Installation view of 'Almost 30' featuring work by Sarah Anne Johnson and Adam Sipe
Installation view of Almost 30 featuring photographs by Sarah Anne
Johnson (left) and paintings by Adam Sipe (right)
Almost 30
January 19 - February 26, 2006

Please find me
I am almost 30
-- Leonard Cohen

Cohen etched this poem on the wall of a restaurant in Cyprus during the late '50s. He wrote it in response to a woman who had rebuffed his advances several years prior by telling him to "come back when you're 30". Cohen was punctuating this awkward late 20s phase--he was stuck between his adolescence and maturity, scrawling his life on a wall.

Installation view of 'Almost 30' featuring work by Jeff DeGolier
Installation view of Almost 30 featuring "Revolving Landscape
with Stationary Sky (In Action)", a 2005 mixed-media sculpture by
Jeff DeGolier
The poem inspired my father, the Arab-American writer Joseph Geha, to title his coming-of-age short story Almost 30 and in turn this story has prompted me to organize an exhibition of young artists also titled Almost 30. So what is it about this age that has people writing poems, short stories, and curating shows? My father wrote the story when he was 26, exactly my age. It details the life of a young man coming to grips with his father's death, growing up, and realizing that turning thirty is the ending of his adolescence but also the beginning of something else, adult life. My dad reminded me of this story when I was talking with him on the phone last year discussing my new job as a curator, living alone, paying back school loans, buying my first car, and the basic responsibilities of being a grown-up. I was spinning my wheels, feeling simultaneously anxious and excited about my future. It was this anxiety that I had in mind when putting together this show of young American artists straddling this age while searching for a career in the heady art world. I had, after all, considered subtitling the show "Or How I Learned to Relax and Love Art" because for this show I wanted to simplify my job and allow myself to closely follow my instincts--showing young emerging artists whose work I wholly believed was important and deserved to be shown in a museum setting.

Installation view of 'Almost 30' featuring work by Adam Side and Stacie Johnson

Installation view from Almost 30 featuring paintings by Adam Sipe
(back wall) and Stacie Johnson (right)

"That is no country for old men . . ." Or so says my 72-year-old friend Mira, quoting Yeats. And perhaps she is right to remind me of this. While it's true that mid-career artists receive major museum exhibitions, it is also true that younger and younger artists are getting wider exposure these days. It's not uncommon to see artists straight out of graduate school holding court at solo shows in New York and L.A. Age has changed in my generation and not just in relation to the art world. People get married later, have babies later, move to the suburbs later and, seemingly, find success earlier. Our parent's model is not our model. My friends and I went to college, tried on different relationships, struggled to find the right jobs, and then returned to school. As if school could prolong the inevitable--a scary stagnant grown-up-world, a time of reconciling who we wanted to be when we grew up with who we actually are.
Installation view of 'Almost 30' featuring sculpture by Renee Lotenero (foreground) and works by Larissa Bates
Installation view of Almost 30 featuring sculpture by Renee
Lotenero (foreground) and works by Larissa Bates
And who are we actually? If we look at the work displayed in the show it would seem that we are beautiful and we are weird. Larissa Bates' carefully detailed creations depict wrestler boys fighting amidst an apocalyptic world. Jeff DeGolier's wonky kinetic sculpture sits next to his sumptuously slick photographs. Sarah Anne Johnson's photographs question fact and fiction: detailing in the real and the imagined, the rite of passage that is a summer spent planting trees in Winnipeg. Stacie Johnson's paintings of strangely decorative outdoor and indoor landscapes are tempered only by the tension between the detailed and the abstract. Renee Lotenero's magnificently cluttered sculptures point to the entropy inherent to the everyday. Adam Sipe uses his awkward paintbrush to paint awkward things creating work that is at once naÔve and sophisticated. In all, these six artists prove that contingency can actually be quite graceful.

Installation view of 'Almost 30' featuring work by Renee Lotenero (foreground) and Stacie Johnson (back wall)
Installation view of Almost 30 featuring sculpture by Renee Lotenero
(foreground) and paintings by Stacie Johnson (back wall)
When I was almost twenty, I interviewed the writer Douglas Coupland for the University of Iowa literary magazine. Coupland is best known for documenting his almost thirty life in the novel Generation X, heralding the slacker cultural phenomenon of the 90s. In our interview, I distinctly remember him telling me how great turning thirty would be: "Oh your twenties are awful." he said. "It's like there's this green goo spread all over you making you feel uncertain and unhappy." It seemed so strange to me at the time but makes more sense now, six years later--after all, at the end of my father's story the once dance-shy protagonist stands up and joins the Arab folk dance with his family, at last able to accept himself and where he came from. Perhaps at thirty we, too, can know ourselves, our place in this unsettled world. Perhaps we can finally grow up.

--- Katie Geha
Curator of Modern and Contemporary Art