Often Imitated, Never Duplicated

Sesnon Gallery brings art from abroad for ‘Unique Multiples’

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A display case in the exhibition contains an array of pieces by several different artists.

What does it take to get Andy Warhol, Ai Weiwei and Louis Bourgeois in the same room? A Spanish exportation license, stacks of paperwork and adequate funding are just the beginning.

After almost four years of planning, Porter’s Sesnon Gallery opened its doors for the “Unique Multiples: Teaching with the Parkett Collection from the University of Castilla-La Mancha” exhibit on Oct. 2.

Since 2015, co-curators Shelby Graham, Sesnon Gallery director, and Enrique Leal, assistant professor for print media in the art department, have shared a common goal. They’ve worked to give the Santa Cruz community a chance to see the works of famous artists in person, while creating a space for learning.

Cristina Peña, Parkett Collection Conservator of the University of Castilla-La Mancha, traveled all the way from Spain for the preparation and opening of the exhibit. 

“The collection is set to provide a place for teaching and so students can learn,” Peña said, […] for students and the community to explore.”

Parkett — which has published over 100 volumes — is a literary magazine dedicated to bringing the work of various artists together. It also oversees a substantial physical art collection.

The Sesnon Gallery is hosting nearly 60 pieces selected from the Parkett Collection by big name artists such as Andy Warhol, Meret Oppenheim and Cindy Sherman. Each gallery wall is adorned by works on both paper and 3D objects, making this exhibit unlike any other, said Louise Leong, Sesnon Gallery manager. 

But what exactly is a “unique multiple”? Enrique Leal describes it as something that can be repeated, while retaining individual character. Multiple artists can recreate the same thing, but none of them will come out exactly the same due to each artist’s unique creative process. 

Ava Kristy, a fourth-year Chancellor’s Undergraduate Internship Program intern, had the opportunity to work with these pieces up close. As a history of art and visual culture major, Kristy saw works from her textbooks come to life. 

If it weren’t for this gallery, many students wouldn’t have the opportunity to see so many well-known contemporary artist’s works in person, Kristy said.

At the gallery, she wasn’t just looking at a static image during lecture — she was looking at the real artwork with her own eyes.

Upon entering, visitors are greeted by artwork in a wide range of mediums—from Bernard Frize’s colorful resin painted sculpture to Andy Warhol’s infamous last piece before his premature death.

“There are big, international artists here and we really want our students to see that and see how they chose to create a unique multiple for this exhibition,” said Sesnon Gallery director Shelby Graham. “There’s so much history.”

“Unique Multiples: Teaching with the Parkett Collection from the University of Castilla-La Mancha” will be at the Sesnon Gallery (located above the Porter koi pond) until Dec. 6.

Photo Edition for Parkett
Andy Warhol

There are few artists who have plumbed the depths of multiplicity and reproduction in art as Andy Warhol did. With a career consisting of multiple Marilyn Monroes and collected cans of Campbell’s, Warhol’s mainstream popularity stemmed from his pieces featuring repetition. That his work exemplifies this exhibit’s theme is an understatement. The piece on display depicts a dead man’s party in full swing, a quadruplicate stitched together like Frankenstein’s monster.

Boo-hoo
Kara Walker

An artist whose portfolio is filled with multiples, Kara Walker is a fitting inclusion in the gallery. In Walker’s signature style, the Linocut “Boo-hoo” bears the shadowy imprint of American history. Like much of Walker’s works, “Boo-hoo” is situated within the antebellum U.S. and confronts Black, female stereotypes. The weeping subject holds a snake and a whip, overwhelmed by the violence of racial oppression and threatened by her association with Eve’s original sin in Eden.

Percy John Heawood Conjecture
Bernard Frize

French artist Bernard Frize’s work is bright, colorful and entrancing, embodying an accessibility that might even suggest simplicity. But one look into Frize’s artistic process shatters this notion. His piece featured in “Unique Multiples” represents a mathematical theory called the Heawood conjecture, a formula for how many colors can be graphed onto an object’s surface. In the case of a double torus — a shape closely resembling a figure-eight — exactly eight colors can cover its surface and still touch one another.

Phytuziann
Ernesto Neto

Brazilian artist Ernesto Neto uses natural fibers to weave biomorphic sculptures that wiggle across walls and ooze over floors. In “Unique Multiples,” his plush sculptural aesthetic is smaller in scale, but similar in impact. The squishable mesh figure is somewhere between a plankton and a pillow, reiterating the artist’s fascination with blurring the separation of natural and built.

Medusa
William Kentridge

When Perseus faced his final foe, the petrifying gorgon Medusa, he relied on the reflective surface of his shield to behold her without turning to stone. For his piece featured in “Unique Multiples,” Kentridge employs perspective and a steel cylinder to put viewers in Perseus’ sandals. Instead of staring upon the anamorphic monstrosity drawn in charcoal, guests use the surrogate shield to safely and clearly see the snake-haired woman.