I/Eye: On Photography

*Los Caprichos* in Oakland: creating a pop-up exhibition

Posted in exhibitions, Los Caprichos, platinum palladium by Sheila Newbery on August 17, 2017

Dawn McGuire (right) and I during a Q&A. (Photo: Hanneke van Proosdij.)

Sometimes you have to get creative when it comes to organizing a show. Poet Dawn McGuire and I decided to put together a “pop-up” show in the East Bay a couple of months ago. Our idea was to have a viewing of 30 palladium prints from my book project Los Caprichos, followed by a reading from Dawn’s new collection American Dream with Exit Wound. We were both drawn to an event that would combine literary and visual arts, and thought our work dovetailed well for this purpose. The whole thing would last only a few hours and would be packed up and put away at the end of the show. The question was where to do it.

I had a number of ideas about location, and felt optimistic at first about being able to find a place even though the Bay Area is notoriously short on supply of cheap exhibition space. But when none of my ideas panned out, we were back to square one. Then Dawn approached the owner of a body shop in Oakland. She (the owner) was game! And when I saw her space, my jaw dropped.  It was gorgeous.

Of course our pop-up audience thought we’d somehow managed to wrangle a commercial gallery (the body shop was better looking than many galleries I’ve seen). When I told visitors that we were in a body shop, they were dumbfounded: “You mean they really fix cars here?” Yep. They do.

It was a great place to mount a show. The strategy was to keep it simple:  we arranged the tables in a basic formation and “installed” the prints on upraised pieces of chipboard, covered by a pearl gray printmaking stock (Stonehenge paper). The tilt was achieved by placing 2” diameter styrofoam balls under the upper corners of the chipboard. The pearl gray stock was laid flat on the board, and the prints were placed on top of that. The prints were “anchored” with gravity (and inertia), though we’d brought magnets in case a firmer attachment was needed. Viewers could wander freely among the tables.

Here’s a photo taken as we were setting up. That’s Dawn at the far right looking at the prints. The nice thing about the space is that it’s open to the street, so people could just wander in off the sidewalk to take a look.

Artist Ana Quintanilla helped with the installation and kicked off the show by reading a prose-poem about the Caprichos, written by her father, the artist and critic Raúl Quintanilla.

You can read  a description of the Caprichos project here.

*Los Caprichos* pop-up show

Here’s what our pop-up installation looked like.


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