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Oceanside Museum of Art celebrates 25 years with dual exhibitions of iconic works

The entrance to one of two exhibitions now under way at the Oceanside Museum of Art.
The entrance to one of two exhibitions now under way at the Oceanside Museum of Art that reflect on the legacy of its 25-year history.
(Courtesy of Oceanside Museum of Art)
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As an independent curator with dozens of exhibitions under her belt, Danielle Deery is used to the time-consuming research that goes into the job. But when she was approached by the Oceanside Museum of Art about curating an exhibition that explored the entire 25-year history of the institution — from its humble beginnings inside the Gill Building on Pier View Way in 1997 to its current expansion — Deery knew then that it might be one of the more demanding, albeit exciting, exhibitions she had ever curated.

“It was a huge challenge; 300 exhibitions, thousands of artists and tens of thousands of pieces to look through,” recalls Deery, who had been working on a show at OMA West, the museum’s annex gallery at the Seabird Resort, when she was approached by the museum about a 25th anniversary exhibition.

An exhibit hall at Oceanside Museum of Art showcases pieces from the two-part "Legacy: 25 Years of Art and Community."
An exhibit hall at Oceanside Museum of Art showcases pieces from the two-part “Legacy: 25 Years of Art and Community.”
(Courtesy of Oceanside Museum of Art)

The result is “Legacy: 25 Years of Art and Community,” an ongoing exhibition that attempts to encapsulate the length and breadth of the institution’s programming over the years, as well as to convey the museum’s commitment to supporting local and regional artists. The exhibition is presented in two parts across two galleries inside the museum, one devoted to “The Early Years” (1997-2011), the other to “The Recent Years” (2012-2022).

“It was a great way to reconnect with the museum,” says Deery, who has curated over 30 past exhibitions at OMA and once worked as the museum’s director of exhibits and marketing. “We got to expand it into this double show, two parts of a larger exhibition. That was really exciting because I got to pull in even more artists. The challenge, of course, was that there were so many great artists that the museum has worked with over the years.”

The result is rather astounding, with the “Legacy” exhibitions spanning 25 years, 71 exhibitions and featuring 130 pieces of art from 112 different artists, most of them regional or local artists. This latter point is one that Deery says is certainly one of the more lasting legacies of OMA and one that the institution has reaffirmed as it gets set to expand the museum to the neighboring Fire Station 1 building on Pier View Way.

North County institution celebrates milestone with new exhibitions, a gala and a fresh outlook

“The museum has played a huge role in helping to develop that support for regional artists, highlighting the history and the important movements that developed here,” says Deery, who points to local artists such as Ethel Greene, a surrealist artist who is now getting some much-deserved attention as a figurehead in the local art scene. “The other museums in San Diego are definitely older but I think that OMA has and has always had their own path that they are forging.”

Six pieces that encapsulate a ‘Legacy’

Selections from ‘The Early Years’:

“Skyscape with Landscape,” 1978, by Ethel Greene
“Skyscape with Landscape,” 1978, by Ethel Greene. A Gift of Sandra and Bram Dijkstra
(A Gift of Sandra and Bram Dijkstra )

“Skyscape with Landscape,” 1978, Ethel Greene

From the exhibition: “Ethel Greene Surrealist Painter” (2002)

A beloved artist on the San Diego scene, Ethel Greene’s work is finally getting its due and this piece is emblematic of her brilliant surrealistic style. Curator Mark-Elliott Lugo curated her first solo exhibition in 2002 and, with 40 of her works on display at the time, it remains the largest solo show to date. Deery says early exhibitions like this one helped “highlight the history and the important movements that developed here.”

“Along the Merced River,” 1924, by Maurice Braun.
(Courtesy of Oceanside Museum of Art)

“Along the Merced River.” 1924, Maurice Braun

From “Masterpieces of San Diego Painting: Fifty Works from Fifty Years: 1900-1950” (2008)

Known for his lush landscapes, Braun is one of the most revered artists in the California school of Impressionism. Curated by local art historian and avid collector Bram Dijkstra, “Masterpieces of San Diego Painting” was the first exhibition staged in OMA’s Central Pavilion when it opened in 2008.

“Sunbathe Barbie at Bombay Beach,” 2005, by Jen Trute.
(Courtesy of Oceanside Museum of Art)

“Sunbathe Barbie at Bombay Beach,” 2005, Jen Trute

From “Lowbrow Art: Nine San Diego Pop Surrealists” (2009)

From alleyway murals to small gallery shows, San Diego is filled with art of the pop-surrealist variety. OMA distinguished itself by recognizing the movement’s Southern California roots, best represented in Trute’s satirical tribute to the Salton Sea waterfront. Former U-T art critic Robert Pincus called the painting “meticulously executed” and Deery remembers the exhibition as a “killer show.”

Selections from ‘The Recent Years’

“The Tot (Follow Your Dreams: Hanging Heart Spot Companion),” 2015, by Richard Becker.
(Courtesy of Oceanside Museum of Art)

“The Tot (Follow Your Dreams: Hanging Heart Spot Companion),” 2015, Richard Becker

From “100 Artists, 100 Years: The San Diego Museum of Art Artists Guild, 1915-2015” (2015)

This steel piece from sculptor certainly stood out in 2015 when it was displayed in “100 Artists, 100 Years,” an intrepid exhibition that curator Lugo called “a rare opportunity for viewers to experience in one venue the diverse range of art created in San Diego over the last one hundred years.”

“Art Disposal Service Uniform,” circa 1969, by Bob Matheny.
(Courtesy of Oceanside Museum of Art)

“Art Disposal Service Uniform,” circa 1969, Bob Matheny

From “Spitting in the Wind: Art from the End of the Line” (2014)

There was no greater champion of local art than Matheny, a conceptual artist best known for helping to define the San Diego art scene in the 1960s and ’70s alongside Richard Allen Morris and John Baldessari. This uniform, first displayed at the Dave Hampton-curated 2014 exhibition “Spitting in the Wind,” is from one of Matheny’s more idiosyncratic projects, the San Diego chapter of the Art Disposal Service, which encouraged artists to take their excess works to the dump.

“Of Fence,” 2017, by Marcos Ramírez ERRE and “Lady Liberty V2,” 2017, by Omar Pimienta.
(Courtesy of Oceanside Museum of Art)

Of Fence,” 2017, Marcos Ramírez ERRE and “Lady Liberty V2,” 2017, Omar Pimienta

Presented at a time of extreme political rhetoric surrounding the Mexico/U.S. border, the “unDocumenta” exhibition, curated by Alessandra Moctezuma, was a bold, beautiful exhibition that served as a rejoinder to militarization of our border region. This photo, capturing aspects of binational artist ERRE’s “Of Fence” installation on the facade of the museum, is presented in “The Recent Years” as testament to the museum’s willingness to make decisive statements in a time of divisiveness.

‘Legacy: 25 Years of Art and Community’

“The Early Years” runs through Jan. 29. “The Recent Years” runs through Feb. 19.

Hours: 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Thursdays, Saturdays and Sundays. 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Fridays.

Where: Oceanside Museum of Art, 704 Pier View Way, Oceanside

Price: Free to $10

Phone: (760) 435-3720

Online: oma-online.org

Combs is a freelance writer.


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