MarinMOCA is showcasing the work of its artist members in an annual group exhibition entitled What Is Art For? (February 5 – March 20). This year’s event honors the spirit of Marin’s legendary artist William T. Wiley (1937-2021) by celebrating the natural alignment of this all-inclusive event with Wiley’s belief in the democratization of the exhibition space.
What Is Art For? refers to a specific 1999 exhibition at the Oakland Museum of California. Wiley invited over 100 artists to exhibit, and it’s this same spirit of inclusiveness that makes this annual exhibition at MarinMOCA such a success.
“The spirit of generosity and inclusivity is one of Wiley’s legacies to the regional artistic community,” comments Amy Owen, executive director of MarinMOCA.
What Is Art For? not only underscores the value of community but offers artists meaningful exhibition experience as part of their professional development, which is key to the mission of MarinMOCA. According to MarinMOCA, the connection to the theme of Wiley’s work invites us to consider the value the arts have in our community as a way to discuss, document, imagine, and console during these difficult times.
Wiley, who lived his later years in Novato, studied at the San Francisco Art Institute and was invited to teach at U.C. Davis from 1962-1973, alongside artists Robert Arneson, Roy De Forest, Manuel Neri, and Wayne Thiebaud. According to curator Renny Pritikin (You See: The Early Years of the UC Davis Studio Art Faculty), Wiley and his peers became associated with the Funk Movement, which got the name because they often include jazz music at their exhibitions and gallery openings. These artists moved away from abstraction towards figurative art and, in all mediums, encouraged the development of a unique visual vocabulary, often expressed with wit and humor.
“This type of group show reflects issues and concepts relevant to this time and place within this particular community, through the lens of contemporary art,” Owen said.
“The spirit of community and inclusivity is one of Wiley’s legacies to the regional artistic community.”— Amy Owen, Executive Director, MarinMOCA
MarinMOCA focuses on the growth and development of artists at all ages and stages of their careers. The organization specializes in artists of Northern California with a real mission to connect those voices to the more extensive regional, national, and international network of artists.
“I have a real passion for the art of Northern California,” comments Owen, who spent seven years as curator at the di Rosa Center for Contemporary Art and also worked at Yerba Buena Center for the Arts. “I’m excited about further amplifying MarinMOCA’s historic building, growing our exhibitions and programs, and providing artists with professional growth opportunities.”
MarinMOCA is running the show at the same time as other regional museums exhibiting Wiley’s work; the timing not only puts MarinMOCA on the regional cultural map but expands the dialogue about Wiley’s work throughout Northern California.
Pamela Coddington is a writer and editor. Full disclosure: She is a big supporter of the arts in Marin County and has done work with Youth in Arts, Image Flow Photography Center, di Rosa Center for Contemporary Art, Smith Andersen North, and Headlands Center for the Arts. Pamela is a graduate of New York University with a B.A. in Art History, and holds a post-baccalaureate degree in writing from U.C. Berkeley. Pamela lives and works in San Rafael with her family.