Tuesday, Mar 18, 2014 - 12:11 pm

San Diego, CA—This fall, MCASD’s curatorial team and UC San Diego’s Department of Visual Arts joined forces to offer a graduate seminar which considered the programmatic activities of a contemporary art museum. The course was team-taught by the Museum’s David C. Copley Director and CEO Hugh Davies, Chief Curator Kathryn Kanjo, and Associate Curator Jill Dawsey.

As part of the Curatorial Practice course, students conducted research on works from the Museum’s permanent collection. UC San Diego Ph.D student Noni Brynjolson was selected to organize On the Beach, an exhibition featuring a selection of permanent collection pieces that portray the beach as a unique site of social interaction. The works are on view through Wednesday, April 16.

On the surface, beaches are ideal examples of public space. They are places we dream about visiting; where we can wander, forget our troubles and soak up the sun. Beaches in California are guaranteed by law as public spaces, resulting in a range of effects on coastal culture and community.

MCASD La Jolla sits atop a spectacular cliff overlooking La Jolla Cove, a beach used by families, sunbathers, surfers, snorkelers, tourists, birds and seals. It is a public space where identities are created, negotiated and performed. In geography, the term “littoral” refers to the part of a body of water that is close to the shore—as such, it speaks of adjacencies and exchange. The term has also been used as a metaphor for collaborative art, in which an artist’s engagement and dialogue with a community shapes the work.

The works in this show illuminate this notion and portray beaches as sites of social and cultural interaction. They also explore the presence of conflict in paradise. The innocent sounding term “On the Beach” is the title of a post-apocalyptic science fiction novel by Nevil Shute and the name of one of Neil Young’s bleakest albums. In military parlance, the phrase means “retired from active duty.” Beachgoers in California must contend with jet planes, nuclear power plants, military bases, and an intimidating border fence. These images complicate the utopian nature of the beach, and suggest that this is a public space that consists of much more than sand, sun and surf.

For interviews with Noni Brynjolson or MCASD’s Curatorial staff, please contact Communications & Marketing Manager Leah Straub or Communications Associate Patricia B. Dwyer. High-resolution images of the artworks featured in the exhibition are available upon request. Please RSVP to