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A Conversation on In Residence: Contemporary Artists at Dartmouth

Co-curators Michael Taylor and Gerald Auten Discuss In Residence: Contemporary Artists at Dartmouth

Hood Quarterly, winter 2014

Michael Taylor (MT): What excites you the most about this exhibition?

Gerald Auten (GA): What excites me the most is that it has never been done before, and ever since I came here I’ve wanted this exhibition to happen. You know, eighteen years ago, I thought, Wouldn’t it be amazing if we could do a retrospective of the program? But it would have been impossible for us to have done this exhibition in the Jaffe-Friede Gallery. It would have been a four-year project, and then we couldn’t have a program, so for the Hood to take this on is truly a dream come true.

MT: Well, we are delighted to partner with the Studio Art Department to finally make it happen. As you know, I had the same reaction to the Artist-in-Residence Program when I came to Dartmouth two years ago. Here was an outstanding international program that had brought so many groundbreaking contemporary artists to campus, so it was an exhibition just waiting to be organized. What also made it exciting for me was the fact that it was such a huge logistical and curatorial challenge.

GA: Yes, because it’s almost impossible to do. There have been 166 artists-in-residence since the program began, but you could never show the work of every artist who had come to campus. From the very beginning, as co-curators of the exhibition, you and I agreed to be inclusive. We did not want to just show the work of famous former artists-in-residence, like Donald Judd, Robert Rauschenberg, and Frank Stella. Instead, we made the decision to show their work alongside that of some of the lesserknown figures, whose work may surprise and inspire many visitors to the exhibition.

MT: What other aspects of the program’s history do you think will surprise people?

GA: I think they’re going to be surprised by the quality and the range of the artworks on display, which include paintings, sculpture, film, drawings, prints, photography, architectural projects, and multi-media installations. I mean, from what we’ve chosen, there’s definitely going to be a lot more variety than visitors might expect. There is also quite a good mix in terms of age and gender, which is important, as is the fact that so many Native American and African American artists have participated in the program. I also think that visitors will be surprised by the fact that artists have come to Hanover from all over the country and all over the globe.

MT: And this international aspect was there from the very beginning. In 1931, the Guatemalan painter Carlos Sánchez, who was a member of the Class of 1923, became the first artist-in-residence at Dartmouth. He was followed by the Mexican muralist José Clemente Orozco, who painted his remarkable fresco cycle The Epic of American Civilization in the College’s Baker Library as an artist-in-residence from 1932 to 1934. So when more recent visiting artists like Christopher Cozier from Trinidad, Luke Fowler from Scotland, or the British-based Kenyan artist Magdalene Odundo come to campus, they are continuing this important tradition of exposing the Dartmouth students, faculty, and alumni, as well as residents of the Upper Valley to contemporary art from around the world.

GA: Exactly. That’s so important.

MT: Another thing I found amazing during our research for this exhibition was seeing how the program mirrored the changes on campus. For example, when Dartmouth finally embraces co-education in 1972, you start to see women artists being invited, such as Luise Kaish or Olivia Parker. The same is true of Native American artists like Fritz Scholder and T. C. Cannon, who came to campus in the early 1970s after President Kemeny reaffirmed Dartmouth’s commitment to its original mission to educate Native American students.

GA: This is such an important part of the program’s history, and the fact that this exhibition is being shown at the Hood Museum of Art, the Hopkins Center, and the Black Family Visual Arts Center speaks to the fact that this is a Dartmouth story. It’s a big story, in fact, and the history of the Artist-in-Residence Program is something the College should be very proud of.

MT: What changes have taken place during your time as director of the program?

GA: Probably the biggest change has been in the methods through which we choose the artists-in-residence, which is no longer the sole responsibility of the program’s director. We now have an exhibition committee that discusses the artists being considered and then holds a blind vote to determine who will come. This has helped to create an atmosphere of collaboration and openness. There is also a genuine commitment to diversity and gender that was not always there in the program’s history, and this also reflects the faculty changes in the Studio Art Department. When you look at the artists we have had in residence over the last fifteen years, you really see how open and exciting and forwardlooking the program has become.

MT: Of the more than eighty former artists-in-residence whose works we are exhibiting at the Hood, the Hop, and the Black Family Visual Arts Center as part of the In Residence: Contemporary Artists at Dartmouth exhibition, who are you most excited to see?

GA: You know, I really have a special place in my heart for Ruth Miller. Somehow everything she does is magic, but she is so modest about it all. The Hood owns a wonderful still-life by Ruth, very large for her and with incredible colors, and I think it is going to look spectacular in the show.

MT: This brings me to my final question, which concerns the artists whom you would have loved to have brought to campus, but have not yet found the right timing or opportunity to do so. Who would be your first choice in this regard?

GA: Tacita Dean. Her work would address so many areas that we teach. I’m thinking mostly of her film work, which I think is astonishing, but then you look at her chalk drawings and there’s something really timeless and mysterious about them. I’ve found over the years that when you get that kind of an artist here, the Dartmouth students, because they’re so brilliant and sophisticated, will respond to the work and ideas, which, after all, is what this is all about.

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