The Walker chief unveils a haunting new show—and the museum’s new attitude
Olga Viso is sitting on a couch in her office at the Walker Art Center, pointing out the recurring motifs in a book of art by Argentine painter Guillermo Kuitca: maps, beds, floor plans. “Common, almost generic, forms that say a lot about human social relationships,” she notes, “without using the human figure.” What they say, according to Kuitca, is that we’re suffering from a shared loneliness. We’re alone together. ¶ Viso was first drawn to Kuitca’s work in the mid-1990s, when she was curating for the Smithsonian Institution’s Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden in Washington, D.C. Just before she left to become the Walker’s director in 2008, she began assembling the exhaustive retrospective of his work—“Everything: Paintings and Works on Paper, 1980–2008”—that opened at the Walker on June 26. “It’s exciting for me,” Viso says, allowing a shy smile.
Kuitca’s exploration of the public systems, like maps, that shape our private lives is analogous to what the Walker has been trying to accomplish since moving into its new, more inviting quarters five years ago: To become a forum for expanding one’s horizons in the company of others. Viso says the next step is breaking down the traditional curatorial controls of what’s in the galleries. Visitors are now invited to choose, via touch screen, which works on paper—from among hundreds in the collection—they’d like to see on the walls this fall. And soon, about three artists a year will be invited to rearrange the collection on display by swapping out pieces, by moving them into juxtaposition—“whatever,” Viso says. “We’re opening up the curatorial process.”
Flipping through Kuitca’s book, she pauses on an image of giant tears dripping from an apartment floor plan. He’s so good, she says, at identifying our personal yet shared experiences. “That line between public space and private space—social space,” she says. “That’s where the essence of humanity is located.”
5 THINGS YOU DIDN'T KNOW ABOUT OLGA
1. She’s the daughter of Cuban émigrés to America and grew up in a small Florida town.
2. She has written a book on Ana Mendieta, a Cuban-American performance artist.
3. After college, she worked in the corporate world in marketing and graphic design.
4. She lives in the Lowry Hill neighborhood, a short hike from the Walker in Minneapolis.
5. She’s of two minds. “I’m a very social being,” she’s said, “and a very private being.”