The Torrance Art Museum's first exhibition of 2018, Smoke & Mirrors, made front page news in the Torrance Tribune!


New Exhibits Smoke & Mirrors and Solar Flare at The Torrance Art Museum

By TerriAnn Ferren

Two new exhibits at the Torrance Art Museum, Smoke & Mirrors, curated by Gioj De Marco and Elizabeth Withstandley, and Solar Flare, curated by Manual History Machines, opened Saturday, Jan. 20 and runs until Saturday, March 10. Featured artists include Adler Guerrier, Alejandra Urresti, Barry Markowitz, Bettina Khano, Clifton Childree, Dorsey Dunn, Elizabeth Withstandley, Gioj De March, Gordon Winiemko, Heta Kuchka, Joséphine Wister Faure, Lewis Colburn and Thomas Müller. “The artists in Smoke & Mirrors investigate the nature of reality; how objects, memories, and ideas come into being; how they persist; and how they cease to exist,” the description of the program reads.

Solar Flare, curated by Manual History Machines includes artists Shanna Waddell, Heather Rasmussen, Paul Pescador, Elizabeth Folk, Sofia Córdova and Daniel Gibson. This show is located in Gallery Two and the Dark Room (where film is shown). The Torrance Art Museum website notes, “The artists selected for this exhibition each respond to their environment and life through a unique lens of recollection and mediation. They reconstruct experiences that reflect the personal, psychological and the subjective… Solar Flare serves to honor each of the artists and reinforces the crucial role of the subjective experience as a central core – which everything orbits.”

Special events planned for later in the show run include Levitation and BMT-IRT-IND, performances by Joséphine Wister Faure and Barry Markowitz on Feb. 10 from 2p.m. to 5 p.m. and on March 3 from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. Also don’t miss the MAGICAL EXPERIMENTS OR SCIENCE IN PLAY, a moderated panel discussion with the artists.

I spoke with Gioj De Marco and Elizabeth Withstandley, the two curators of Smoke & Mirrors. “We came together in a funny way,” said Elizabeth. “We started a not-for-profit space in Miami called Locust Projects and a few years ago we had done an open call and there was 350 artists that had sent in proposals. So I was one of the people going through the proposals and getting them ready for the committee that was going to review them…and you know you have [only] a few slots available – way more artists than you can do things with. But there were a few proposals that I really enjoyed that I felt I needed to reach out to these artists and say, ‘I am sorry -- you’re not having a show at Locust Project, but I really enjoyed your work.’ Through that I sent Gioj one of those emails.” The two artists met, connected and realized their work dovetailed beautifully together, so they looked for other artists who would fit in their genre. “How the work connects is that we were both working parallel with the notion with cinema and objects in film,” said Gioj. “At the time, Elizabeth was photographing props in prop houses and then writing imaginary scripts about it and presenting them as photographs. So that was such a clear, esthetic and conceptional connection. That it was also wonderful for me to receive news that I was not alone in my thinking. So we had this real artist experience.” These two talented women both live in Southern California and have come together for this and other projects. The two have reached out to artists in Los Angeles, Florida, Argentina, Finland and Germany and feel as if this is the first attempt at the conceptional organization of the work.

The Smoke & Mirrors grand opening was a huge success. People were crowded into the museum perusing, studying, reading, watching and interacting at times with the art. There are three exhibit rooms at the museum: the large gallery, a smaller gallery and a screening room.

First I toured around the impressive show in the main gallery where a large group of people listened to an artist as he held an onion in one hand and an apple in the other. On the other side of the gallery, Gioj, who has been replicating cinema props out of clay, presented All The Cigars Smoked by Clint Eastwood in Sergio Leone’s Spaghetti Westerns. “For the piece, I asked volunteers to smoke Toscanelli cigars exactly down to the length at which they appear in every scene of the trilogy. The clay replicas were made from the resulting butts,” wrote Gioj.

The case showed clay replicas of the 114 cigars smoked by Clint Eastwood in A Fist Full of Dollars, A Few Dollars More, and The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly. On the opposite wall were snorkeling goggles worn by Ursula Andress in the James Bond film Dr. No by a monumental conch shell.

Luckily, on this very busy opening night, I had the opportunity of speaking with the Director/Curator of the Torrance Art Museum, Max Presneill. I asked Max how he was able to acquire this particular exhibit and he told me, “As part of an ongoing development into areas which are more connected to direct interaction with artists and artists as curators, we invited a duo who put together the show in the main gallery, Smoke & Mirrors, Elizabeth Withstandley and Gioj De Marco, and in the second gallery, we invited a group called Manual History Machines to put a proposal together.” Max mentioned that his idea is bringing new museum practices into the Torrance Art Museum. Speaking with Max was most informative and I learned he is working diligently to bring artists from cities in other countries, teaming them up with artists in Los Angeles and then pairing them up and asking them to work together on mini-shows. “There will be 16 spaces, eight from Berlin, eight from Los Angeles -- they are paired up so there will be eight separate territorial [areas] and we will present all eight at the same time,” said Max. Wow, that means dozens of artists from Berlin will be flying into Los Angeles, working with local artists, and then presenting their work at a show at the Torrance Art Museum! “If it goes well, we intend to target cities all around the world so every year we bring artists to Torrance and team them up with Southern California artists groups to work together,” added Max.

So Torrance should become the number one center for international art coming to Southern California! Wow, that is remarkable and sets Torrance up as an art mecca. Max continued, “We are going to divide the main gallery into eight sections and then each one presents… 16 galleries, eight different shows, all in the main gallery at the same time. It’s going to be mad.” All this is happening under the watchful eye of the Director/Curator Max Presneill. Torrance is indeed lucky having such a forward-thinking, artistic, inventive leader for our very own Torrance Art Museum. Max said, “Although we don’t have a huge budget, one thing we can compete on is knowing who is doing what sooner than the big museums - and keeping a finger on the pulse. One thing that seems interesting for us is instead of just thinking regionally is to think of Torrance as a center point for the rest of the world. We should really bring the best we can find around the world here and anyone in Southern California can come and see what is going on in Berlin.” In thinking bigger rather than smaller, Max is moving forward, bringing art and artists from around the world into Torrance. “We can divide the main gallery into eight spaces and give a reasonable size for everyone to work in… we want it to be part of an ongoing process which means we want them to get to know each other, show in each other’s spaces, in the future develop contacts, and really build a much, much bigger integration of the art scenes here and in Berlin. And if we can [do that] in Berlin, then we will be looking at literally countries all over the world.”

Some of the other countries and cities Max is reaching out to include Rotterdam, Amsterdam, London, Tokyo, Melbourne, Sydney, Johannesburg, South Africa, Mumbai and Istanbul. Max wants to work with other thriving artists from other countries. Their work, which is rarely seen outside their own country, will be highlighted at the Torrance Art Museum where everyone can come and see their artwork. That is the plan, so let’s do it! Great idea and why not?