Theater & Arts

Big-idea art in an even bigger space

Rob Divers Herrick’s “Colossus, for Melencolia” is part of “The Hatchery: Fortress.”
Rob Divers Herrick’s “Colossus, for Melencolia” is part of “The Hatchery: Fortress.” Special to The Bee

When it comes to contemporary art exhibitions, The Hatchery keeps upping the prestige factor.

For the past two installments of this distinctive exhibition – the first in 2011 and the second in 2014 – I’ve been an enthusiastic supporter. It’s a fascinating mix of big-city sophistication, provocative viewpoints and rough-hewn atmosphere, and I highly recommend it.

The show, which has the same name as the venue, is held in the interior of the Hatchery, former home to the Church of Synanon, the 1970s era drug-rehabilitation program that morphed into a cult. It’s located about 80 miles or so east of Fresno in the mountain town of Badger, near the entrance to Sequoia National Park.

This year’s weekend event, which runs Friday, Nov. 6, through Sunday, Nov. 8, is titled “The Hatchery: Fortress.” Twenty-three artists, some from as far as Germany, will participate. For the first time, the show is linked to a worldwide art event – held nearly simultaneously in 10 alternative art venues – sponsored by the Urban Arts and Media Organization, based in Munich, Germany.

The Hatchery is the only American site included in the event. Other cities are Berlin, Vienna, Prague, Amsterdam, Zurich, Athens, Mexico City, Sofia (Bulgaria) and Dinslaken (Germany). Two artists from The Hatchery show will be chosen to have their work exhibited in UAMO’s culminating city festival in Munich in April.

What will you see if you make the trip to the Hatchery?

Most of the windows are broken, ceiling insulation dangles precariously, walls and joints ominously sag, and about a third of the vast, airplane-hanger-sized space is structurally unsound and off-limits.

Videos, interactive projects, installations, photographs, drawings and paintings.

All are viewed in the context of the vast, dilapidated Hatchery venue. In my account of last year’s show, I noted that the compound is a weird and restless feeling space. Most of the windows are broken, ceiling insulation dangles precariously, walls and joints ominously sag, and about a third of the vast, airplane-hanger-sized space is structurally unsound and off-limits.

Curators are Bill Doherty of New York City, Anné M. Klint of Oakland and Bachrun LoMele of Pinehurst. The works chosen address the “Fortress” theme by addressing issues of housing, homelessness, income inequality, prison reform, immigration policy, climate change and the recent Rough Fire.

The exhibition is a chance to see some noted artists with local roots who don’t usually show their works in the central San Joaquin Valley. One is video and performance artist Shana Moulton, born in Oakhurst, whose robust international career most recently included a solo show at the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts in San Francisco.

While the exhibition begins Friday, the official opening is Saturday, when at 1 p.m. Los Angeles artist Nasim Hantehzadeh will offer his performance piece “My Private Room.” An after party will be held 3-6 p.m. with DJ Mychal.

Organizers hope to attract a “non-art audience” to the event as well as contemporary art fans. They emphasize that you don’t have to be an art scholar to enjoy the exhibition, and I wholeheartedly agree. The venue itself is fascinating, and the atmosphere is relaxed and gritty. The provocative art adds another level to the experience. If you’re looking for something different and memorable, it’s worth the drive.

The Hatchery: Fortress

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