Critics’ Picks

View of ”Excursus III: Ooga Booga,” 2012.

View of ”Excursus III: Ooga Booga,” 2012.


“Excursus III: Ooga Booga”

Institute of Contemporary Art, University of Pennsylvania
University of Pennsylvania 118 South 36th Street
October 17–December 16, 2012

Twice a year, Philadelphia’s Institute of Contemporary Art invites an artist, designer, publisher, or other cultural practitioner to create an installation responding the institution’s history, architecture, and current exhibitions. The residency, which has previously featured Philadelphia-based designer Andy Beach as well as East of Borneo, the online magazine based in LA, infuses the museum’s small mezzanine space with the selected artist’s personal aesthetic and social vision.

For its third iteration, the “Excursus” series, organized by Alex Klein, invited Wendy Yao—owner and curator of the Los Angeles bookstore, boutique, publishing imprint, and venue Ooga Booga—to put her stamp on the musem, and Yao in turn called upon her many collaborators to contribute to the installation. Manuel Raeder’s modular Group Affinity Table, 2011–12, is the installation’s curvy centerpiece. Fabricated using scrap wood from institute’s current exhibition “Jeremy Deller: Joy in People,” its four segments fit together as circle, wave, or question mark, which affirms Yao’s open, improvisational approach. This flexible furniture is the site of frequent roundtable discussions and informal events, including a talk in October on the commons and political speech in China by Walead Beshty as well as a conversation about the process of making books led by Trinie Dalton and Jen Bervin, whose publications are sold at Ooga Booga.

On walls, windows, and bookshelves as well as in flat files, Yao uses ephemera as a tool for free association across form and image, playfully meshing the institute’s archive and her store’s inventory. Included are historic letters and catalogue spreads by and about Agnes Martin and Richard Tuttle alongside zines and live music recordings from Ooga Booga. One constellation of such clippings presents multiple depictions of felines, punning on a reference to the catalogue (“cat.”) from Martin’s 1976 retrospective. The deceptively unassuming quality of Tuttle’s—and Martin’s—work is a perfect analogue for Yao’s approach to “Excursus”: a gentle invitation to participate.