Many cultures and landscapes are woven into the fabric of Los Angeles, creating overlaps worth exploring. Biola University’s Department of Art spent the 2022-23 academic year doing just that. A new exhibition, “LA Sees Itself,” on display at Biola’s Earl & Virginia Green Gallery is the result of an exploration of LA ecosystems and collaboration with LA-based artist Carl Berg. The show invites viewers into the depths of LA’s unique culture through the work of 30 LA-based artists.
“It is rare for undergraduate students to have this kind of real-world experience outside the classroom - especially at this depth,” said Astri Swendsrud, professor of art. “Participating in this project gave them connections, skills, knowledge and substantial resume and portfolio items to carry with them into their next professional opportunities.”
Swendsrud and Dan Callis, professor of art, worked together with lead curator Berg to conceptualize the project. Berg facilitates exhibitions through PRJCTLA @CMAY Gallery with May Chung. Swendsrud and Callis co-taught two classes, one in Fall of 2022, and the next in Spring of 2023, to equip students with curating skills. Students focused on research, reading, gallery visits, writing and collaborating with Berg, Swendsrud and Callis throughout the courses. The result was a showcase of the city's iconic and diverse sectors, capturing how artists specifically see LA.
“[It] was an exceptionally fulfilling experience,... I was pleasantly surprised to find that they not only met but exceeded expectations, playing a pivotal role in the conceptualization and execution of the exhibition. The teaching staff at Biola also played a crucial role in facilitating coordination with the students and establishing a platform for our work together,” said Berg.
Biola design professor, Daniel Chung, played a pivotal role in the production of the project. Chung designed the catalog cover, and led design interns in a month-long conceptualization process, specifically regarding the visual identity of the show.
Abigail Park, Bachelor of Fine Arts student with an emphasis in sculpture, praised Swendsrud and Callis for their excellent guidance throughout the production of the show.
“Every week we would meet, they would have some wonderful nuggets of encouragement, and ideas for the next rabbit trails to go down and check out,” said Park. “They worked tirelessly on the research lab project space installation and I am so utterly grateful to have them as my faculty!”
The role of curating is necessary for any art exhibition and involves finding themes to guide the structure of the exhibit and locating artists who align with and can express these themes in their artwork. Students followed the lead of curator Berg, connecting with his long-standing relationships with LA-based artists.
“... the students became curators themselves — researching and discovering their own artists of interest, then contacting those artists about including their works in our exhibition,” Swendsrud said.
Ella Buell, BFA student with a concentration in painting, explained her experience as a curator.
“...the work that fits specifically into the curatorial category in a professional sense includes visiting Carl's gallery openings at PRJCTLA, doing studio visits and interviews with artists in the show, researching who the artists making work about our ecosystems are and what their work looks like, thinking about artwork in relationship to other artworks,” said Bulle.
The exhibit is on display through December 1 in the Earl & Virginia Green Gallery.
Written by Abigail Goosen, strategic communications assistant. For more information, contact Media Relations at firstname.lastname@example.org.