OKLAHOMA CITY (Free Press) — The Oklahoma Contemporary Arts Center was slated to kick off their new permanent residence in the breathtaking, purpose-built campus on Automobile Alley in March 2020 with a massive, thousand-person bash.
Needless to say, the lockdowns and quarantines that swept the state and the country in March 2020 at the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic made that celebration impossible.
Though the museum and arts center did eventually open their doors, and have enjoyed a quickly developing level of success and community respect, they never made any move to recapture the magic that planned grand opening could’ve offered.
But this weekend, they’ll finally be throwing the doors wide and rolling out the carpet as they host the kind of welcome festivities they’d always hoped for with their Open House weekend September 23rd and 24th.
“We did a lot in between,” said Director of Communications Lori Brooks of the many successful and well-populated events Contemporary has hosted since 2020, “we just didn’t do something of this magnitude.”
“The House that We Invented”
Central to the Open House festivities is the museum-wide exhibition “La casa que nos inventamos,” or “The House that We Invented,” a sprawling collection of works across media including painting, sculpture, interactive performance, video, and more, all from boundary-pushing artists out of Guadalajara, Mexico.
“Guadalajara is one of the most dynamic creative communities on this continent, and even beyond,” said Kate Green, Director of Curatorial Affairs. “For us here, it provides a really beautiful opportunity to ask ourselves ‘how did it get to be that way? How does a city create a community and support artists in a way that it gets to be the way Guadalajara is for contemporary art?’”
With nineteen artists spanning multiple generations involved in the exhibition, and with many of them on hand in OKC for the Open House celebrations, there may be no better chance to ask those questions and to consider how our own city might better foster such a blossoming creative culture.
“Some of the answers are things that we’re starting to think about here,” Green told me, “things like spaces for artists or institutions or schools for artists, all of these things that really exist to build community.”
At the heart of “La casa que nos inventamos” is a clear theme of reclamation and a search for meaning in both the rapid expanse and deterioration of the industrialized world. Multiple pieces in the exhibit are constructed from industrial steel or feature reclaimed concrete, rebar, wood, and ceramics.
Undoubtedly the most immediately striking piece, and likely the first that visitors will encounter, is Gonzalo Lebrija’s massive, outdoor “Breve historia del tiempo,” or “A Brief History of Time,” featuring a sleek, black, classic Plymouth Duster suspended vertically above a solid black reflecting pool. (See the feature photo.) There’s arguably no more iconic or immediate image of 20th century industrialization than the American car, and here it is, either trapped in an infinitely slow moment of collapse and fall or perhaps even paralyzed by its own reflection in a pointed statement of capitalist narcissism.
Elsewhere throughout the museum, similar explorations of the conflict between culture and industry can be seen in works like Renata Petersen’s “Limpieza karmática express,” or “Karmic Cleansing Express,” a dense, multi-hundred piece collection of glazed ceramics made to look like discarded water bottles and crumbled brick. Guadalajara’s rich history and tradition of ceramics transformed literally into the kind of urban industrial waste that plagues any precariously growing city.
Entering the center’s main gallery on the second floor, visitors are welcomed to the bulk of the exhibit, showcasing vivid painting, video installation, and groundbreaking conceptual sculpture work, such as Cynthia Gutiérrez’s “No pertenecemos a la misma Tierra,” or “We Don’t Belong to the Same Earth.” Using gorgeous, traditional ceramic water vessels on the floor to hold up stark, blank, formless blocks, Gutiérrez comments on the banal, artless modernity built on top of the creativity of the past.
These examples only scratch the surface of the remarkable works on display throughout the exhibit, each offering their own perspective of Guadalajara, urbanization, endangered nature, and the 21st century itself.
A Long Time Coming
With live artist talks, hands-on art-making, food trucks, local beer, live music, a DJ, a full-scale car show, and even a speech from Mayor Holt (a speech he originally planned to give well over two years ago,) the Open House weekend is set to be the opening event that never was.
“We haven’t ever really been able to just open the doors and say ‘everyone come right now,’” Brooks told me. “We’ve been open and operating and have had lots of people come to lots of things, but we haven’t held a single event like we are now.”
Though this weekend is, in many ways, finally feeding the desire for a grand introduction to the entire facility and campus, its events and attractions are largely designed to orbit “La casa que nos inventamos” and its Mexican roots. Came’s Tacos y Mas food truck will be on hand, live music will be provided by a traditionally styled Mariachi band, and the car show is set to spotlight Mexican-modded low-riders.
This, of course, raises the question of whether future installations and exhibits at Contemporary might get the same kind of large scale event treatment upon their own openings.
If this first Open House weekend is the patron-packed party that it’s expected to be, then how could they resist?
Oklahoma Contemporary Arts Center’s first ever Open House weekend is September 23rd and 24th in Automobile Alley.
The official opening celebration for “La casa que nos inventamos” is Friday September 23rd at 5:45pm to 9:00pm. The 21-and-over event is set to feature food, music, a live art performance, and remarks by Mayor David Holt. Reservations for the event are currently full, but walk-ins will be allowed as space permits.
For complete schedules of the weekend’s events and more information, visit oklahomacontemporary.org.
Last Updated September 22, 2022, 8:55 PM by Brett Dickerson – Editor
(Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by PostX News staff and is published from a syndicated feed.)