in 1973. The exhibition takes its name from the closing line of a poem by William T. Wiley, Butterfield’s lifelong mentor and friend, written for her first traveling museum exhibition in 1981. Read a full press release. (Oct. 1, 2023–June 24, 2024)
‘Malaquias Montoya and the Legacies of a Printed Resistance’
The influential printmaking career of UC Davis Professor Emeritus Montoya is on vivid display in this exhibition. Montoya helped found the field of activist graphics as part of the Bay Area social serigraphy movement of the 1960s, employing bold, inventive design in the form of political posters to advance civil rights, raise social consciousness and serve as “a voice for the voiceless.”
The Montoya exhibition focuses on 23 of his prints, grouped by five themes: A Better Tomorrow, U.S. Pride in Punishment, Imaginary Borders, Rise of the Farmworker, and In Political Solidarity. The exhibition also features works by Sandra Fernández, Juan Fuentes, Ester Hernandez, Juan de Dios Mora, Ramiro Rodriguez, Royal Chicano Air Force, Xabi Soto Beleche, Alicia María Siu Bernal and Elyse Doyle-Martinez, who learned from his artistry and commitment to activism.
“Visitors will gain a deeper understanding of historical figures and movements that have persevered in the face of oppression, as well as an appreciation of the power of art to amplify the voices of marginalized communities around the world,” said guest curator Claudia Zapata.
Montoya was born in 1938 in Albuquerque, New Mexico, and grew up in California’s San Joaquin Valley in a family of farmworkers. He studied art at UC Berkeley on the G.I. Bill after serving in the U.S. Marine Corps and taught at several San Francisco Bay Area colleges and universities. Throughout his career, he has mentored generations of young artists through teaching at UC Davis from 1989 to 2008 and in 2009 co-founding the print center Taller Arte del Nuevo Amanecer (TANA), an integral creative locus for screenprinting education and technical advisory, in Woodland, California. (Oct. 1, 2023–May 6, 2024)
‘Undercover / Ayanah Moor’
In her first West Coast solo exhibition, Chicago-based Ayanah Moor explores “social abstraction,” reconsidering how abstract painting — a practice often miscategorized as one that transcends identity — might be precisely the form for centering identity. In “Undercover,” the viewer is invited to consider how Moor’s recent works offer a platform for meaningful questions around race, gender, sexuality and the visual. Curated by guest curator Sampada Aranke. (Oct. 1, 2023–Jan. 14, 2024)
Highlights of accompanying public programs
The Manetti Shrem Museum will celebrate the fall 2023 season with a public opening event on Oct. 1, from 2:30 to 5 p.m., with art making, music, special equine guests and a chance to hear from curators and meet the artists. Visit the museum website for more details and additional programs.
- Artist talk: Butterfield discusses her formative years at UC Davis, her inspirations and mentors, and how her experience in Northern California still resonates in her work today. (Oct. 22)
- Book launch: UC Davis Professor of Design Tim McNeil, exhibition designer for “P.S. These are not horses,” discusses his new book The Exhibition and Experience Design Handbook. (Nov. 1)
Also on view
‘Gail Skoff: Fruits of Labor’
Gail Skoff’s photographs, taken while visiting vineyards in France, tell a story of harvest and human labor. The artist intends to gift these and other works related to food and wine to the UC Davis Library’s Archives and Special Collections. Curated by Ginny Duncan and on view in the Collections Classroom. (Through Dec. 17)
‘Alicia Eggert: This Present Moment, 2019–2022’
Artist Alicia Eggert plays with our experience of time, using the effects of neon signage to turn writer Stewart Brand’s phrase “This present moment used to be the unimaginable future” into the simpler phrase “This moment used to be the future.” Curated by Susie Kantor and on view on the museum’s plaza. (Through June 2024)
Art Wide Open
The Jan Shrem and Maria Manetti Shrem Museum of Art at UC Davis is a contemporary art museum for today, committed to honoring the past and shaping the future while making art accessible and approachable to all. It builds on UC Davis’ legacy of exceptional teaching and practice of the arts to offer engaging experiences, exhibitions and educational programs that reflect and serve the community. The museum shares the university’s core values of innovative research, interdisciplinary experimentation and a commitment to educational programming. A third of the museum’s 50,000-square-foot space is devoted to instruction, including a 125-seat lecture hall, classroom space and the drop-in Carol and Gerry Parker Art Studio. Opened in November 2016, the museum has earned LEEDv3-NC Platinum status and was named one of the 25 Best Museum Buildings of the Past 100 Years by ARTnews. 254 Old Davis Road, Davis, 95616.
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