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Daniel Arsham: Wherever You Go, There You Are at OCMA

Daniel Arsham, Bronze Eroded Delorean 1:2, 2022. Bronze, stainless steel, patina, 38 x 72 x 30 3/4 in (96.5 x 182.9 x 78.1 cm). Courtesy of the artist and Perrotin.

The Orange County Museum of Art (OCMA) is presenting Daniel Arsham’s first major solo museum exhibition in the United States. Running February 15–June 4, 2023, Daniel Arsham: Wherever You Go, There You Are brings together a collection of over 40 works created over the past twenty years, to explore the artist’s concept of fictional archaeology. Subverting archeology’s traditional methodology of sorting through and processing the past, Arsham’s multilayered practice poses the question: What if we could dig through the future?

“Daniel Arsham is known for his playful, textural and immersive body of work. He encourages us to be present and attuned to the world around us. With Daniel, the ordinary is extraordinary,” said Heidi Zuckerman, CEO and Director of the Orange County Museum of Art, and curator of Daniel Arsham: Wherever You Go, There You Are. “We are honored to present his first major solo museum exhibition which recontextualizes his work within the continuum of the history of art and are thrilled to share it with our visitors.”

“This is the first exhibition in a museum that doesn’t focus on new work for me. It covers every medium that I have worked in over the last 20 years – everything from painting, sculpture, automotive design, clothing, sneakers, jewelry, collaborations, and my ventures into sports. I think it’s going to allow audiences to really understand the full scope of my interests,” said Daniel Arsham.

Wherever You Go, There You Are takes its title from acclaimed writer Jon Kabat-Zinn’s book on meditation, which maps out a simple path for cultivating mindfulness in one’s own life. Arsham’s work invites viewers to insert themselves into the installation, allowing them to construct their own narrative conclusions and meanings. Installed throughout OCMA’s Permanent Collection Pavilion, Avenue of the Arts Gallery, Mezzanine Gallery, and the Landing Gallery, the show offers a journey through Arsham’s practice—from his future relics series, to a time-capsule like installation which celebrates his work in fashion and design, including ongoing collaborations with iconic fashion houses Dior and Tiffany’s.

The exhibition begins on OCMA’s first floor, with a presentation of Arsham’s drawing, photography, and sculpture. Investigating the material nature of time, his work offers a glimpse of a world in which past, present, and future coexist. Eroded casts of everyday objects, formed from geological materials such as sand, quartz, pyrite, and volcanic ash, offer works rooted in human presence—hands clasped in a gesture of prayer, an hourglass measuring time. Other objects, such as phones, cameras, tires, tools, and cars, act as effigies of the 20th and 21st century, operating as memory devices, talismans, and remnants of lived experiences. A highlight work from 2013 is the deteriorating cast of singer and songwriter Pharrell’s first keyboard, a Casio MT-500 made from volcanic ash, crystal, and steel, conjuring how we might look back at where we have come from to understand who we are today. Just as music can operate as portrait of a time and a place, so too can the machines and vessels that create and contain it.

Much of Arsham’s practice investigates how and why things are made and exist. Rooted in architectural principles, his practice explores construction, playing with materials, scale, and form. Life-size and concrete, Arsham’s eroded figures evoke connections across history, asking us to consider how information is transmitted and received, and how we decide what is made permanent or temporary. Bronze Eroded Astronaut (2022) recreates the iconic image of Neil Armstrong’s Apollo 11 Moonwalk. Meanwhile, three historic female figures—Venus of Milo, Venus of Arles, and Hamadryade­­—are installed together to reference the Three Graces from Greek mythology – supernatural nymphs and goddesses thought to bestow a particular gift on humanity, representing a moment in time in which art was directly connected to acts of worship. Operating out of time and covered in a gem-like corrosion, Arsham’s figures suggest both an erosion of the past and the possible rebirth in new form.

Wherever You Go, There You Are also explores Arsham’s interest in the afterlife, magic, and ritual through his iconic Pokémon works, both through casts of beloved characters but also their respective trading cards, exploring Pokémon as a world in of itself – an imaginary universe in which fictional creatures exist with extensive backstories. The work speaks to Arsham’s interest in how cultural phenomena act as poignant records of a specific time and place.

A major highlight of the exhibition is installed in OCMA’s Avenue of the Arts Gallery. Arsham’s Selenite Erosion Wallpaper is a magnificent trompe l’oeil that depicts crystals and plaster in a 3D-effect, creating the appearance that the crystals are coming out of the wall. Visible from both inside and outside the museum, the work sets the stage for entering a space that exists between times, oscillating from creation and collapse, connecting the exhibition of artworks.

As audiences can wind their way through the exhibition, travelling across different islands of Arsham’s work, they can explore his wide-ranging practice spanning fashion, music, architecture, and design – from collaborations with seminal design houses to work with Pharrell, the Weeknd, and Usher, through to the projects created as part of his ongoing position as creative director for the Cleveland Cavaliers. Together, the constellation of works in Wherever You Go, There You Are asks us to rethink our understanding of contemporaneity, reminding us that we are always the authors of our stories.

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