SJSU MFA Exhibition: The Task of the Translator
Friday April 20 – Sun May 6
Opening reception: Friday April 20 6:00-9:00pm
Hosted by Incline Gallery
Please join us for the opening reception of the SJSU MFA Exhibition: The Task of the Translator, hosted by Incline Gallery, San Francisco.
Curated by Chris Grunder & Clea Massiani, Co-Directors of Bass & Reiner, San Francisco
A series of notes on the 2018 San Jose State University MFA exhibition:
A note on the exhibition title
The Task of The Translator refers to an essay in which the early 20th century German Jewish philosopher Walter Benjamin analyzes the role of the maker in the world, the content produced, and the potential dialogues that become manifest, created from a will to convey an idea or image. He goes further to contend that translation is an art in and of itself, an act “distinct and clearly differentiated from the task of the poet.” We’re inclined to agree with him and would contend that the validity of his argument is most firmly felt in the visual arts, a realm where literality holds almost no sway and negotiation is constant. However, a question immediately arises: Who is the translator? Is it the artist, bringing their perceptions, impulses, and emotions to bear and altering them through material and conceptual means? Is it the curator, finding linkages and making connections between works and practices, weaving a larger narrative from individuated fragments? Or is it the viewer, receiving the work and turning it into a message by adapting it to their own history?
A note on the venue
For the better part of a decade, San Francisco’s Incline Gallery has been a non-denominational and egalitarian art space. As likely to host a performance fashion show as they are a salon of Sunday painters, few spaces have managed to cast such a wide net and still hold on to a sense of place and purpose. Undoubtedly a part of that identity is the uncommon architecture. Generously described as a “miniature Guggenheim” by one local artist, the gallery is an elevational experience constructed of a series of ramps rising up through three landings, eventually culminating in a high-wide open space, an antidote to the constriction of the entry. Wandering upwards, viewers are given no option but to consider each work sequentially, building a spatial chronology as they go. Artists, for their part, have contended with the unique qualities of the gallery since its inception. By finding inventive ways to make their work installational and using the oblique sightlines to their advantage, artists have historically created opportunities for surprise that would be difficult to execute in other settings. For an exhibition like The Task of The Translator, with the highly personal work of eleven emerging artists, Incline Gallery poses the perfect set of parameters, creating an exhibition that is additive but allows each work to be seen and digested in turn.
A note on the artists
While analyzing their work and practices, it becomes apparent that these are individuals committed to creating with purpose. As a group, they all experience empathetic urges, leading them to generate for the sake of others as much as for themselves. This all happens in highly personal ways and with a variety of issues at stake. While themes of changing gender dynamics, cultural critique, environmentalism, and the fundamentals of perception are foregrounded and connect the artists, they are rooted in their individual tasks; whether communicating, conveying, or calling into question.
A note on the curators
The job of the curator is typically to establish an ideology through art. This can often be a complex operation under the most ideal of circumstances, but when the group of artists has been predefined, it can become easy to force false narratives and artificial constraints. In this instance however, no such problem presented itself. In spite of working in close and constant proximity the artists have managed to maintain their own voices and directions, translating their particular visions. They have done this so clearly in fact as to make their individuality the prevailing theme. Our hope as curators is that this will provide ample room for the audience to fully experience the exhibition and find their own interpretation while doing so.