July 20 2015 07:11 PM

Oceanside Museum of Art cancels an exhibition based on the writings of Robert L. Pincus

Tara Smith Centybear and Robert L. Pincus
Photo by Kinsee Morlan

An ambitious exhibition originally scheduled to open in November at the Oceanside Museum of Art (OMA) has been cancelled.

History As It Happened: Art in San Diego and the Art Criticism of Robert L. Pincus, 1985-2010 was on track to become OMA's biggest-ever exhibition, taking over all five of the galleries inside the museum's top and bottom floors. Artworks in the show were being culled from hundreds of reviews and features written by Robert L. Pincus, critic at The San Diego Union-Tribune for 25 years before he was laid off amid major cuts at the daily paper in 2010.

The exhibition and catalog was being organized by Pincus and freelance curator Tara Smith Centybear, who was previously on staff at OMA. Both took months rereading every word the art critic had written. They then created a list of approximately 150 artists to include in the show. Well-known locals like Stephen P. Curry, Roman De Salvo, David Avalos and Eleanor Antin made the cut, but so did lesser-known artists whose work they deemed important.

"There's an amazing multitude of artists who've done really good work here, and some who've been forgotten," Pincus says. "It was really hard to edit down our list of artists to include."

Pincus and Centybear say they were forced to call off the exhibition when it became apparent OMA didn't have the resources necessary to stage the show. The irony is that OMA's former executive director, Daniel Foster, who resigned his post in May, is the one who originally envisioned the show and enrolled the help of Pincus and Centybear. CityBeat reached out to OMA, but they declined to comment. Foster did not respond by press time. 

"There were probably problems all along," Pincus says of the show's demise. "But we weren't too worried about them early on...because Tara used to work at the museum and she knew how they functioned."

Part of the problem, they say, is when Foster left and Sandra Chanis stepped in as interim director. They say the project got lost in the transition and they were unable to get any solid commitments on important aspects of the show, such as fundraising. Centrybear and Pincus had secured a grant from the newly formed David C. Copley Foundation, but it required OMA to raise matching funds.

"But nothing was happening on their end," Pincus says. "There were no fundraising efforts that we knew of."

Pincus and Centybear say there was a sense they could've done a scaled-down version of the show, but they wanted to do it right.

"You only have one chance to do something like this," Pincus says. "We're not going to do a half version...I think if people saw the work all together in one place, it makes quite an impression."

The pair says they're not ready to spearhead a revival for the show yet, but they do hope to see it somehow realized in the future, perhaps at another venue.

"I think the show could positively impact the future of San Diego art," Centybear says. "It will let us take a look back and be proud of what all these fantastic people accomplished and remember that we can do great things here."

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