Manetti Shrem Museum of Art Reopens With Dimensions of Black and John Cage: ‘33 1/3’

Fall Season Features Major Group Show of Contemporary Work by African American Artists, Interactive Sound Installation

Cage Exhibit 1969 Freeborn Hall
UC Davis John Cage Festival in Freeborn Hall in November 1969. Photo by Richard Friedman

Quick Summary

  • Exhibitions on view Sept. 17 through Dec. 28
  • Campus Community Opening Celebration Thursday, Sept. 28, 5 p.m.

Editor’s note: For high-resolution photos of the exhibitions, go to the exhibition press kit.

The Jan Shrem and Maria Manetti Shrem Museum of Art at the University of California, Davis, launches its fall season this month with two exhibitions highlighting the university’s distinctive legacy of nurturing and exhibiting innovative contemporary art. The centerpiece of the museum’s fall program is a major group exhibition of works by leading African American contemporary artists, including rarely exhibited works by artists connected with UC Davis. Also on view this fall is an immersive sound art installation by the experimental composer John Cage that returns to UC Davis after premiering at the university nearly 50 years ago.

John Cage Exhibition Berlin
John Cage, 33 1/3, 1969. Installation view at daadgalerie Berlin, 1988–89. Courtesy of the John Cage Trust. Photo: Werner Zellien, © Archiv Broken Music, Werner Zellien  

The Manetti Shrem Museum serves as the exclusive Northern California venue for Dimensions of Black following the exhibition’s acclaimed presentation at the Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego earlier this year. Dimensions of Black features more than 30 works by some of the most celebrated African American artists of the past three decades, many with close ties to California. Featuring works by David Hammons, Dread Scott, Theaster Gates, Lorna Simpson, Kerry James Marshall, Mildred Howard, Carrie Mae Weems and many others, the exhibition explores the artists’ shared interest in shaping a fresh understanding of black aesthetics in figurative and abstract art. Originally organized by the Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego, the exhibition includes several rarely seen works from the Manetti Shrem Museum’s own collection that have been added exclusively for the Davis presentation. Among these are multiple works that highlight UC Davis’ history as an incubator for artistic talent, such as a photograph by UC Davis graduate (master’s degree in fine arts) Jessica Wimbley and a sculpture by Horace Washington that was last seen in the seminal 1997 exhibition Reshuffling the Deck: Selections from the UC Davis Collections.

Highlighting UC Davis’ legacy as an incubator for interdisciplinary experimentation is the presentation of 33, an interactive installation by composer John Cage that made its debut at UC Davis nearly five decades ago. The 33⅓ exhibition invites visitors to co-create a unique, participatory auditory experience. A trailblazing figure in both contemporary classical music and conceptual art, Cage was among the many nationally prominent artists to occupy a residency at UC Davis during the 1960s and ’70s. On Nov. 21, 1969, he premiered at UC Davis his groundbreaking participatory work: a vast, empty auditorium lined around its perimeter with turntables, speakers and more than 300 arbitrarily selected vinyl records. Visitors were invited to play the records at random, creating a cacophonous sound that exemplified Cage’s interest in the use of chance and variation in musical composition. Equal parts conceptual art installation and postmodern performance, 33⅓ makes its reappearance at UC Davis in homage to its premiere 48 years ago, utilizing records donated over the summer by community members.

Inaugurated in November 2016, the Manetti Shrem Museum represents a significant addition to Northern California’s vibrant arts scene and the latest milestone in UC Davis’ rich history as a center for artistic innovation. The museum’s fall season follows the acclaimed inaugural exhibition Out Our Way, which highlighted the work of artists including Wayne Thiebaud, Roy De Forest, William T. Wiley and others who helped establish the school’s early reputation as a leader among its peers for artistic instruction, a legacy that continues to this day.

Dimensions art
Dimensions in Black. Horace Washington, Untitled (Mask), 1988. Cast concrete with wire, 15 x 12 x 4 ¾ in. Fine Arts Collection, The Jan Shrem and Maria Manetti Shrem Museum of Art, University of California, Davis. Gift of Thomasin Grim and Michael S. Bell, in Memory of Joseph A. Baird, Jr. Photo/Douglas Sandberg  

“As the Manetti Shrem Museum approaches our first anniversary, we’re delighted to mount a fall season that exemplifies the ethos of openness, accessibility, and experimentation for which UC Davis’ arts programs have long been known,” said Founding Director Rachel Teagle. “We’re excited for students, faculty, and the broader community to join us in renewing this creative spirit, as we continue to expand our role in Davis and among a growing national audience.”

The museum will host a Campus Community Opening Celebration on Thursday, Sept. 28, at 5 p.m.

Additional information

Dimensions of Black: Works for the Collection of the Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego is organized by the Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego with underwriting support from Gail and George Knox, and Bernard Lumpkin and Carmine Boccuzzi.

Visitor information

Jan Shrem and Maria Manetti Shrem Museum of Art, 254 Old Davis Road

  • Tuesday, Wednesday, and Friday: Noon–6 p.m.
  • Thursday: Noon–9 p.m.
  • Saturday and Sunday: 11 a.m.–5 p.m.
  • Monday: Closed.
  • Admission is free to all.

Media Resources

Karen Nikos-Rose, UC Davis News and Media Relations, 530-219-5472,

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