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MOCA gala honors Tucson painter Mosset

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Museum gala

MOCA gala honors Tucson painter Mosset

Saturday's fundraiser provides promising introduction to future of Tucson art

  • The planned plaza for MOCA Tucson.
    Courtesy MOCA TucsonThe planned plaza for MOCA Tucson.

Tucson's Museum of Contemporary Art held Gala MOCA 2010 on Saturday, the inaugural event at the museum's new home at 265 South Church Avenue. The new space for MOCA, the former downtown fire station, was rapidly transformed for the occasion into a ballroom, and galleries were open to the gala's 300 guests.

The evening was a tribute to Tucson-based painter, Olivier Mosset. Mosset began his career as the "M" in the 1966-67 Paris-based  BMPT movement, a group dedicated to radically simple forms of painting as a means of interrogating art itself.

Mosset's large, monochromatic paintings force the viewer to confront her own method of apprehending art, and of drawing meaning from a visual source at all.

The completed exhibition, entitled "Made in Tucson/Born in Tucson/Live in Tucson," promises to be a bold and expansive one. As the title states, each piece in the show has a direct link to Tucson; however, this is no mere amassing of work at hand.

Many national and international artists with some tie to Tucson have been assembled in one show to honor the city's place in the larger art world. Most of the works are recent, with a few pieces by the likes of Raymond Pettibon, Dick Tuck, Don Bell and Carolyn Leigh providing a bit of historical context. As of this moment, sculptors Dave Lewis and Julia Latane are hard at work installing large works in the space that housed Saturday's party.

Formed in 1999 by Tucson artists, MOCA began exhibiting as a museum in 2003, under the direction of art historian and scholar Anne-Marie Russell. The Church Ave. location will be the first permanent home for the group, whose dedication to fostering a sense of community, as well as a constant commitment new art and new ideas, is already taking shape in the warren of small galleries that once housed the offices for the Tucson Fire Department.

Russell's approach to curating the space is deliberately counter to a traditional museum experience. She eschews wall text in favor of a map for visitors and a reading room for further study of exhibited works. She explained, "I want that first feeling when one sees the work to be direct and unmediated."

"We have no real visual literacy training in America," Russell continued. "But every person on this planet is capable of apprehending a work of art. Even I, as a longtime lover and scholar of art, tend to turn immediately to the wall text in a gallery, instead of engaging the art directly."

University of Arizona Art History professor Paul Ivey delivered an eloquent tribute to Mosset, said Russell.

Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords addressed the crowd, sharing her interest in bringing solar power to the museum. A plan is in the works to install solar photovoltaics, or PV panels, to the roof at the museum.

Also announced at the event was Cox Communications' intention to sponsor the building of a plaza for the museum. This potential large contribution to MOCA's buildout bodes well for a resurgence of private funding for the arts in Tucson, even as the recession and attendant budget issues would seem to send the wolves to the door of arts organizations.

The gala continued well into the evening, with performances by Flam Chen and an 80s dance party. If the guests thought previously that such edgy, hip arts events were not feasible in Tucson, they were almost certainly converted. And come March 6, all of Tucson will meet the new, brave face of MOCA Tucson, and of Tucson art itself.

If you go

MOCA opens to the public March 6. The new space is at 265 S. Church Ave.

On the Web

For more information, visit

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