The Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA) continues its MOCA Focus series, a major initiative to showcase the work of emerging artists in Southern California, with three exhibitions featuring Los Angeles–based artists Alexandra Grant, Florian Maier-Aichen, and Matthew Monahan opening this spring and summer 2007. Since its debut in 2005, the MOCA Focus series has featured challenging new works and diverse practices, including sculpture, installation, photography, painting, new media, and experimental video. In addition to being the first solo museum exhibition for the artist, each exhibition will be documented by the artist’s first monographic catalogue, including images of the artist’s works and a major scholarly essay by the exhibition curator. MOCA Focus: Alexandra Grant will be on view at MOCA Grand Avenue April 26–August 13, 2007, MOCA Focus: Florian Maier-Aichen will be on view at MOCA Pacific Design Center June 28–September 30, 2007, and MOCA Focus: Matthew Monahan will be on view at MOCA Grand Avenue July 26–October 28, 2007.
“Since 1983, MOCA has consistently presented solo exhibitions of innovative and intriguing new work by emerging Los Angeles–based artists,” said MOCA Director Jeremy Strick, “Continuing that tradition with these three installments of the MOCA Focus series, the Museum reaffirms its commitment to the city of Los Angeles and its dynamic and talented artistic community.”
Organized by MOCA Curator Alma Ruiz, MOCA Focus: Alexandra Grant features a selection of the artist’s drawings, paintings, and sculptures, as well as her first site-specific installation. The works are characterized by a visual language in which text, drawing, and painting coalesce into a seamless integration of shapes, colors, and textures. Language plays a pivotal role in all of Grant’s work—manipulated, reversed, and translated to circumvent the viewer’s full understanding of the text.
Grant is influenced, in part, by the writings of French theorist and feminist writer Hélène Cixous, whose ideas regarding identity, language, and painting resonate with Grant’s own intellectual and artistic pursuits. No less important is her fortuitous discovery in 2003 of the work of American writer Michael Joyce, a pioneer and theorist of hypertext and professor of English and Media Studies at Vassar College in New York. Joyce, who has become Grant’s close friend and collaborator, develops texts that the artist integrates into her artwork. Cixous’s writings and Joyce’s collaborations, which are central to Grant’s artistic practice, are evidenced in the artworks included in the exhibition.
The Ladder Quartet (2004–05) is a series of four large-scale drawings based on short texts by Joyce. The works she taking her space (after Michael Joyce’s “he taking the space of,” 2004) (2004) and let’s (after Michael Joyce’s “ladders,” 2004) (2005) primarily incorporate English language, while the text elements in conspirar (after Michael Joyce’s “conspire,” 2004) (2005) and contender (after Michael Joyce’s “contend,” 2004) (2005) were translated into Spanish from the English originals. The groups of encapsulated inscriptions that make up these drawings in the series are layered onto vertical backdrops and interconnected by images of ascending ladders and veiling swathes of color. Adhering to a set of self-imposed parameters, Grant carefully selected a specific palette for each of the drawings to visually and symbolically unite elements of opposition. For instance, in she taking her space Grant made liberal use of pink in an effort to embrace one of her preferred colors, which she feels carries the taboo as being too feminine. In conspirar, her choice of purple, a regal and ecclesiastical color, was used in a work dedicated to Cixous with the intent to honor the esteemed Jewish author.
In 2006, Grant embarked on her most ambitious work to date, a 22-foot-long painting titled babel (after Michael Joyce’s “Was,” 2006) (2006–07). Once again working from a text by Joyce and incorporating her characteristic clusters of encircled words, the horizontal format of babel is a drastic departure from the verticality of her previous works. Making full use of the expanse of her long narrow studio, the painting reveals the spatial influence of the American abstract painter Morris Louis and the 19th-century German landscape painter Caspar David Friedrich. Reminiscent of a sprawling metropolis, the ladders that adorned her previous investigations—as in The Ladder Quartet—have morphed into towers marking a vast horizon of undulating text.
In addition to the aforementioned works, the exhibition will include nimbus II (after Michael Joyce’s “nimbus,” 2003) (2007)—a wire sculpture that extends Grant’s signature word bubbles into three dimensions—and a site specific, wallpaper project, ¿dónde está la escalera al cielo? (Where is the ladder to heaven, 2007)—a piece that evolved from the artist’s experiments with digital printmaking.
About the Artist: Alexandra Grant was born in Fairview Park, Ohio, in 1973 and currently lives and works in Los Angeles. She received her master of fine arts degree from California College of Arts and Crafts in San Francisco in 2000 and her bachelor’s degree from Swarthmore College, Pennsylvania, in 1995. She has shown her work at various venues in California, including a solo exhibition in 2004 at Sixteen:One gallery in Santa Monica and group exhibitions at Los Angeles Contemporary Exhibitions (LACE) and the Torrance Art Museum—where Drawn in: Drawing in Residence Phase III is currently on view through March 10, 2007. Her work was also included in Conceptual Writing at Van Ackeren Gallery, Rockhurst University in Kansas (2005) and is in the permanent collection of The Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles (MOCA).
Accompanying the exhibition is a 64-page softcover catalogue including more than 35 full-color images and a gatefold. Designed by Michael Worthington, the book features a new essay by Alma Ruiz and a reprinted essay by renowned French writer Hélène Cixous. MOCA Focus: Alexandra Grant is distributed through Distributed Art Publishers (DAP).