OKLAHOMA CITY (Free Press) — The Oklahoma Contemporary Arts Center was set to inaugurate its new permanent home on the exciting, purpose-built campus in Automobile Alley in March 2020 with a massive band of thousands.
Needless to say, the lockdowns and quarantines that swept the state and country in March 2020 with the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic made this celebration impossible.
Although the museum and arts center He made finally opened their doors and enjoying a rapidly growing level of success and community respect, they never made any moves to recapture the magic that planned grand opening could provide.
But this weekend, they’ll finally throw the doors wide open and roll out the carpet as they host the kind of welcome celebrations they’ve always hoped for with Open House Weekend on September 23rd and 24th.
“We did one lot In the meantime,” Communications Director Lori Brooks said of the many successful and top-grossing events the Contemporary has hosted since 2020, “we just haven’t done anything of this magnitude.”
“The house we invented”
Central to the Open House festivities is the museum-wide exhibit “La casa que nos inventamos,” or “The House We Invented,” an extensive collection of works from a variety of media, including painting, sculpture, interactive performance, video, and more . by boundary-pushing artists from Guadalajara, Mexico.
“Guadalajara is one of the most dynamic creative communities on this continent, and beyond,” said Kate Green, Director of Curatorial Affairs. “For us here, it provides a really beautiful opportunity to ask ‘how did this happen?’ How does a city create a community and support artists in a way that is what Guadalajara is for contemporary art?”
With nineteen artists spanning multiple generations participating in the exhibit, and with many of them in OKC for the Open House festivities, there may be no better opportunity to ask these questions and consider how our city could promote better such a flourishing creative Civilization.
“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 these things that really exist to build community.”
At the heart of “La casa que nos inventamos” is a clear theme of restoration and the search for meaning in both the rapid expansion and degradation of the industrialized world. Many pieces in the exhibition are made from industrial steel or feature recycled concrete, rebar, wood and ceramics.
Arguably the most immediately striking piece, and likely the first one visitors will encounter, is Gonzalo Lebrija’s huge, open-air ‘Breve historia del tiempo’ or ‘A Brief History of Time’, which features a sleek, black, classic Plymouth Duster suspended vertically from above. a solid black reflecting pool. (See featured photo.) There is arguably no more iconic or immediate image of 20th century industrialization than the American automobile, and here it is either caught in an infinitely slow moment of collapse and decline or perhaps even paralyzed by its own reflection in a pointed statement of capitalist narcissism.
Elsewhere in the museum, similar explorations of the clash between culture and industry can be seen in works such as Renata Petersen’s “Limpieza karmática express” or “Karmic Cleansing Express,” a dense collection of several hundred pieces of glazed ceramics that look like discarded water bottles and crushed bricks. Guadalajara’s rich history and tradition in ceramics literally turned 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 most of the exhibition, featuring live painting, a video installation and groundbreaking conceptual sculpture works such as Cynthia Gutiérrez’s “No pertenecos a la misma Tierra” or “We Don’t Belong on the same Earth.” Using gorgeous, traditional ceramic water containers on the floor to hold up, nondescript, shapeless blocks, Gutiérrez comments on the banal, artless modernism built on top of the creativity of the past.
These examples only scratch the surface of the remarkable works on display throughout the exhibition, each offering their own perspective on Guadalajara, urbanization, endangered nature, and the 21st century itself.
It’s been a long time coming
Featuring live artist talks, hands-on art creations, food trucks, local beer, live music, DJs, a full-scale car show, and even a speech from Mayor Holt (a speech he originally planned to give over two years ago,) over the weekend Open House is going to be the inaugural event that never was.
“We’ve never been able to just open the doors and say ‘everyone come right now,'” Brooks told me. “We’ve been open and running and we’ve had a lot of people come to a lot of things, but we haven’t held a single event like we have now.”
Although this weekend, in many ways, finally feeds the desire for a grand introduction to the entire facility and campus, its events and attractions are largely designed around “La casa que nos inventamos” and his Mexican roots. Came’s Tacos y Mas food truck will be on hand, live music will be provided by a traditional Mariachi band, and the car show is set to spotlight Mexican lowriders.
This, of course, begs the question of whether future installations and exhibits at the Contemporary could receive the same kind of large-scale event treatment at their own openings.
If this first weekend of Open House is the full party it’s expected to be, then how could they resist?
The Oklahoma Contemporary Arts Center’s first Open House Weekend is September 23rd and 24th in Automobile Alley.
The official opening celebration of “La casa que nos inventamos” is Friday, September 23 at 5:45 p.m. to 9:00 p.m. The 21 and over event is scheduled to include food, music, a live art performance and remarks by Mayor David Holt. Bookings for the event are currently full, but walk-ins will be permitted 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