UCR ARTS: California Museum of Photography has been awarded a $110,000 research grant by the Getty Foundation for the project “Digital Capture: Southern California and the Origin of the Pixel-Based Image World” as part of the foundation’s regionwide arts initiative “Pacific Standard Time.”
Recipients of the grant were announced Jan. 27. The initiative is set to culminate in fall 2024 with exhibitions, publications, performances, and public conversations and programs that focus on the intersections of art and science.
UCR ARTS is one of 45 cultural, educational, and scientific institutions throughout Southern California to receive support from the Getty Foundation for its projects. This is the third time UCR ARTS has been awarded a grant through the initiative. Previous projects culminated in the exhibitions and books “Mundos Alternos: Art and Science Fiction in the Americas” in 2017-18, and “Seismic Shift: Lewis Baltz, Joe Deal and California Landscape Photography, 1944-1985” in 2011.
“Pacific Standard Time” will include dozens of simultaneous exhibitions and programs focused on the intertwined histories of art and science, past and present, which together address some of the most complex challenges of the 21st century — including climate change, environmental racism, the COVID-19 pandemic, and artificial intelligence — and the creative solutions these problems demand. UCR ARTS joins a diverse community of Southern California institutions that will present exhibitions, publications, performances, and public conversations and programs in 2024 as part of the initiative.
“We applaud our partners for embracing remarkably diverse and imaginative approaches to this PST’s theme of art and science,” said Joan Weinstein, director of the Getty Foundation. “Beyond the inventiveness they are bringing to their individual research topics, they will build new community partnerships and engage the public in civic dialogues around pressing issues of our time. This will be a PST defined by creativity, curiosity, and community.”
The grant will support the research, development, and exhibition of “Digital Capture,” scheduled for presentation at UCR ARTS: California Museum of Photography in 2024. The exhibition will trace the origin of digital imaging beginning in the 1960s and ’70s in research labs during the Space Race and Cold War eras, a major portion of which occurred in Southern California. Until now, the history of digital imaging has not been the subject of a sustained, focused scholarly research effort of this scope, said Douglas McCulloh, senior curator of exhibitions at the California Museum of Photography.
“Everything from the pixel to the JPEG — including their names — came out of research labs in Southern California. The digital image world we all live in was born in L.A. in the 1960s and ’70s,” McCulloh said. “This project is a groundbreaking archeology of that history and its long artistic tail.”
“Digital Capture” will also present the work of pioneering digital artists who have appropriated the rapidly evolving digital technologies, examining the ideological shifts that occurred as digital photography disseminated into art practice, creative industries, popular culture, and how these explorations continue today.
“Much in the way that artists of the ’70s and ’80s anticipated certain conventions, techniques, and complications of today’s digital world, artists working at the cusp of digital imaging technologies seem to point toward a future of fully immersive, interactive art and experiences,” said Nikolay Maslov, curator of film and media projects at UCR ARTS. “‘Digital Capture’ is also interested in investigating the current cutting edge of the digital image and the role that Southern California still plays in this developing story.”
The project will include original research in Southern California archives, institutions, and collections, including the USC Signal Imaging and Processing Institute, California Institute of Technology, Jet Propulsion Laboratory, and HRL Laboratories. Other key institutions across the country will also be targets for primary research, and studio visits and interviews with artists and curators will comprise an essential portion of the project.
“The Southern California origin story of digital imaging and its emergence into art practice and then into mainstream culture has decipherable outlines, generates highly intriguing questions, and promises an exhibition and publication of major significance,” McCulloh said.
A 10-person team has been charged with uncovering, analyzing, interpreting, and presenting the history of digital imaging for “Digital Capture.” In addition to McCulloh and Maslov, participants include Joanna Szupinska-Myers, editor and senior curator at UCR ARTS; Leigh Gleason, director of collections at UCR ARTS; Rita Sobreiro Souther, exhibitions manager at UCR ARTS; Sheila Pinkel, emerita professor of art at Pomona College; M. Salman Asif, assistant professor in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering at UCR; Anikó Imre, professor of cinematic arts at the University of Southern California; John Jennings, professor of media and cultural studies at UCR; and James Tobias, associate professor of English at UCR.
“We are honored that UCR ARTS and the California Museum of Photography is among an outstanding group of grantees recognized by the Getty Foundation,” said Sheila Bergman, UCR ARTS’ executive director. “We look forward to working with the Getty Foundation. The project promises to make groundbreaking contributions to research and understanding in this crucially important subject area.”
About Pacific Standard Time
“Pacific Standard Time” is an unprecedented series of collaborations among institutions across Southern California. In each, organizations simultaneously present research-based exhibitions and programs that explore and illuminate a significant theme in the region’s cultural history.
In “Pacific Standard Time: Art in L.A. 1945–1980,” more than 60 cultural institutions joined forces between October 2011 and March 2012 and rewrote the history of the birth and impact of the L.A. art scene. In “Pacific Standard Time: LA/LA,” presented from September 2017 through January 2018, more than 70 institutions collaborated on a paradigm-shifting examination of Latin American and Latinx art, seen together as a hemispheric continuum.
Pacific Standard Time is an initiative of the Getty.
The J. Paul Getty Trust is an international cultural and philanthropic institution devoted to the visual arts that includes the J. Paul Getty Museum, the Getty Research Institute, the Getty Conservation Institute, and the Getty Foundation. The J. Paul Getty Trust and Getty programs serve a varied audience from two locations: the Getty Center in Los Angeles and the Getty Villa in Pacific Palisades. The Getty Foundation fulfills the philanthropic mission of the Getty Trust by supporting individuals and institutions committed to advancing the greater understanding and preservation of the visual arts in Los Angeles and throughout the world. Through strategic grant initiatives, the Foundation strengthens art history as a global discipline, promotes the interdisciplinary practice of conservation, increases access to museum and archival collections, and develops current and future leaders in the visual arts. It carries out its work in collaboration with the other Getty Programs to ensure that they individually and collectively achieve maximum effect. Additional information is available at www.getty.edu/foundation.