Ucci honored with retrospective exhibit

October 13, 2015

Artist and educator Kartz Ucci is being honored with a retrospective exhibition, kartz ucci-an opera for one, at The Art Gym at Marylhurst University in Portland, Oregon.

Kartz Ucci
Above: Kartz Ucci

The exhibition is on view until December 5 and celebrates Ucci’s digital, text, sound, and installation art. Approximately thirteen works of art are included and a number of special presentations are scheduled. A catalog publication will be available after October 25.

Ucci joined the UO faculty in 2004 and taught art and digital arts in the Department of Art in Eugene and at the White Stag Block in Portland. Her courses were rich and powerful lessons on contemporary art practice, time-based media, and interactive installations. She lost her battle with cancer in 2013.

Tannaz Farsi, UO associate professor of art and one of the project coordinators, says “It was really gratifying to work on this exhibition because it illuminates Kartz’s creative practice and allows her contribution to the field to be recognized and archived.” She adds, “Kartz pursued a rule-based system in the creation of her art work which she then undermined to expose the humanistic aspects that become messy in their admission of desire, solitude, and sadness.” 

With an opera for one, Ucci commissioned Canadian soprano Deanna Pauletto in 2004 to sing Pablo Neruda’s book, Twenty Love Poems and a Song of Despair, in the original Spanish. Pauletto improvised an a cappella melody from a “score” of color and emotional cues devised by Ucci. Ucci recorded the one-time, 88-minute performance.

“For the best experience of the work, review the libretto first, to read the poetry and to see the colors mapped on a grid that corresponds in time and placement to the text,”Ucci said during an interview in 2010. “The libretto is an integral part of the work.”

In connection with this exhibition, Kartz Ucci's 256 Shades of Grey will be installed at The Alexander Gallery at Clackamas Community College's Oregon City campus from November 9 to December 11.  This work was her final installation, a temporary sound and light piece projected into/onto/through the desert in Joshua Tree, California, on the opening night of High Desert Test Sites 2013.  

The piece involves a video projection of gray scales in shifting horizontal bars that Ucci created using highly personal algorithms. The projection disappeared into the night with the artist’s intention being an elegiac combination of human survival through the music and human loss as the light is absorbed into the night.

The piece also is accompanied with a sing-along of Jerry Garcia’s and Robert Hunter’s Grateful Dead piece “Touch of Grey.”  A lyric “I will get by/I will survive” is one of the key lines for many who follow the music of the Grateful Dead. From the project website, the work is described “a celebration of uncertainty, midi file technology, the Grateful Dead, and above all, survival.” According to her collaborator, Abby Donovan, Kartz said she chose this Grateful Dead song very specifically for the line “I/We will survive…and for its relationship to my current path in life and for its historic attachment to my life in Eugene.”

an opera for one, 2009
Above: an opera for one, video and sound installation by Kartz Ucci, 2009.

An accompanying catalog, with essays by Abby Donovan and Prudence Roberts, will be released at the Hollywood Theater screening of Ucci's an opera for one. The artist book by Ucci, an opera for one, an opera for scriabin is reprinted in its entirety within the catalog.

An exhibition of this breadth and scope required a team of dedicated curators and coordinators. Farsi acknowledges this effort and says, “Kartz worked across so many mediums. Because some of the work takes multiple forms, it was not an easy exhibition for an institution to take on. I am grateful that [director and curator] Blake Shell at The Art Gym felt that it was imperative to exhibit this work and [gallery manager and head preparator] Kathleen Murney devoted so much time to the logistics of organizing and implementing the pieces that are on view. The exhibition allowed different intersections of people that knew and loved Kartz to come together and publicly celebrate her life.”

Ucci's work was included in the Portland Biennial in 2010 and exhibited in solo and group exhibitions in California, Oregon, Washington, and Toronto, Ontario, Canada.

A recent article by Oregonian writer Grace Kook-Anderson captures the inspiration and challenges in mounting an exhibition of site-specific work facing curator Blake Shell. Read more at oregonlive.com.

Special events related to the exhibition include:
Screening of Ucci's an opera for one at Hollywood Theater and catalog release - October 25, 7:30 p.m.
Gallery Talk with Abby Donovan, Tannaz Farsi, Blake Shell, and Prudence Roberts - October 30, 12:30 p.m.
Curator Talk with Blake Shell at Clackamas Community College - November 17, 12:30 p.m.
256 Shades of Grey event in the field outside of The Art Gym - December 5, 5:30 p.m.

The Art Gym is located at 17600 Pacific Highway (Hwy 43) on the Marylhurst University campus. Gallery hours are Tuesday through Sunday, noon to 4:00 p.m.  There is no cost for admission or parking.