Pitzer College Art Galleries presents an exhibition of new work by Candice Lin in Natural History: A Half-Eaten Portrait, an Unrecognizable Landscape, a Still, Still Life

Claremont, Calif. (January 10, 2020)—Pitzer College Art Galleries presents Natural History: A Half-Eaten Portrait, an Unrecognizable Landscape, a Still, Still Life, an exhibition of new ceramic sculpture by Los Angeles-based artist Candice Lin.

Organized by Ciara Ennis, the Galleries’ director and curator, Natural History: A Half-Eaten Portrait, an Unrecognizable Landscape, a Still, Still Life will comprise a full-scale ceramic representation of the artist reclining with her future cat. Lin’s monumental ceramic sculpture references the history of clay sarcophagi, specifically the Etruscan terracotta funerary sculptures from the 9th through 2nd centuries BCE, famously life-sized and often featuring a man and a woman reclining together. Renowned for their naturalistic representations of the human form, Etruscans practiced the tradition of interring the body, with animal companions or objects that held particular significance to the deceased, within a sarcophagus. Lin imagines housing her own decomposing body and that of the cat that she lives with at the time of her death within this sculptural memento mori. In addition to exploring ideas around mortality and interment, Lin’s installation considers existence and futurity from a post-human perspective by linking the longevity of clay—the life-span of fired ceramics can be thousands of years—with other organic life-cycles. Like historical sarcophagi, where the outstretched limbs of the figures would have once held vessels containing foods or precious objects, Lin’s sculpture will portray her and her cat accompanied by vessels containing preserved plants, seeds and minerals.

Complementing the life-size sarcophagus, are a series of illuminated glass aquariums, set onto metal stands. Mimicking museological display cases, these vitrines house colonies of Dermestid “flesh-eating” beetles, which will consume a series of works resembling human bones. These objects have been fabricated from a commercial meat-paste substitute combined with Lin’s own dried skin and fingernails. Used in museums for cleaning bones and carcasses for display and research, these carnivorous insects have been employed by Lin to suggest an effective interspecies collaboration—a subject that underpins much of Lin’s practice. By cultivating this family of beetles, which over generations will learn to survive and thrive on this diet, Lin creates a sub-population predisposed to thrive while her own body decays. Requiring constant caretaking, and the harvesting of her own skin, these beetles serve as active reminders of our mortality.

The materials used by Lin are part of her ongoing research into the histories of colonial trade objects such as porcelain, silk, opium, abortifacient plants, poisons and cochineal in relation to discourses around whiteness, exoticism, race and othering. While earlier works focused on the acquisition and exploitation of non-Western botanical and biological processes, this exhibition examines the institutional framing by museums of historical artefacts and organic material—be they sarcophagi or body parts—through their collection and display technologies and by doing so reveals how these systems configure knowledge.

The exhibition will run from January 25 – March 26, 2020. Lin’s ceramic sculptural work for this exhibition will be fabricated in the Pitzer College ceramic studio in connection with her semester-long artist residency at Pitzer.

Candice Lin has exhibited nationally and internationally and was included in Made in L.A. 2018. Other recent exhibitions of her work in Los Angeles include The inscrutable speech of objects (Occidental College, 2019) and Meaningless Squiggles (Francois Ghebaly, 2019).

Exhibition Catalogue

In keeping with the exhibition’s references to museological procedures—collection, display and conservation—the publication will take the form of a traditional natural history museum guide. Deploying conventional museal language and formats for organizing the display and interpretation of information, this publication will call attention to how museums use didactic devices—be they wall texts or gallery guides—to produce knowledge as well as specific narratives that bolster an institution’s ideological position.

The catalogue will include an essay by Dr. Kyla Wazana Tompkins, associate professor of English and Gender and Women’s Studies at Pomona College, who will explore the use of fermentation and rot in Lin’s practice in relation to nativism, nationalism and race privilege. An essay by Dr. Ciara Ennis, director of Pitzer College Art Galleries, will question the presumed neutrality of museums and examine the use of museal display technologies—vitrines, didactics and audio-visual mechanisms—to construct specific bodies of knowledge that support the structural biases embedded in traditional museum histories.

About Pitzer College

Pitzer College is a nationally top-ranked undergraduate liberal arts and sciences institution. A member of The Claremont Colleges, Pitzer offers a distinctive approach to a liberal arts education by linking intellectual inquiry with interdisciplinary studies, cultural immersion, social responsibility and community involvement. For more information, please visit www.pitzer.edu.

About Pitzer College Art Galleries

The Pitzer College Art Galleries’ mandate is Education and Advocacy through the Pitzer College core values—social responsibility, intercultural understanding, interdisciplinary learning, student engagement, and environmental sustainability. By following these precepts, Pitzer College Art Galleries engage and interrogate contemporary and historical issues of importance to expand our audiences’ understanding and contribution to our artistic, intellectual, and social culture. Through curatorial creativity and innovative programming, the Galleries seek to provide context, support, and a critical framework for artists and curators working today and, by doing so, inspire meaningful dialogue that fascinates, excites, and invigorates.

For more information, please visit www.pitzer.edu/galleries.

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