I just got back from visiting the newly renovated Jacobs building at 1100 Kettner Boulevard downtown San Diego, the contemporary art annex to MCASDâ€™s (Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego) permanent exhibition space across the street. It was up until recently, the Baggage Express holding area for the Santa Fe Depot train station that is adjacent to it and still in service. It had been empty for several years and then acquired by the museum.
According to the Pacific Southwest Railway Museum web site the depot is â€śan outstanding example of the classic Spanish Mission-Colonial Revival style of architecture, including Moorish influences.â€ť Recently christened the Jacobs building after Irwin Jacobs (the founder and chairman of Qualcomm) and his wife Joan, which is, I suspect, the result of a generous donation, is nothing less than perfect for exhibiting contemporary art.
What was less than perfect was the greeting I received after paying the $10 admission fee and venturing into the main salle to see the current expo by Brazilian artist Ernesto Neto. As I entered, a museum guard with hands clasped together in some benevolent gesture of sincerity and authority came to my side and uttered, â€śHi, I would like to inform you that thereâ€™s no touching allowed.â€ť I assumed it wasnâ€™t himself he was talking about and that it was the installation he was referring to.
I was right of course, but just minutes later I read in big, black, three-inch vinyl letters on the wall a curatorial statement put there to aid the viewerâ€™s comprehension: â€śNeto describes his works as both an exploration and representation of the bodyâ€™s landscape from within. Fascinated by skin, the largest and most sensitive organ of the human body, Neto creates works that both evoke references to skin and engage the viewerâ€™s tactile senses. It is important to Neto that the viewer should actively interact with and physically experience his work through touch, smell, and immersion. Suggesting polyps and bodily organs, Netoâ€™s Lycra forms, filled with the intoxicating scents of spices, envelop the viewer and become a labyrinth for the senses.â€ť
Wait a minute. Did the curator, Stephanie Hanor, just describe the artistâ€™s intent and most importantly his wishes in a statement in black and white on the wall for a viewer like me to read, understand and then interact â€śthrough touch, smell and immersionâ€ť? I guess not.