New exhibitions at the Institute of the Arts and Sciences bring innovative, socially engaged art to the Central Coast

Installation view of the exhibition “Projects: Carolina Caycedo and David de Rozas,” June 18, 2022 -January 2, 2023. The Museum of Modern Art, New York. Digital Image © 2022 The Museum of Modern Art, New York. Photo Emile Askey

California Central Coast’s newest art space, UC Santa Cruz’s Institute of the Arts and Sciences (IAS), is bringing vital energy to the art and culture of the region with the opening of two new exhibitions this spring.

Carolina Caycedo and David De Rozas: The Blessings of the Mystery is a multidisciplinary exhibition drawn from the artists’ research into the carceral, cultural, scientific, industrial, and economic forces that shape landscapes from West Texas to the Central Coast of California. The exhibition is curated by Professor Gina Dent, Dr. Rachel Nelson, and Luke A. Fidler.

At the core of the exhibition is The Teachings of the Hands, a single-channel film that depicts complex histories of colonization, migration, and ecological precarity in “Somi Se’k,” the “Land of the Sun” (also known as Texas). Told from the perspective of Juan Mancias, Chairman of the Carrizo Comecrudo Tribe, the film weaves scenes from the present day together with the distant past in order to explore issues of environmental justice and Indigenous rights and cosmologies. Creatively mapping the impacts of industry, infrastructure, and private property in Texas, the larger exhibition expands upon the themes within the film, and includes drawings, collages, original 1930s watercolors by artists and amateur archaeologists Forrest and Lula Kirkland, as well as an immersive installation of surveying tools. A new sculptural installation maps the histories of the Monterey Bay region by tracking the ways in which land has been divided according to agricultural, urban and carceral systems.

Sadie Barnette: Family Business, a multi-sited exhibition organized with the San José Museum of Art (SJMA), explores the artist’s family history to reveal the personal—and shared—experience of Black repression and resistance in the United States. It is curated by Professor Gina Dent, Dr. Rachel Nelson, and Lauren Schell Dickens, SJMA chief curator.

At the Institute of the Arts and Sciences, the exhibition centers on Barnette’s FBI Drawings, a series of works drawn from the 500-page FBI surveillance file amassed on the artist’s father, Rodney Barnette, founder of the Compton, California chapter of the Black Panther Party. Barnette creates monumental and painstaking graphite drawings of these clinical documents, covering them with roses and Hello Kitty profiles, effectively smothering records of state-sanctioned terror with Black power and joy. A new wallpaper installation expands on these themes.

“From Caycedo and de Rozas powerful work, which extends our perception of incarceration to consider how landscapes and bodies of water have also been caught into systems of capture, to Sadie Barnette’s work about her family history as it relates to collective stories of struggle and liberation, these are powerful artworks,” explains Professor Gina Dent, co-director of Visualizing Abolition. “We hope they challenge people to think about the consequences of how we have normalized carcerality––and to begin to think of other ways we could organize society.”

At SJMA, Barnette has created an intimate installation around a newly commissioned video. Amid a fantasy domestic setting, complete with a sofa covered in glitter vinyl, walls papered with repeating patterns, and glowing pink lights, the newly commissioned video draws on her existing strategies of archival manipulation by combining manipulated family footage with a propulsive drum score. The installation materializes and proposes an alternate history of Black America outside of state control, a history made from flourishing relationships, love, family, celebration, and hope; the very things omitted from official documents of surveillance and repression.

Carolina Caycedo and David de Rozas: The Blessings of the Mystery and Sadie Barnette: Family Business are part of the major public scholarship program, Visualizing Abolition, an ongoing initiative exploring art, prisons, and justice. Visualizing Abolition highlights the creative work underway by artists, activists, and scholars to imagine alternatives to current injustices. Visualizing Abolition is organized by UCSC Professor Gina Dent and Dr. Rachel Nelson, director of IAS, in partnership with Lauren Schell Dickens, SJMA chief curator.

The new commissions and exhibitions enliven the conversations central to Visualizing Abolition about prisons, their histories, and their impacts. Both exhibitions will open at IAS on April 28, 2023, and following an opening reception on May 5, 2023 they will remain on view until September 3, 2023. The SJMA exhibition is on view from March 10, 2023 through October 15, 2023.


The Institute of the Arts and Sciences Galleries are located at 100 Panetta Avenue, on the westside of Santa Cruz and are open Tuesday-Sunday, 12pm-5pm. Admission is free to the public. More information at