ICA San Diego director Andrew Utt talks about:
Moving back to San Diego, where he grew up, after years away in the Bay Area and South America, and why he did; why San Diego’s art community/culture isn’t known as an art destination, and how he tries to address that deficiency; his route to becoming a curator, starting with his undergrad years at California College of the Arts, when he went to grad students’ studios and had the conversations that would inform his prolific studio visits over the years; the importance of bringing in outside artists, sometimes to be shown alongside local artists, but at the same time, the ‘brain drain’ of artists emerging from SD-based art schools and leaving for L.A. (or elsewhere) for more opportunities, the exodus of which becomes a generational loss over time; teaching artists, and the challenge of their retention; the ICA’s 5-foot and 10-foot rules for interacting with new visitors outside the museum; and where art engagement is headed, in terms of infiltrating cities, and through the growth of VR, AI and other interactive platforms.
His painting process, which involves exposing his paintings to the elements, including in extreme form, starting with his (and his team’s) 22-day-long journey from Japan to the West Coast on a container vessel, exposing his paintings to the wind and even skating them over the surface of the ocean; what went into planning this expedition, the various friends he brought on in professional capacities, and the challenges of making the journey, the successes along the way, and its future life as a documentary; his epic Free Republic of California, a conceptual art project that uses California as a canvas to imagine and explore what’s possible for us as a society and as a civilization; how he writes letters to people in power, giving himself a title appropriate to each recipient, whether ‘conceptual artist’ or ‘chief conceptualist;’ the value he places in the Free Republic of California’s Constitution, which is the item he would own if he were to collect his own work; his relative openness to actually becoming a politician, while also realizing that the political sphere is not only too dangerous but ultimately simply not a productive route to making change; his first exhibition, in a bar during law school; his transition from having a day job as a lawyer to that of an artist, and how he actually never made as much income from law as from making art, surprisingly; and his rescue-animal-based farm in Santa Ynez, where he and his family settled during the pandemic.
BONUS EXTRA: in an extension of our conversation, Cole talks about his epic t-shirt collection, which is currently at about 1000. To listen to this EXTRA, please consider becoming an ongoing or one-time donor to the podcast via: theconversationpod.com/support
In part 2 with ArtNet News critic Ben Davis, we talk about: environmentalism and our approach to the climate, as well his emphasis on finding a good middle ground between overly dire and overly sugar-coated perspectives on the conversation; Christian Marclay’s video works “Telephone” – which Apple co-opted, making their own version when Marclay wouldn’t sell it to them – and “The Clock,” which Ben considers to be Marclay’s response to Apple and its iPhone, and images’ ‘place-lessness’ (which “The Clock” returns to us); how he frames the immersive art trend as a question of ‘what’s at stake here?,’ and how there are many trends that he feels needs to be seen from both sides; Alfredo Jaar’s immersive video in the most recent Whitney Biennial, prompted by the very short time window artists now have to gain viewers’ attention; the case of the lovably ordinary @world_record_egg, an Instagram feed that both parodied and addressed concerns about the effects of social media on our individual psyches as an artistic provocation; and Ben’s own tricky relationship with social media (IG).