Open Letter to MOCA Re: Carl Andre Exhibition

Ana Mendieta protest at MOCA

Scene from the protest outside of The Geffen Contemporary at MOCA, Saturday evening, April 1, 2017. Photo courtesy of Mary Anna Pomonis.

The Association of Hysteric Curators is circulating the below open letter addressing the recent opening of a major Carl Andre retrospective at MOCA. Signatures are still in progress; the below represents signatures at time of publication. To add your name, visit this link.

Dear Philippe Vergne,

We, The Association of Hysteric Curators, are extremely disappointed with your decision to bring the Carl Andre retrospective to the Geffen Contemporary. We feel the decision to show Andre at MOCA Geffen, after the election of president Trump, is tasteless. The choice of the museum to bring an Andre show to Los Angeles in this context communicates to us, as feminists, that the museum has no allegiance to women or victims of domestic abuse. We would like to remind you that symbols of power emanate from institutions and reverberate through society. As the director of a nationally recognized institution as powerful as MOCA, you have an obligation to symbolically stem the tide of increasingly violent, racist, and misogynistic attitudes throughout the United States.

MOCA’s decision to bring Carl Andre’s retrospective to Los Angeles was undoubtedly made before the election. However, under the vision of curator Alma Ruiz, MOCA secured the entire Ana Mendieta series, “Silhueta Works in Mexico” (thirteen works in total), and Ruiz lobbied the institution to bring a Mendieta retrospective to Los Angeles on three occasions. Her attempts were thwarted over the years and instead the Carl Andre show has been produced, even though the museum has fewer Andre pieces in its permanent collection. One has to wonder why an Andre show? For whose benefit does a show like this exist? Doesn’t MOCA have an obligation to build value for Mendieta, both as an internationally underrepresented Latina artist and as a major artist in its collection? Doesn’t the City of Los Angeles, once historically part of Mexico and currently a center of the immigration and amnesty debate, have an obligation to Mendieta, who died before her last project, “La Jungla” was executed in MacArthur Park? As both a woman and a person of Latina descent, Mendieta, rather than Andre, has a historic connection to the city and the residents of Los Angeles that should have been recognized as important to MOCA.

Last night, Alma Ruiz stood outside the museum with protesters who asked, “Where is Ana Mendieta?” The protest, was an emotional and telling event for the women who showed up. We found allies in the women and people of color who attended the event. We found allies in members of the museum staff who expressed embarrassment over the timing and subject of the show. We found allies in the educators and parents who recognized that MOCA is a teaching institution with an obligation to seek out shows that promote intersections of communities above the promotion of the value of artworks held in board members’ private collections. The opening was a call to solidarity; we found each other, and we are not going away.

Our final thought is to wonder about the unfortunate juxtaposition of Arthur Jafa’s video piece, notable in its own right, but also opening last night. Entitled, “Love Is The Message, The Message Is Death,” its title is a tragic parallel to Carl Andre’s own words of domestic violence in a poem he wrote before Mendieta’s death:

“The ways of love were
sometimes my revenge when
I was wronged by something
done or said & she stood
naked by the window waiting
to be struck perhaps where
here white breasts were
red…”

If the subtext of the opening itself is not enough for you to see the underlying hatred, violence, and misogyny the Andre show represents, we encourage you to walk out to the plaza and turn to the banners hanging above the Geffen pergola. The museum seems to be stating to women and victims of violence, very clearly and in bold text on its banners, that death is an acceptable outcome of love. The central banner displays Carl Andre’s name in bold, with Jafa’s title immediately to the right, stating, Love is the Message, The Message is Death.

Regards,

The Association of Hysteric Curators and our allies
Mary Anna Pomonis
Carolyn Castaño
Cindy Rehm
Diana-Sofia Estrada-Wer
Allison Stewart
Rachel Finkelstein
Christine Dianne Guiyangco
Michiko Yao
Armando Cortes
Lili Bernard
Marjan Vayghan
Justin Stadel
Dave Tourje
Christy Roberts Berkowitz
Raul Paulino Baltazar
Carol Silverstein
Nan Kane
Dvorak Sabljak
Gina Brownstein
Simone Gad
Zach Jenkins
Vincent Ramos
Danial Nord
Jessica Fairfax Hirst
Laurie Gatlin
Brittany Henderson Dhawan
Chelsea Rector
Victoria Stevens
Anuradha Vikram
Siobhan Hebron
Luis De Jesus
Annie Buckley
Tawny Marie Featherstone
Howard Seth Cohen
Eduardo Robles
Hedi El Kholti
Phyllis Green
Doris Olga Gotsinas
Jess Perry-Martin
Marshall Astor
Rachel Mason
Scott Davis
Christina Ovesepian
Jeff Cain
Kate Duggan
Alice Clements
Thérèse Bachand
Katrina Weber
Jennifer Waters
Emily Goff
Sara Catlett
Shana Nys Dambrot
Melissa Klimek
Tyler Fister
April Baca
Jenina Matela
Karyl Newman
Julio Sims
Francine Matarazzo
Isabel Rojas-Williams
Laura Cooper
Claudia M. Huiza-Rodriguez
Nixa X. Starr
Xaul I. Starr
Martin Durazo
Alexandra Grant
Barbara McCarren
Kim Abeles
Raghubir Kintisch
Lauren Bon
Xavier Cázares Cortéz
Toro Castano
Jud Fine
Calvin Phelps
Mara Thompson
Sharon Mizota
Adriana Yugovich
Madeline Day
Jonah Fernandez Olson
Roseanna Weiss
Alina Mnatsakanian
Alyce Haliday
Gina Stepaniuk
Xarene Eskandar
Wink Winkleby
Suzan Woodruff
Manifa Baghomian
Julia Schwartz
Genny Cerevantez
Danica Phelps
Denise Johnson
Alex Ingalls
Safi Alia Shabaik
Aline Mare
Annelie McKenzie
Elana Mann
Anna Bernice Garner
Michael Andrew Rosenfeld
Rema Ghuloum
Neilan Tyree
Pearl C. Hsiung
Bettina Hubby
Stu Nami Smith
Bruce Bauman
Cat Yang
Seo Yun Son
Ana Iwataki
Sarah Williams
Wendy Vogel
Kimberly Hahn
Hyunjee Nicole
Kim Abeles
Clare Kelly
Meital Yaniv
Meg Madison
Amy Ingram
Neha Choksi
Emma Hs
Abra Cann
Carol Cheh
Angel Alvarado
Roni Feldman
Kristine Schomaker

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