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Announcement
April 7, 2021

Contact Traces

California College of the Arts (CCA)

LaToya Ruby Frazier, Detox (Braddock U.P.M.C.) (still), 2011. Video with color and sound, 22:24 minutes. Courtesy the artist and Gladstone Gallery. © LaToya Ruby Frazier.

California College of the Arts Graduate Program in Curatorial Practice in partnership with CCA Wattis Institute for Contemporary Arts present Contact Traces. An exhibition featuring work by Derya Akay, Lenka Clayton, LaToya Ruby Frazier, Ilana Harris-Babou, and Jenny Kendler.

On view by appointment at the CCA Wattis Institute in San Francisco May 9–June 6, 2021.

Curated by CCA’s Graduate Program in Curatorial Practice class of 2021: Leandra Burnett, Katherine Jemima Hamilton, Shaelyn Hanes, Youyou Ma, and Emily Markert.

As the urgency and significance of care are increasingly amplified and contingent on political, economic, and social factors, inevitable questions surface: Is acknowledging our interdependence sufficient? Do the blurred lines of reciprocity offer something more? Contact Traces emerges from a year where support systems have failed or fallen horribly short of expectations. In the wake of these failures, caregiving is exposed as a vital web of interrelations on which individual and collective survival rest.

To that end, the artists participating in Contact Traces take complementary and divergent positions on the messy processes of caregiving. Embracing the abjection of bodily maintenance, Clayton’s photograph 63 Objects Taken from My Son’s Mouth (2013/2021) transforms hazardous exchanges between the artist and her toddler son from horrific to humorous. Harris-Babou’s video and sculpture series Decision Fatigue (2020) questions whose wellness is prioritized in society by exposing the absurd and time-consuming commodification of “self-care.” Frazier’s Detox (Braddock U.P.M.C.) (2011) reveals the American dream to be steeped in futility and decay by juxtaposing desires for familial care with the negligence of industry.

In Underground Library (2017–ongoing), Kendler co-opts the provocative gesture of book burning to highlight how the disuse of early books on climate change suppressed the ideas they contain, using a biochar kiln to transform these wasted objects into vessels for carbon sequestration. Akay’s newly commissioned installation consists of water and flowers that guests are invited to take. Questioning how binaries—including those separating exhibitions from surrounding communities—are enforced and broken down through acts of care, the work demands alternatives to the present situation and confronts the precarity of supplemental systems as solutions to structural dereliction.

As we work toward a post-pandemic world, Contact Traces cries out against a “return to normal,” suggesting that a society in which care is fully recognized could be more just and sustainable.

Catalog and public programming
A catalog accompanies the exhibition and is available for purchase here beginning May 9. The catalog features artist interviews and original essays by members of the curatorial cohort and guest contributor Jen Delos Reyes.

A panel discussion entitled Care Practices will be held online on May 13 at 5pm PDT, bringing together creative practitioners who explore manifestations of care.

About CCA’s Graduate Program in Curatorial Practice
In CCA’s two-year MA in Curatorial Practice program, students work closely with faculty alongside visiting curators, designers, and artists to develop the intellectual and analytical skills needed to pursue a range of professional paths in curating and contemporary art. The program has a broad perspective of the curatorial, positioning the curator as a productive agent and researcher who embraces context as a valuable asset for articulating connections among artists, ideas, objects, archives, institutions, digital technologies, and audiences. The program equips students with knowledge and tools, inspires curiosity, and builds self-confidence for working creatively across disciplines and thinking imaginatively about mediation today, incorporating activity beyond art into the field of curating.

About Wattis Institute for Contemporary Arts
CCA Wattis Institute for Contemporary Arts is a nonprofit exhibition venue and research institute dedicated to contemporary art and ideas. The Wattis is a laboratory for testing the future of contemporary art through temporary exhibitions, public events, and in-depth research. It is part of California College of the Arts in San Francisco.

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