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After a rocky decade, UC San Diego's art gallery is back

Julia Dixon Evans
UC San Diego's Mandeville Art Gallery, shown in a Feb. 7, 2023 photo, will reopen on March 4 with a new exhibition of work by visual art faculty, "Are We Not Drawn Onward to New Era."

Eight years have passed since the last faculty show at UC San Diego's University Art Gallery, also known as the Mandeville Art Gallery. It reopens this week, following the appointment of Ceci Moss, the institution's new, dedicated director and chief curator.

It's been a rocky decade for the art space.

In 2015, funding was cut for the gallery and its only full-time staffer, the assistant director Merete Kjaer, was let go. In late May of 2016, UC San Diego administrators shared that the building would join a list of other spaces on campus to be considered for potential conversion to classroom space. Protests took place and petitions were circulated to resist the permanent removal of the gallery.


Within a week, the Division of Arts and Humanities confirmed that the gallery was removed from the list of spaces to be considered for classrooms, with support from then-Chancellor Khosla.

Since it opened in 1966 until its closure in 2015, the current Visual Arts department chair would serve as gallery director.

"We really see it as a research-based gallery that connects to the research that the faculty is doing at UCSD," said UC San Diego visual arts professor and artist Jordan Crandall.

Crandall was department chair when the gallery marked 50 years in 2015 with a big faculty exhibition. Those involved with the gallery wanted to show that the space is important to save. Along with a massive exhibition, the department also published a book that honored each exhibit held in the space for the prior five decades.

"That was the time when we understood that it was in peril, that the future was not clear. And the reason for doing that final exhibition and doing that book was to really help us take a moment to look back on all the work that has been shown there, and how the gallery's been relevant for 50 years as a central element of the university," Crandall said.

The exterior of the newly renovated Mandeville Art Gallery shows concrete, wood and steel architectural elements against a blue sky.
Julia Dixon Evans
The exterior of the recently renovated Mandeville Art Gallery at UC San Diego is shown in a Feb. 7, 2023 photo.

The gallery has previously shown works by artists John Baldessari, Niki de Saint Phalle, Alexis Smith, Bruce and Norman Yonemoto, and performance artists Simone Forti and Marina Abramović — to name a scant few.

A fresh start

In 2018, the university began the extensive renovation of the 2,360-square-foot gallery. The entrance to the gallery is now on-level with the busy pedestrian walkway, rather than set slightly below-ground. It makes the space more noticeable, more accessible and gives more opportunities to display work that's viewable from the outside.

Notably, an architectural media-mesh wrap covers much of the exterior, allowing the gallery to show digital works outside. There's also a new black-box video viewing room built into the space.

UCSD also hired Ceci Moss to direct the gallery. Previously, Moss ran her own nonprofit, Gas, and was assistant curator at the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts.

In the relative calm between completed renovations and the artwork from the gallery's first exhibit being installed, Moss detailed her hopes for the space.

"The renovations are allowing us to continue to show work here for the next 50 years," Moss said.

Ian Byers-Gamber
Ceci Moss, shown in an undated photo, is the new gallery director and chief curator of UC San Diego's Mandeville Art Gallery.

Moss thinks of the gallery's community as being a blend of campus and beyond, but the heart of her work will start with students.

"I really want to bring people in from outside of the campus. But, I also want the students to have life-changing experiences through the gallery," Moss said.

She's currently teaching an undergraduate seminar class on the history and use of university art galleries, and will work to build a robust student gallery guide program.

"What I'm hoping with this gallery is that the students go on to take on leadership positions and start their own spaces. And I am a big advocate for grassroots organizing within the arts. So I'm hoping that the students who are working with me, coming into these shows will go on to start really important art spaces," Moss said.

'New Era'

The inaugural exhibit in the new space, "Are We Not Drawn Onward to New Era," features faculty who have never shown their work on campus. Since the gallery hasn't had a faculty exhibition since 2015, many new faculty have not had the opportunity.

"One of the main throughlines for this exhibition is that almost all the artists are thinking about our collective, shared future," Moss said. "And there's this sense of hope that feeds through all of their practices — and thinking about kinship and care and community."

dean erdmann will install vinyl translucencies on the front windows, drawing from messages of resistance and community in the dedication pages of LGBTQ+ literature. The art will also serve as stained glass, casting light and shadows on the interior space.

Las Hermanas Iglesias, a project of sisters Janelle and Lisa Iglesias, will install textile works completed with their mother like a game of "telephone," exploring intergenerational connections.

Mariah Garnett's video work will be on view in the new black box space. Garnett's film draws on a relative's experience writing a spiritually-divined opera in 1920s Cairo, and includes found texts and performance.

Mariah Garnett - Trouble - 3.jpg
Mariah Garnett and Commonwealth and Council
A still is shown from Mariah Garnett's "Trouble," a 2019 video.

Pinar Yoldas' 2023 work, "Dark Botany" is part of an ongoing project to develop genetically altered plant prototypes hardened for a changing planet.

My Barbarian is a collaborative project between Malik Gaines, Jade Gordon and Alexandro Segade, and they'll show a three-channel video of a previous performance piece. Gaines and Segade will also show solo work.

Lorena Mostajo is the founder of Taller California, a small, experimental press. Mostajo will display art, plus Taller California's entire catalog.

Paul Mpagi Sepuya will show, "Daylight Studio/Dark Room Studio," which uses photography props from the 19th century, and nods to the metaphoric "exposures" that happen in dark spaces.

Danielle Dean's watercolors touch on the history of the Ford Motor Company and the failure of their 1928-1934 "Fordlândia" colony in the Brazilian Amazon.

Memo Akten will show a looped, AI-informed digital video, "All Watched Over by Machines of Loving Grace," which borrows its title from — and features — a 1967 Richard Brautigan poem.

Memo Akten
A frame from Memo Akten's "All Watched Over by Machines of Loving Grace," a 2021 digital video work.

In the future, Moss plans to bring in artists who are also educators, and is planning exhibitions that she hopes will make the gallery a museum of contemporary art on par with institutions like MOCA in Los Angeles and others.

"I mean, I know it's a little gallery, but my ambitions are great," Moss said.

The exhibit runs March 4 through June 18, 2023. Gallery hours are from 12 p.m. to 8 p.m., Thursday through Saturday. Mandeville Art Gallery is located just south west of the Sun God lawn.