Speaking to Lisa Popp from America’s OCCCA Museum

I’ve had the pleasure of speaking with Lisa Popp, the gallery director of the Orange County Center for Contemporary Art this week, and will be shortly be publishing a review about London Calling.

In the meanwhile, Lisa has admitted that “This show has been especially significant to me not only in terms of works traveling from the UK, but also from the infancy of the idea and pushing to lock in Debut in order to seize the opportunity for all”. As you will have been reading on this blog, it has been a fantastic and significant exhibition for me too, especially in my role as UK Ambassador of Debut Contemporary which meant I was working closely with Lisa and her team. Below are some insightful thoughts from Lisa about the show and how she put it together, in an interview with Debut Contemporary. (See the original post on Debut’s Blog here)

The Orange County Center for Contemporary Art (OCCCA) is an artist operated California non-profit corporation dedicated to the pursuit of professional excellence and freedom of expression in the arts.

Since it’s inception in 1980, It provides emerging and established member and guest artists a forum to explore and develop ideas in contemporary art in an atmosphere that promotes experimentation and risk-taking, but without the specter of censorship.

In addition, OCCCA develops and actively participates in public educational, outreach and community art services.

Lisa Popp is the Director of Exhibitions for the Orange County Center for Contemporary Art. Lisa picked the Debut artists for the ‘London Calling’ Exhibition and curated the show.

How did you first hear about Debut Contemporary and Debut’s artists?

I first learned of Debut Contemporary in the fall of 2011 when our gallery, the Orange County Center for Contemporary Art (OCCCA), was asked to participate in the alternative space exhibition, Flag Stop.  We had the pleasure of meeting Nichola Anthony and were so impressed with the Debut Contemporary artist’s and their work that we invited them to our gallery in Orange County for a possible future collaboration, after the visit we knew at once we wanted to make a space for them on our calendar before the 2011 year ended.

What process did you use to pick the Debut artists for the show?

I was able to view the complete roster of Debut Contemporary artist’s online and compile a list of selected artists. In conceptualizing the exhibition the focus was to capture the diversity of medium and perspective in UK contemporary art, from portraiture to abstract expression, print to new media and multi-layered meaning sculpture.  With input from fellow OCCCA artists, Joella March and Stephen Anderson, the ride to London Calling was a virtual blast!

How did you find curating the show?

Due to the overwhelming number of greatly talented current and alumni artists at Debut Contemporary, curating the show was challenging, however, I felt a great sense of freedom to create a formal and conceptual dialog from the many works provided.  After final selections had been made, we were able to represent close to thirty artists from Debut Contemporary in our gallery of 6500 square feet and I was honoured to work with Debut’s most generous and open minded gallery owner, Samir Ceric.

What do you think is cool about the London art scene?

I can feel the London art scene vibe infused in the pieces of the London Calling exhibition.  Artists are reflecting the high energy, cutting edge thoughts, multitudes of people and places, light, hot colour, boundaries bulging at the seams and yet, there is a consistency to scholarship and a sense of polish and respect for tradition in the vast majority of the work.

How do you think it differs to California?

I believe there is little difference between the London art scene and the California art scene, the contrast lies in the support artists are given in the UK and the differentiation in government systems.

What do you think of Debut Contemporary’s concept?

I wholeheartedly embrace Debut Contemporary’s concept of representing emerging artists and exposing them to the multi-faceted layers of the art world today.  We exist in an ever increasing global society where we all must seek to find our imprint, Debut’s artists are getting cutting edge experience in exposure and branding, a priceless commodity.

If you had to pick your favourite artist from the London Calling exhibition, who would it be and why?

My favourite artist from the show is Tahnee Lonsdale.  Lonsdale invites me into her world through color and formal composition where she walks along the tight rope of tension and balance most brilliantly.  As I peer through Lonsdale’s looking glass she shares her thoughts and emotions in scratched written word, random in pattern, contrasting the geometric shape and colour order which initially lured me in.

What’s next for the Orange County Center for Contemporary Art?

The next exhibition for OCCCA is Gothic.  Gothic is, “A mix of Medievalism, Romanticism, science fiction, Victoriana, punk, the uncanny, the grotesque, and the erotic, inseparable from despair, fear and rapture. Gothic reveals the shadow within, the skull beneath the skin”.

The show is juried by Amy Grimm, art history professor at Irvine Valley College, and will open for a seven week run on February 4th, 2012.



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