A frequent visitor comment about MOCRA, is how distinctive a venue it is for the display of art: the lofty 30-foot ceiling in the nave gallery, the twelve intimate side-chapel galleries, the hints of stained glass color that leak out from behind the window shades. It is as if the building has a memory of its previous incarnation as a chapel, a memory that imbues the space with an inviting atmosphere of contemplation and calm.
From a curatorial perspective, the space is a mixed blessing. There is a surprising amount of running wall space, yet the chapel’s configuration lends itself to some exhibitions but not others. For instance, a natural approach to organizing our upcoming exhibition would be to install the works following the sequence of events of Good Friday. But the side chapel galleries will not accommodate works larger than 6 feet wide — and one of the first works in sequence is nearly 7 feet wide!
What about grouping works by theme? This show naturally includes quite a few works that reference the Crucifixion. Should they be grouped together to allow easy comparison, or should they be distributed throughout the gallery to avoid monotony? Here again the sizes of the works provide a partial guide, as larger works had to be installed in the nave gallery. Style and media also play a role — we seek a visually harmonious installation as well a logical one.
We have made one significant adjustment to the nave gallery which will come as a surprise to visitors familiar with the museum: there is now a wall bifurcating the central gallery, effectively creating two galleries out of one large space. It takes some getting used to, but also offers a whole new way of conceiving an installation at MOCRA. Just to give you a little taste of the effect, here is a picture of the wall — sans artwork — along with a similar view from our 1994-95 exhibition Consecrations: The Spiritual in Art in the Time of AIDS:
You are seeing a glimpse of Doug DePice’s Jesus in Central America – First Station of the Cross there on the left.
Stop by this Sunday, February 15, and see for yourself how we installed this exhibition. Do you agree with our choices, or would you have approached things differently?
–David Brinker, Assistant Director