Work by Lesley Vance and Ricky Swallow will be shown at the Huntington. From… (Fredrik Nilsen )
It's hard to keep a house museum from seeming dusty and static, even one as full of surprises -- and British paintings and French porcelain -- as the Huntington mansion. That's one reason why the powers-that-be at the Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens have decided to introduce new work by living artists into the mansion for the first time in its 84-year history.
Huntingon curator Catherine Hess and guest curator Christopher Bedford (of the Rose Art Museum) have been working with two L.A. artists, Lesley Vance and Ricky Swallow, to exhibit their art in an upstairs room in the mansion for a show that will open Nov. 10. Usually this room holds 18th century British paintings and objects like silverware and musical instruments, but the contents will be removed for the occasion.
It will mark the first time Vance and Swallow, who are married and show here at the David Kordansky and Marc Foxx galleries, respectively, have showed their work together in the same gallery space.
Vance, who makes abstract paintings with the glimmering chiarascuoro effects of an Old Masters palette, will have eight or nine works on view. Swallow, whose enigmatic sculptures often speak to everyday objects, will have 12 small sculptures on display.
Much of the work is new, but they said it was not made in response to any particular artworks at the Huntington as much as inspired by the idea and texture of domestic life.
So is this another example of a contemporary art intervention into an established historical site?
"It could be considered an intervention in that it will be contemporary art in a place you're not used to seeing it," said Swallow. "But both of our work references historical models and modernism, so won't be such a radical shift. I'm hoping it will seem at home there."
"I don't consider it an intervention -- I think that's too disruptive a term," said Vance.
But she did acknowledge that the room itself will look a lot different come November. "What I'm most excited about is the chance to lighten up the room. I'm excited to lift the curtains and paint the room white and hang it more sparingly than most of the rooms are hung with different display mechanisms -- simple pedestals -- for Ricky's sculptures."
"It's also an exciting opportunity to see what happens when our work does come together in the same room," she said.
Review: Ricky Swallow at Marc Foxx
Review: Lesley Vance at David Kordansky
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