April 22, 2008

In Praise of A402

Over the door for A402 is a red circle with the room number, which is the visual designation of the campus spaces used as art galleries. Below this is the palimpsest of the original numbering system.

When I sent out announcements for my thesis show, there were several people who wrote back and spoke fondly of the space--either their own show or others that they had seen there. During Valentine's week in the mid 80's, I had a piece in the room as part of an campus-wide erotic art show. Around the corner in the mezzanine gallery (now turned into studio spaces) I saw my first Cathie Opie photograph.

Currently there are seven official art spaces for students to use, each with their own particular advantages and disadvantages. A402 has the advantage of being a contained space (with a lockable door) and even though the lighting is fixed fluorescents, the space is easily the brightest of all the spaces available. Because of the smaller size and suspended ceiling, A402 is acoustically the quietest of all the spaces. The terms intimate and distraction free come to mind.

Floor Plan
In Writings 1973-1983 on Works 1969-1979, Michael Asher wrote:
The gallery measured 27 feet 7 inches by 16 feet 8 inches, with a ceiling height of 9 feet. Two rows of fluorescent light fictures--the gallery's only source of light--extended the entire length of the room. The floor was covered with brown wall-to-wall carpeting. A series of rectangular wall facets--floor to ceiling projections which formed short strips of wall surface or wall planes on a north-south and east-west axis--interrupted the exhibition wall planes, breaking up any continuity that the installation space might have had as a rectangular volume.
Asher seems to imply a hierarchical preference for a purely rectangular space, and refers to the odd pop-out in the corners as interruptions. Since the time of Asher exhibition, the lighting has been changed to recessed fixtures, and the brown wool carpet is now gray painted concrete. The varnished maple baseboards have also been removed.

Just outside the room by the elevator is an emergency floor plan of the E block and surrounding area, showing the location of the fire extinguishers and stairwells. The floor plan shows A402 located in the E block, and probably should have been given an E designation. When entering A402 and looking down at the threshold, one can see the rubber expansion joint that joins the seismically separate blocks. This joint is covered in carpet in Asher's documentation, and is barely perceptible when viewing the expanded photograph I took below. Taking the elevator down to the 1st level, the room directly below A402 is the entrance to the costume shop. The equivalent door on the first level is appropriately labeled as being part of the E block. One could argue that one enters A402 through the A block, but if nothing else, the other floors show at minimum an inconsistency in the room-naming conventions.

Image from Asher's exhibition, looking north into hallway.

Image taken after de-installation of my show.

Image from Asher's Exhibition
January 8-January 11, 1973, Gallery A402
California Institute of the Arts
Valencia, California

Camera in hallway viewing south into Gallery A402 and installation. Photographs by Alvin Comiter.

Image from my exhibition Social Spaces
March 31-April 4, 2008, A402 Gallery
California Institute of the Arts
Valencia, California
As in painting, one's artistic practice carries the burden of history infused in one's medium.

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  1. I haven't noticed this before; what do you make of the two white leafs(?) on(?) the carpet in the 1973 photograph taken from the hallway facing towards the gallery?

  2. My guess is that they are a description of Asher's piece. Since the painted walls are the art, putting the labels on the wall would be like putting a label in the surface of a painting.

    Why do you think there are two cards? My guess is that the larger is Asher's description of what he did, and the other is the title card convention employed by the director of the space.

    That would create an odd echo, with a wall didactic for another wall didactic.


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