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Letter from the Director: Winter 2004

Hood Quarterly, winter 2004
Derrick R. Cartwright, Director

At first glance, Roman de Salvo’s Power Maze suggests a baffling network. Scaled to the size of a mural, his sculpture sprawls over a large wall surface with its dense interlacing of conduit, switchboxes, and electrical hardware. Like some aspects of everyday life, this work of art may first strike us as overwhelmingly intricate and frustratingly indirect. As a strong image, however, it compels attention and even offers a bit of illumination—at once fake and ornamental but also, in its own flickering way, symbolic—to any viewer who cares enough to study the work’s overall order and discovers humor embedded within its elusive structure. A work of art that shifts expectations from finding beauty within the picture frame to discovering realism in the building supply store, Power Maze exemplifies certain aesthetic concerns shared by many of today’s most probing artists.

Lateral Thinking: Art of the 1990s, the Hood’s current exhibition, surveys sculpture, painting, photography, and video of the preceding decade, including memorable works like Power Maze by leading figures in the contemporary art world. Many of these artists have not been shown in Hanover before. Drawn from the permanent collection of one of the most forward-thinking art museums in the United States, the Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego, Lateral Thinking promotes creative practices from throughout the globe. Contemplating new directions—one might say thinking “outside of the box”—is both a strength of this project and one of its principal challenges to a small, campus-based museum located at a distance from the world’s art centers. At the Hood, rather than shrink before such an unfamiliar challenge, we will embrace these contemporary representations of our common culture with both arms. Indeed, we are dedicating an entire year to that effort.

For many museum-goers, the art being made today is complex and takes some effort to comprehend. We should hardly be surprised by this. After all, this is the art of our own time, representing our own creative impulses and defining our own most pressing issues. The Hood staff’s devotion of twelve months to the exploration of recent art practice is bound to raise an eyebrow or two, but we feel that it is hardly enough time to do justice to this urgent material. Because we are privileged to be part of a highly sophisticated and critically aware community, we will also mark 2004 with the most diverse, ambitious programming that the Hood has ever attempted. The art, while not always easy to absorb, will be rewarding to confront.

To ensure that everyone shares some essential tools for looking at these works, we will bring authoritative voices—for example, museum directors and leading scholars—and highly personal perspectives—the artists and their collectors—to Hanover. We are committed to creating new forums for dialogue and debate; for instance, a special book group given over to relevant texts will begin meeting in the museum throughout the year. Of course, our always strong educational outreach efforts will aim to be still more engaging and inclusive throughout the coming months. The excitement of studying today’s art, now, is worth all of this and more.

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