O' Great Reverie: Montalvo 1912-2012

Friday, January 27, 2012 - Sunday, May 13, 2012

VENUE: Project Space Gallery

Seated public on Montalvo’s Front Lawn, photographer unknown, c. 2000-04. Montalvo Arts Center Archive.
Photograph Collection.
James Duval Phelan and his dog Boz, Montalvo, 1927, photographer unknown. James D. Phelan Photograph Albums, 1902-1928.
Courtesy of The Bancroft Library, University of California, Berkeley.
View of Montalvo’s Historic Villa, 1985, photographer unknown. Montalvo Arts Center Archive.
Photograph Collection.
Women, draft sketch of a new work included in the exhibition O’Great Reverie, 2011. An incomplete timeline discovered in the Montalvo Arts Center Archive is re-photographed to explore the innate subjectivity of all historical narrative.
Montalvo staff and trustees prepare for the Sweetheart Ball, photographer unknown, 1982. Montalvo Arts Center Archive.
Photograph Collection.
Women, conceptual design schematic for O’Great Reverie, 2011. The diagram represents the past meeting the present in a new form.
Villa Montalvo under construction.

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In 1912, Californian state senator, banker, civic leader and arts patron, James Duval Phelan began constructing Montalvo, an ambitious estate nestled in the foothills of the Santa Cruz Mountains that encompasses a Mediterranean-inspired villa and 175 acres of forest, orchards and manicured gardens. Named after Garci Ordóñez de Montalvo, the 16th Century Spanish author who first coined the name California, Montalvo was Phelan’s beloved retreat, a place where he entertained artists, poets, musicians, politicians, soldiers, scholars and cultural figures. Upon his death in 1930, Phelan’s will stated that Montalvo be “maintained as a public park open and used as far as possible for the development of art, literature, music, and architecture by promising students." Over subsequent years, countless individuals have strived to keep this legacy alive, transforming Montalvo into a leading artist residency, arts center, and hiking destination.

Inspired by Montalvo’s centennial, this unconventional timeline exhibition examines such questions as what does it mean to create a history of a place? What makes something historical? Can art practice contest established historical narratives and generate new unexpected interpretations of place? Organized thematically, and bringing distinct moments from the foundation of the Historic Villa and estate to the present into dialogue, O’ Great Reverie: Montalvo 1912-2012 foregoes a standard chronology and instead emphasizes poetic associative relationships between Montalvo’s past, present and future. Through texts, letters, ephemera and photographs drawn from archival holdings at Montalvo and the Bancroft Library at the University of California, Berkeley, rare books, video and audio material, and new artwork, this exhibition presents an idiosyncratic non-linear history comprised of diverse personal narratives and impressions. O’ Great Reverie demonstrates how the history of a place is always constructed through the very personal selections of those who try to tell its story, and refracted through the prism of a contemporary moment.

This exhibition could not have happened without the advice, support and encouragement of a diverse group of people. Our sincere thanks go to former and current Montalvo staff, trustees and volunteers, especially  Angela McConnell, Kelly Sicat, members of Montalvo’s Programming Committee, Centennial Committee, Board of Trustees, Service Group, and Phelan Library and Historical Committee, as well as exhibition Research Assistants Mary Okin and Claire Schweitzer, and former President of the Montalvo Service Group Committee, Jane Goldbach. We would also like to thank Chris Backwell, Lauren Baines, Charlene Berg, Kaela Bernal, Romola Breckenridge, Lonnie Cedillo, Sue Fettchenhauer, Barry Fernald, Katherine Funk, Kelly Hudson, Laura Jason, Gordon Knox, Bette Linderman, Diane Maxwell, Del McComb, Babette McKay,  Gloria Moore, Dan North, Betty and Willis Peck, Michele Rowe-Shields, Connie and Hugh Roberts, Anne Rogers, Rijin Sahakian, Betty Spear, Theres Rohan, Audrey Struve, Julie Thorne, Jackie Welch, Lorraine Wright, and Nathan Zanon. Thanks are also due to The Bancroft Library, University of California, Berkeley, History Museum of Los Gatos, History San Jose, San Jose Institute of Contemporary Art, Saratoga Historical Foundation for their generous assistance with exhibition research. We are very grateful to the following Bay Area companies for donating, or providing at a discount, exhibition materials and production services: Central Valley Builders Supply, Plotter Pros, S.R Freeman Inc., TAP Plastics, TechShop San Jose, University Artists, and West Graphics. Finally, thanks are also due to the nominators of Montalvo’s first ever Design Fellowship: David Hisaya Asari, Connie Hwang, Nancy Popp, Louise Sandhaus, Catherine Taft, and Michael Worthington.

Read the Press Release for this exhibition.




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