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Barbara Kruger and Catherine Opie resign from MOCA board

July 14, 2012|By Jori Finkel
  • Los Angeles artists Catherine Opie, left and Barbara Kruger have resigned from MOCA board.
Los Angeles artists Catherine Opie, left and Barbara Kruger have resigned… (Los Angeles Times )

In another vote of no-confidence in the current direction of the Museum of Contemporary Art, prominent Los Angeles artists Barbara Kruger and Catherine Opie have resigned from the museum board.

John Baldessari left Thursday, making Ed Ruscha the only remaining artist-trustee on the MOCA board.

The resignations follow the recent ousting of chief curator Paul Schimmel, who had closely shaped MOCA's exhibition program until gallery owner Jeffrey Deitch was hired two years ago as museum director.

Opie is known for her photographic portraits. Kruger's billboard-style works combine text and images. Neither shies away from political content in their art.

Opie, who said that she and Kruger sent a joint email on Friday to Deitch and MOCA board co-chairs David Johnson and Maria Bell, named Schimmel's forced resignation along with the firing of curatorial assistants and longtime education program manager Aandrea Stang as factors in her decision.

The artist said she could not attend last month's board meeting, where the dismissals were approved, but wishes she had been consulted.

"I'm very concerned with how communication as a whole works at the museum," she said. "The fact that there was no phone call to us--no heads-up about Paul and all of the other people let go--is troubling. There should have been better communication so we could handle this as community leaders."

Opie also said that she was not a fan of MOCA's shift to flashier exhibitions.

"I love and respect MOCA. It's the first place I've ever had a solo museum show, and it's had a profound influence on artists in Los Angeles, but the museum is taking such a different direction now," she said. "I believe that MOCA's strengths have always been in relationship to the outstanding scholarly curatorial practice it had established. What concerns me is seeing the museum embracing more celebrity and fashion."

In comments after his resignation, Baldessari also cited Schimmel's forced resignation, as well as Deitch's plan to present an exhibition about the impact of disco on visual art and design.

Kruger, reached in New York, confirmed her resignation but declined to say more about it. "Everything that I think I put in that letter," she said. "I'd like at some point to share it but not yet."

MOCA gave Kruger a retrospective in 1999, which traveled the following year to the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York. She also had a major show at Deitch Projects, Jeffrey Deitch's New York gallery, in 1997.

Although the artists on the MOCA board are not expected to pay annual dues like other trustees, they serve more than a symbolic role. They participate in board meetings and regularly donate works of art to be sold for the museum's benefit.

Kruger sold a six-figure artwork to help fund the "Ends of the Earth" Land Art survey currently running at the museum. Opie prepared a set of 50 prints to be sold for $125,000 to benefit the museum's education department, shortly before she learned of Stang's departure.

Reached Saturday afternoon, museum board co-chairs Johnson and Bell responded with a statement. "We are very saddened by Barbara's and Cathy's decision and are confident that they will remain involved in shaping the future of MOCA. We are very grateful for their commitment and generosity to the museum."

Ruscha, who is out of the country, could not be reached for comment.


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