Utah Biennial: Mondo Utah

Celebrating the diversity of Utah’s cultural landscape.


MAY 10 – DEC 14
Opening Reception MAY 10, 8-10 PM
Artist Lecture

The inaugural Utah Biennial titled Mondo Utah consists of succinct artistic statements, collections, artifacts and positions that celebrate the diversity of Utah’s cultural landscape. Cultural lore, forgotten icons and parallel art worlds are explored in this exhibit.

Utah Biennial: Mondo Utah is an anthropological look at the history past and present of contemporary art, folklore and culture in Utah. The theme of this first edition looks at the myriad ways in which Utah has been used as a site, subject, support, and material. Generating new projects and unearthing archival legacies, the exhibition demonstrates how Utah has produced its own language of contemporary art within our country’s cultural puzzle.

“Mondo Utah” or “the world of Utah”, is taken from the eponymous book by Utahn filmmaker Trent Harris, a publication of contemporary mythology that looks into the fables and idiosyncrasies originating from the Beehive state. The word “Mondo” references a filmmaking genre dating back to the early 60s from Italian filmmaker Gualtiero Jacopetti whose 1962 film “Mondo Cane” pioneered a filmmaking style known for cinema verite and pseudo-documentary that blurred reality and fiction. The film was structurally divided into short, unrelated vignettes or stories that brought one through a panorama of events unfolding before the camera.

Structured like a Russian doll, the Utah Museum of Contemporary Art is taken over by a series of exhibitions within the larger framework of the biennial. The recursive format reveals parallel worlds of art history, recent cultural productions, contemporary practices, outsider trajectories and aesthetic positions. Projects include Andy Warhol’s hoax, Chris Burden’s guerrilla art history, a tower of tumbleweeds, a film bathed in the Dead Sea before being thrown into a Spiral Jetty, a survey of faithful abstraction, the sublime of conceptual landscapes, a contemporary guide to a lost Utah, a 72-hour survival blanket, and an attack of a giant brine shrimp on downtown Salt Lake City. Institutional collaborations and collections come from the Church History Museum, the Central Utah Art Center, Summum, Wolf Productions, and the Salt Lake Art Center Collection.

Gianni Pettena, Tumbleweeds Catcher, 1972/2013
Wood, iron, tumbleweeds, 8′ x 8′ x 29.5′
Image courtesy of the artist


Jon McNaughton, Obamanation, 2012
Acrylics on board, 40″ x 60”
Image courtesy of McNaughton Fine Art, LLC


“Utah Biennial: Mondo Utah” and related programming is made possible in part through the generous support of Zoo, Arts and Parks, The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts and the UMOCA Ambassador’s Circle.