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MOCA's first pandemic-era in-house exhibition looks at life in a COVID bubble

MOCA's first pandemic-era in-house exhibition looks at life in a COVID bubble

7 artists part of “Working from Home: New Commissions from Tucson.”

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Mark McKnight, an artist from Los Angeles, departed from his conventional analog photographic methods and turned to cyanotype printing to convey his experience during the pandemic.

The specialized printing process that produces large-scale deep blue photographs are a direct register of his body, his partner’s body and the bodies of his friends in his quarantine bubble, he said.

“It feels very clear and legible of what you are seeing is an image of a body,” said McKnight, whose work will be featured in the Museum of Contemporary Art’s first in-house exhibition since it closed its doors in March. “But what really attracted me to this process is that I am actually registering the absence of the body,” McKnight said about his work.

The most intense part of his quarantine isolation experience happened in Tucson. McKnight first experimented with cyanotypes in Tucson, so he feels his work was born here.

He uses these blue photographs to express what quarantine has been like for him.

“I think that I have experienced my share of depression generally,” he said. “But I think that has really been exacerbated by isolation a lot of us are feeling in this pandemic, and I felt like the color blue, these really deep rich blue tones, was a really interesting way of signifying that.”

McKnight is one of seven artists who will take part in MOCA’s new exhibition, dubbed “Working from Home: New Commissions from Tucson.”

The exhibition will also feature works from Miguel Fernández de Castro, Nazafarin Lotfi, Nicole Miller and Rocki Swiderski, plus two poets, Dot Devota and Raquel Gutiérrez.

“The premise of the exhibition is centered on directly supporting the creation of new objects and ideas as well as underscoring the essential work artists and poets perform, especially during moments of social and cultural crisis,” according to press materials.

“We worked to try to help artists who are either from or connected to the area, realize projects that they had been thinking about during the pandemic,” said Laura Copelin, interim director and curator at MOCA in an email. “It’s a time when many exhibitions and projects have been canceled or postponed, so it felt important to help new work get made, even if it’s on a modest scale.”

Each artist has a unique perspective on current events, informed by where they’ve worked, lived or quarantined.

“It’s not super literal, but all of the artists have a relationship with Tucson, the Sonoran Desert, and the bi-national region,” Copelin said.

Artist Nazafarin Lotfi, who lives in Tucson, will present works in the form of a working fountain, sculptures and multiple drawings.

Her art is a multisensory installation built around two stand-alone walls that conveys feelings of exile, alienation and exclusion.

Lotfi wanted to evoke this experience of uncertainty of time and space people are passing through right now with the pandemic.

“The work is setting up the place I am very much interested in creating and experiencing that makes you aware of yourself, of your body and your emotions that you are going through,” Lotfi said.

“Working from Home” will open Oct. 3 for members and Oct. 4 to the public. Guests are limited to 20 at a time inside MOCA’s Great Hall.

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