Two former Washington museum directors this week forged new links between this city and the Sunbelt.
One of them, Adolfo Victoriano (Al) Nodal, has taken a job in California. The other, Walter Hopps, now employed in Texas, will be the curator of a summer exhibition of Surrealist objects at the National Gallery of Art.
After five years at the Washington Project for the Arts, the last four as director, Nodal has accepted a position as head of the Otis/Parsons Exhibition Center in Los Angeles, starting Sept. 1.
He joins those Washington art professionals--among them Hopps, Peter Marzio, Jan Muhlert and Earl A. (Rusty) Powell III--who in recent years have moved to the Southwest.
The Otis/Parsons Exhibition Center, which occupies its own 7,000-square-foot building, on Wilshire Boulevard, is the gallery of the Otis Art Institute of Parsons School of Design, a private New York art college with branches in Los Angeles, Paris and Tokyo. The California college has 560 full-time and 1,200 part-time students.
Nodal, 33, who recently turned down two Washington art jobs, says he is leaving town "first of all for love." His wife, Joy Silverman, runs Los Angeles Contemporary Exhibitions, a WPA-like alternative space.
Nodal, however, says he is not cutting his Washington ties. He will remain on the WPA board and will continue to serve on panels for the National Endowment for the Arts.
"I've spent five years researching the Washington art community and I'm going to capitalize on what I know," he said yesterday. "One of my first exhibits in L.A. is going to be a big, hot show of work by Washington artists."
Nodal contends that the recent exodus of art professionals has advantages for Washington. Once ties have been established between museums in this city and those in the Sunbelt, he insists, assets move both ways.
J. Carter Brown, director of the National Gallery of Art, has asked Walter Hopps, a former director of the Corcoran Gallery of Art who now heads the new Menil Collection in Houston, to help organize a National Gallery exhibit to open here in June. Tentatively titled "Five Surrealists from the Menil Collection," the show will include objects by Rene' Magritte, Giorgio de Chirico, Max Ernst, Yves Tanguy and Victor Brauner.
The Menil Collection which will be shown next year at the Centre Pompidou in Paris, and which eventually will be housed in a new $20 million Houston museum now being designed, is particularly rich in Surrealist art, a school in which the National Gallery's permanent collection is still weak.
"We had an opening," said Brown. "I called Walter Hopps and Dominique de Menil in Paris and was able to arrange the exhibit on the phone. Our 20th-century curator, E.A. Carmean, already had planned a summer exhibit of Jean Arp's Dada reliefs. E.A. came here from Houston, where he saw the riches of the Menil Collection. The two shows should fit beautifully. It's a marriage made in heaven."
Neil Hoffman, dean of the Otis Art Institute, said yesterday that "Nodal was chosen over a large number of very fine candidates after a lengthy search. We wanted someone who could serve the community at large, who could generate excitement, who had an entreprenurial bent. Al Nodal filled the bill."