A closed medical building on 29th and Telegraph waits on construction permits to restore the spot to its original 1920s function as residential housing. In this fleeting moment of transition, twelve artists have taken up a brief residency to create site-specific art installations and invite the public inside. Curators Ernest Jolly and Chris Evans call the pop-up exhibition ArtComplex, and it premiers on January 18.
We don’t often have the chance to experience art installations. They are like a rare, nomadic species that thrives on nothing but foraged scraps.
“Galleries really need a discrete piece of art that can be sold for commission,” explained Jolly. “So we have to be creative in finding places for this work to be shown.”
Unlike most other forms of visual art, installations don’t begin and end with the borders of a frame, explained Jolly, “they interact with the space; the space is part of the piece.” When they are disassembled and reinstalled somewhere else, they become something new.
In this case, the twelve artists devised site-specific pieces inspired by the building. Some of them took their cues from its medical function, others from the nature of apartment co-habitation, others from the flux and transformation of the space in time, and still others from the particular way the light came in the window. All of the work is animated by an Oakland sensibility.
“I selected a few of the artists and then those artists selected the rest,” said Jolly, “so it’s a really varied sample of local work.”
The exhibition will be open to the public on weekends through the end of March. Select dates will feature live music and dance performances that respond to the artists’ installations. Collaborators include Bandelion performers, dancer-choreographer Byb Chanel Bibene, avant jazz group the Broun Fellinis, international solo artist Folawole, Bay Area dancer Nadia Oka, dancer-choreographer Sheena Johnson, and more. ArtComplex is pulling out all the stops and pulling together Oakland’s preeminent artists to create an unprecedented immersing art experience. This is not your grandmother’s art museum.
The new owners of the property, Irina Gelfenbeyn and Bill Bagnell, board members at the nonprofit East Bay Rental Housing Association, say Jolly and Evans’ proposition was a “no-brainer.”
“It is very important for us to make a contribution to the local art community,” said Gelfenbeyn, “We know how difficult it is for artists to find venues to show their art and build their credentials. We want this project to be a template for other people who are developing the city of Oakland.”
Gelfenbeyn and Bagnell are looking to revise the city’s housing laws to allow for unconventional lease agreements like the one they have with ArtComplex.
In Jolly’s vision, if installation artists are better able to capitalize on spaces in transition, there is the potential that their work could could be incorporated into the permanent design of the building as it is turned over to a new purpose or owner. The idea is less viable in residential buildings than it is for public facing spaces like restaurants, civic buildings and venues.
“Real estate interior design tends to involve the staging of fake flowers, a throw rug, but what if we rethought that?” asks Jolly. Given the growth in public appreciation for innovative design and artful architecture, perhaps Jolly’s idea is not only exciting, but inevitable.
ArtComplex will be open to the public on Saturdays and Sundays Jan 18 – March 23 from 12-4 p.m.
Opening Day Schedule
Saturday, January 18, 12 – 4 p.m.:
1:00 – 1:30 p.m.: Chris Evans on cello with effects pedals
3:00 – 3:45 p.m.: Duo with David Boyce on saxophone with effects pedals
Other artists will perform improvisations responding to the space as visitors walk through.