New home of the Stanford Department of Art & Art History is an adventure

The McMurtry Building at Stanford University offers new studios and classrooms for the students as well as new galleries and views for the community.

courtyard of McMurtry Building

The atrium under the central oculus of the McMurtry Building offers distinctive sculptural seating and entrance to the Coulter Art Gallery. (Image credit: L.A. Cicero)

“Wow” is an apt way to describe the student and community response to the new home of the Department of Art & Art History in Stanford’s arts district.

The McMurtry Building was completed over the summer, opening for instruction and art-making on the first day of the fall term. Since then, students have explored 100,000 square feet of studios, classrooms, screening rooms and library space, and visitors have discovered new views from the roof garden, a public gallery and a café.

A favorite with everyone is the distinctive sculptural seating, titled SIMA, which was designed by Yulia Pinkusevich, MFA ’12, in collaboration with Sam Cuttriss. It is located in the atrium under the central oculus. Students and visitors have been climbing all over SIMA as well as using it for relaxing and studying – just as the artist intended.

Alexander Nemerov, the Carl and Marilynn Thoma Provostial Professor in the Arts and Humanities and chair of the department, said, “I am loving being in the new Art and Architecture Library, floating on the second floor. Teaching in the Oshman Lecture Hall has been wonderful, too. The whole building feels like a world we’re discovering every day.”

The completion of the McMurtry Building, which will be dedicated on Oct. 6, finally rounds out the university arts district – a collection of arts facilities on either side of Palm Drive.

On the same day as the dedication, Charles Renfro, architect of the McMurtry Building and partner-in-charge of Diller Scofidio + Renfro, will discuss the design philosophy behind his body of work. His lecture in Bing Concert Hall is presented by the Cantor Arts Center as part of the Bobbie and Mike Wilsey Distinguished Lecture series.

Come visit

McMurtry Building neighbors are welcoming the new kid on the block with exhibitions that celebrate art-making while the department has planned a full roster of events, exhibitions, guest lectures, installations and performances to inaugurate the building in its first year.

Stanford’s second annual undergraduate exhibition is the inaugural exhibition in the Penny & Jim Coulter Art Gallery located off of the McMurtry atrium and in the Gunn Foyer. Comma And… – yes, that is the title of the exhibition – includes 27 works by 20 students in 16 different majors across campus. These works were selected through a competitive jurying process last spring. The unusual title nods to the multiplicity of talents that Stanford students often possess and the works in the show push and pull you through an introspective meditation on self-identity.

One work in Comma And… in the Gunn Foyer looks like it was commissioned for the space. Created by Kevin Rouff, an undergraduate in his final quarter at Stanford majoring in science, technology and society, and Russian literature, Green Standard is an expansive 15-by-24-foot installation of bright green synthetic grass carefully imprinted with the numerical figure 5.05, the admission rate for this year’s freshman class at Stanford. In his statement to the jurors, he wrote about our love of grass, and also about the number:

“5.05. A number of pride for some newcomers, of despair for others, of comfort, or of discomfort. Some ignore it, boast about it, or criticize it. This piece invites us to question it,” wrote Rouff.

Also greeting visitors at the Roth Way entrance to the building is an installation titled Remote Winds, which is displayed along the 54-foot long Moghadam Family Gallery Arcade. It translates wind into light, and was designed by Stanford graduate students Cy Keener and Will Chapman.

Looking ahead

Other fall happenings in McMurtry include Anthony McCall’s temporary art installation Leaving (with Two-Minute Silence); a video-light work in Oshman Hall, on view Oct. 6-16; the site-specific student dance performance Space Launch, to be performed in the courtyard Nov. 7-8; artist Ursula von Rydingsvard’s guest lecture Nov. 10; and the “Architecture and Authenticity” conference Nov. 13.

Also in McMurtry later in the academic year is the annual Hi5 First-Year MFA Exhibition in the Coulter Art Gallery Jan. 11–Feb. 28, the Christensen Distinguished Lectures including theater critic Hilton Als on Jan. 14, and a studio lecture by Israeli artist Yael Bartana April 7.

Next door at the Cantor Arts Center is an exhibition that was inspired by the opening of the McMurtry Building. Artists at Work explores how artists make work, what innovation has meant across history and the different ways in which artists become inspired. On view are more than 80 Cantor collection works by American and European artists.

Further examinations of how artists work are presented in two companion exhibitions at the Cantor: Richard Diebenkorn: The Sketchbooks Revealed and Edward Hopper: New York Corner. One offers the first public view of sketches made through 50 years of Diebenkorn’s long career; the other examines a seminal work by Hopper, who influenced Diebenkorn (Stanford BA ’49). The exhibition Piranesi’s Paestum: Master Drawings Uncovered spotlights architecture through the work of the influential 18th-century artist Giovanni Battista Piranesi.

The Anderson Collection celebrates the opening of the McMurtry Building by presenting a focused exhibition of works by two Stanford alums. In Constructive Interference, Tauba Auerbach, BA ’03, and Mark Fox, MFA ’88, explore ideas of process, material manipulation and chance. The exhibition is composed of drawings, prints, paintings and sculpture. The works, on loan from the Anderson family, reflect a variety of working methods employed by the artists.

Media Contacts

Robin Wander, University Communications: (650) 724-6184, robin.wander@stanford.edu
Clifton B. Parker, Stanford News Service: (650) 725-0224, cbparker@stanford.edu