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Oklahoma Contemporary Opens with Exhibition of New, Recent and Site-Specific Works From Leading Artists Including Teresita Fernández, Robert Irwin, Tavares Strachan, Jen Lewin and Leo Villareal To Explore Light and Place in the Unique Context of Oklahoma
Titled Bright Golden Haze, the inaugural exhibition nods both to the storied quality of light and space in Oklahoma and the unique role of light in shaping environment and identity in contemporary art globally
Exhibition to lead a program that will establish Oklahoma Contemporary as a major center for contemporary art, performance and ideas in the region
OKLAHOMA CITY – When the new Oklahoma Contemporary Arts Center opens in downtown Oklahoma City in March 2020, its inaugural exhibition will present an insightful survey exploring the ways in which artists use light. Inspired by the influential quality of light and space in the state, the exhibition -- titled Bright Golden Haze in reference to the first line in Rodgers and Hammerstein’s iconic musical Oklahoma! -- will present a thematic grouping of new, recent and site-specific works. Exhibiting artists from around the world and in Oklahoma will provide unique perspectives on how environment, identity and perception are shaped through the intangible and omnipresent medium of light.
“Bright Golden Haze starts with the way that our new building reflects and refracts the light from the expansive Oklahoma sky and considers the ways that artists define a place through light,” said the exhibition’s curator, Oklahoma Contemporary Curatorial and Exhibitions Director Jennifer Scanlan. “We are particularly excited about the number of new and site-specific works included; visitors will have the opportunity to challenge their perception and rethink the way they look at the world around them.”
The exhibition brings viewers on a visual journey exploring varied manifestations of light in artistic practice, beginning with traditional landscape images and ending in immersive, technology-driven installations that rupture the boundaries between physical and digital realities. Highlights include:
- Works that use light to create atmosphere, establish relationships and generate emotion, such as Olafur Eliasson’s Black glass eclipse, which emits a golden light that cancels all color; John Gerrard’s landscapes, which use video-game technology to re-create spaces, including an industrial farm in Oklahoma; an abstract work by Teresita Fernández that considers the gleam of gold and its role in Latin America, for both indigenous cultures and the European colonizers; and Tavares Strachan’s neon installation I Belong Here (White), which asks who gets to decide who belongs where in America.
- Works exploring the central role of light in establishing and representing environment, such as an installation by Doty Glasco, which uses found photography from 1950s magazines that encouraged travel to the Southwest.
- Installations that create a sense of place through light, including a specially commissioned version of Leo Villareal’s newest work, Star Ceiling; a sculpture by Josh Tonsfeldt that utilizes dismantled LED screens to explore the “place” of the internet; and Alicia Eggert’s The Sun, a celebration of poetry of the Flaming Lips.
- In homage to the deeply influential Light and Space Movement artists, a recent work by Robert Irwin and pieces by the movement’s artistic successors, such as Camille Utterback. Utterback’s interactive installation engages two viewers directly, who respond to one another’s movement to create a digital “place” on a shared screen.
- Indigenous perspectives on light and place, from a site-specific installation by Marianne Nicolson (Dzawada'enuxw First Nation) that provides an alternative view of the Milky Way to a new landscape painting commissioned by Oklahoma Contemporary from Oklahoma artist Yatika Fields (Osage/Cherokee/Creek).
Bright Golden Haze will continue throughout the year in works around the building, including a poetic sculptural installation by Robert Montgomery, titled The Stars Pulled Down for Real, which will be unveiled shortly after the exhibition opens, and an interactive installation by Jen Lewin on view in adjacent Campbell Art Park from April to June. Additional works for the exhibition will be confirmed in the coming weeks.
“Bright Golden Haze encompasses many of the things that Oklahoma Contemporary does so well with exhibitions and public programs: It highlights local, regional, national and international artists, new, emerging and established. It offers interactive and traditional viewing experiences, features conventional and new media and will be the centerpiece of a full slate of programming across ages and interest levels,” said Founder and Board Chairman Christian Keesee. “It is fitting that this exhibition will inaugurate our new downtown location, which will bring the Oklahoma Contemporary experience to a new and expanded audience.”
Concurrent with Bright Golden Haze, a smaller exhibition titled Shadow on the Glare will feature photo and video works that respond to Bright Golden Haze’s themes of light and place — in this case, focusing on the landscapes of Oklahoma. The title refers to Plainview I, a poem by Oklahoma Centennial State Poet Laureate and Pulitzer Prize winner N. Scott Momaday (Kiowa).
The Kirkpatrick Family Fund, one of the leading philanthropies providing support to nonprofit organizations in central Oklahoma, has funded a series of grants for Oklahoma City arts and cultural organizations collaborating with Oklahoma Contemporary to produce exhibitions and programs related to Bright Golden Haze. This initiative, titled Bright Golden Haze: Reflections, will bring together 13 diverse organizations from the Oklahoma City area to celebrate the opening of the new Oklahoma Contemporary and unite the cultural community around a shared theme.
Highlights include newly commissioned murals at the National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum; an exhibition of prismatic projections at the Science Museum of Oklahoma; public art installations at Scissortail Park, the Myriad Gardens, and the Oklahoma History Center; original choreography at the Oklahoma City Ballet; and a presentation of photography and programming exploring Mexican-American lowrider culture at Scissortail Community Development Corporation, in partnership with the Latino Cultural Center. For more information and a full list of participating institutions, click here.
Bright Golden Haze and all other exhibitions at Oklahoma Contemporary are free and open to the public, as part of the organization’s commitment to providing accessible art experiences.
The exhibition is designed by Los Angeles-based firm Chu + Gooding Architects. In addition to their robust architectural practice, Chu + Gooding have designed exhibitions for institutions including the Studio Museum in Harlem (New York), the Hammer Museum (Los Angeles) and the Huntington (San Marino).
Connecting visitors with learning opportunities inspired by art on view is core to Oklahoma Contemporary’s mission. Special programs related to this exhibition include camps, classes and workshops, a dedicated Learning Gallery, artist talks and discussions with major figures and participating artists, such as Jen Lewin and Abelardo Morell, and performances responding to the themes in Bright Golden Haze. A panel discussion of indigenous artists, including Yatika Fields and Marianne Nicolson, will offer their perspectives on light and landscape.
Bright Golden Haze is the inaugural exhibition in Oklahoma Contemporary’s new downtown location. Designed by Rand Elliott Architects, the new building, which inspired the exhibition’s theme of light and place, features a luminous facade that captures Oklahoma’s ever-changing weather and light. The grounds also include a renovated historic warehouse (to house ceramics and fiber studios and metal and wood sculpture studios) and a three-block arts park, providing space for outdoor exhibitions, education programs and public performances.
The move from Oklahoma Contemporary’s original home at the city’s State Fair Park is a significant step in the evolution of the organization, which was founded as a community-oriented arts center in 1989. The new Oklahoma Contemporary will greatly increase offerings across exhibitions, education and performance, with exceptional indoor and outdoor exhibition spaces, studios built to the specific needs of artists and performers, and classrooms that will allow the institution’s team of experienced educators to function as never before.
*Note to editors: An earlier release had listed the projected opening date as January 2020. Due to record rainfall in Oklahoma in 2019, the construction schedule was adjusted and the opening is now planned for March.
About Oklahoma Contemporary
Oklahoma Contemporary is a multidisciplinary contemporary arts organization, providing a catalyst for the exploration of creativity and contemporary art through a program of groundbreaking exhibitions, performances and educational programs. Developed by and for Oklahomans to present and explore the key innovations, issues and concerns of the art of our time, Oklahoma Contemporary does so while drawing on the dynamic aesthetic, cultural, historical and political landscape of the state. At its core, the institution is an inclusive space – Oklahoma Contemporary believes that art is for everyone and places accessibility and education at the center of all programming. Exhibitions are always free, and everyone is welcome. Oklahoma Contemporary is a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization founded in 1989 by businessman and philanthropist Christian Keesee and Kirkpatrick Foundation Director Marilyn Myers.
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Images Robert Montgomery, The Stars Pulled Down for Real, 2015. Commissioned by ALL RISE, Seattle, Wash. Photo by Max Cleary. Robert Irwin, Lucky You, 2011. © Robert Irwin, courtesy of the Carl & Marilynn Thoma Art Foundation. Photo by Clare Britt. Teresita Fernández, Golden (Odyssey), 2014. Courtesy the artist and Lehmann Maupin, New York, Hong Kong, and Seoul. Camille Utterback, Entangled, 2015. Commissioned for Installation at the Contemporary Jewish Museum, San Francisco. Photo by JKA Photography.