By Joy Shannon
Who says that a Zen garden must be comprised of perfect, orderly objects? Patrick Quan’s sculptural and photographic exhibition “Accidents and Failures” at the Culver Center of the Arts, shows viewers that a beautiful state of Zen can be found amongst imperfections. Installed throughout the Culver Center, from the giant Atrium to the Hammond Dance Studio and the Media Room, Quan has taken over the space with his site-specific arrangements of aluminum shards, shredded black garbage bags and large-scale photographs and paintings. The result is a thoughtful meditation on concepts of “success” and “failure.”
In his past work, Quan has spoken about his “freedom to sculpt (his) reality and perspective” and exploring the concept of “ownership of space” within his work. “Accidents and Failures” feels very much in step with that pursuit of freedom and the ownership of space. With this work, Quan is taking a refreshing approach to his work, by confronting the notion of “failure.” Visual artists, working in a non-performance medium, could choose to edit out their “mistakes” from public view. Yet, Quan’s installation puts the whole concept of a mistake, accident or failure into question, by creating an exhibit based entirely on the freedom to play with “accidents” and “failures” and make art out of them.
Additionally, Quan’s work dynamically owns and occupies the space which he has been given by the Culver Center for the duration of this exhibition. The work seems to fill these large spaces with exuberance. It is fitting that his aluminum shard sculptural arrangement occupies a dance studio, because the works seems to playfully dance through the space, even while remaining still.
The aluminum shard work can be viewed as Quan’s playful response to the aluminum cubes of minimalist sculptor Donald Judd, which took perfectionism to the point of being super-human. Meanwhile, the garbage bag installation in the atrium, recalls the ephemeral quality of the works of the postminimalist sculptor Eva Hesse.
Quan, who studied fine arts at California State University Los Angeles and the University of California, Riverside, has experimented with both 2D and 3D works, as well as collaborative performance art pieces, audience-interactive work, and site-specific work. Quan’s willingness to experiment- to try, to risk failure and to try again- comes through boldly in this exhibition in an inspiring way. In the end, the exhibition feels like a celebration of what art can give us the freedom to do- to make something worthwhile out of the “accidents” and “failures” that we encounter in life.
“Accidents and Failures” at the Culver Center of the Arts, UCR ARTSblock, 3824 Main St., Riverside, (951) 827-4787; artsblock.ucr.edu. On view thru Sep. 28. General admission is $3.