November 2, 2016

Look Back in Time: Russell Crotty and Lick Observatory

Institute of the Arts and Sciences at the University of California, Santa Cruz
Left to right: Gartner Measuring Machine. Courtesy of the University of California and the Lick Observatory. Russell Crotty, M8, The Lagoon Nebula in Sagittarius, 2002. Ink and pencil on paper. Russell Crotty, Look Back in Time, 2016. Installation view.

Look Back in Time: Russell Crotty and Lick Observatory, the first traveling exhibition of the UC Santa Cruz Arts Division’s Institute of the Arts and Sciences (IAS) opens November 13, 2016, at the San Jose Institute of Contemporary Art (ICA) with a free public reception 2 to 4pm.

Look Back in Time is the culmination of a two-year collaboration between the ICA, IAS, University of California Observatories (UCO), the Lick Observatory Historical Collections Project, and Theoretical Astrophysics Santa Cruz, a faculty working group at UC Santa Cruz. The exhibition’s experimental approach reflects the IAS’s mandate to function as a laboratory for interdisciplinary curatorial projects.

The exhibition offers a look at astronomy and the celestial cosmos through two distinct lenses—one artistic and contemporary, one scientific and historical. The exhibition joins the work of Russell Crotty, an artist with an abiding passion for astronomy, with an installation of never-before-exhibited artifacts and images from one of the nation’s most historic observatories, UC Lick Observatory on Mount Hamilton. The exhibit’s title has a dual meaning. First, it refers to “lookback time”—the fact that the light that reaches our telescopes shows us images from the past: the greater the distance the light has traveled, the older the image. Second, the exhibit looks back at the early years of astronomy at Lick.

Russell Crotty is known internationally for his drawings based on direct astronomical observation, and for works on landscape, the ocean, and surfing. The exhibition premiers a large-scale, site-specific installation by Crotty, created in response to his time as an IAS artist-in-residence at Lick Observatory and the university. A selection of the artist’s previous work based on astronomical observations provides a context for the new installation.

Look Back in Time also delves into the history of astronomy, unveiling a rich selection of artifacts from Lick’s historical collections. Selected and displayed in an installation created by the Observatory’s collections director, Tony Misch, these artifacts provide a singular look into the processes of late 19th and early 20th century observational astronomy. The juxtaposition of contemporary art and historical objects brings the scientific and the aesthetic together in a unique, experimental pairing.

Along with the historical focus of the exhibition itself, a series of talks will look at some of the ground-breaking scientific work that continues at Lick. Visit [email protected] for more information.

Look Back in Time: Russell Crotty and Lick Observatory was organized and curated by:
John Weber, Founding Director, UCSC Institute of the Arts and Sciences / Tony Misch, Director of the Lick Observatory Historical Collections Project / Russell Crotty, artist / Cathy Kimball, Executive Director, San Jose Institute of Contemporary Art

The exhibition and associated residency are funded by grants from the Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, the National Endowment for the Arts, the McEvoy Family Fund of the IAS, UC Santa Cruz’s Arts Division, and annual donors to the IAS and the ICA.

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