‘There is a legacy to this space’: Ceci Moss, new Mandeville Art Gallery director, opens with a faculty show

Ceci Moss is the new director and chief curator of the Mandeville Art Gallery at UC San Diego.
Ceci Moss is the new director and chief curator of the Mandeville Art Gallery at UC San Diego. Her first exhibit, “Are We Not Drawn Onward to New Era,” will open Saturday, March 4.
(Ian Byers-Gamber)

Seeing art as ‘a means of survival as a human being,’ Moss will lead the UC San Diego gallery as it reopens after a three-year renovation.


For Ceci Moss, the new director and chief curator of UC San Diego’s Mandeville Art Gallery, art is like air and water.

“It’s something we need to survive,” she said.

Moss, who also is a professor in the UCSD Department of Visual Arts, is helping to usher in a new era for the Mandeville gallery as it reopens after a three-year renovation.

“What strikes me most about Ceci Moss is her deep respect for art and its potential impact on bettering society,” said School of Arts and Humanities dean Cristina Della Coletta. “I am eager to watch her vision for the UC San Diego Mandeville Art Gallery unfold, and I’m confident our students have much to learn from her, both in the classroom and in the gallery.”

The renovated gallery, designed by San Diego-based Studio E Architects, includes a 2,360-square-foot state-of-the-art gallery; an outdoor plaza; enhanced gathering spaces; a dedicated black-box video room; and a wraparound exterior LED mesh facade for the display of digital artwork.

The space, originally known as the University Art Gallery, is part of the Ernest W. Mandeville Center for the Arts complex, originally designed by architect A. Quincy Jones in 1975.

A rendering shows the newly renovated Mandeville Art Gallery on the UC San Diego campus in La Jolla.
(Studio E Architects)

Moss’ first show will be the inaugural exhibition at the revamped gallery. The show, titled “Are We Not Drawn Onward to New Era,” will include works by the newest members of the Department of Visual Arts. It is the first all-faculty exhibition in eight years.

The photographs, moving images, paintings, sculptures and performances that will be included address both the possibilities and complexities of this new era, Moss said in a statement. The artists include Memo Akten, Danielle Dean, dean erdmann, Malik Gaines, Mariah Garnett, Janelle Iglesias, Lorena Mostajo, Alexandro Segade, Paul Mpagi Sepuya and Pinar Yoldas. The exhibit will run Saturday, March 4, to Sunday, June 18.

The March 4 opening will include open studios for 30 UCSD graduate students.

“I’m excited to be part of a major research institution. University art galleries allow for a lot of experimentation and freedom.”

— Ceci Moss

Moss said many of the faculty members in the show recently joined UCSD and have not shown their works locally. The exhibit provides an opportunity to celebrate their arrival, she said.

“They work here, they do research here, they can do their [art]work here, so the gallery has honored that and serves as a platform for that,” Moss said. “In putting the group together, what struck me is that everyone in the show has a vested interest in the future. There are shared ideas throughout the works. I see optimism and hope across all practices. It was important for me to open the gallery after the pandemic with a hopeful message of what’s to come.”

Moss has an interest in art that goes back to her teens, and she’s worked for arts organizations across the country.

“A lot of my background has been in innovative contemporary art spaces,” she said. “I’m very interested in those kinds of organizations, but I also have a strong background in performance art, sound art technology and new media. I’m really interested in how artists use new mediums and new forms for their work. That has been a theme for many years.”

Before UC San Diego, Moss was assistant curator of visual arts at the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts in San Francisco, senior editor for New York-based art and technology nonprofit Rhizome, and special-projects coordinator at the New Museum of Contemporary Art in New York City.

Now, Moss said, “I’m excited to be part of a major research institution. University art galleries allow for a lot of experimentation and freedom. And art is where people go when they want connection, create a story or understand their lives, and we really saw that during the pandemic. It’s a means of survival as a human being and helps our ability to move through the world.”

Moss said she sees Mandeville as “a teaching gallery for the 21st century. I want the shows and many forms of educational engagement and initiatives to help nurture the next generation of art leaders. I want them to be accessible, equitable and socially engaging.”

As a first step to make the gallery more accessible, Moss changed the hours to keep the gallery open later and on weekends for those coming from off campus. She also added exhibit information cards in multiple languages.

The gallery’s renovation optimized the space for digital art, so Moss said elements of that will have an increased presence there. She said she looks to use her ties to the Los Angeles art scene to bring in new artists.

“I’m thinking about where [the gallery is] going and where it hasn’t been and how it can support new forms and practices,” Moss said. “My tenure here would be successful if the students engaged in the gallery go on to create art spaces. I’ve been spending a lot of time in the archives of the gallery, and the incredible thing to think about is this was one of the first spaces to show feminist art in Southern California [and] certain types of performance art. There is a legacy to this space, and I want to honor that legacy going into the future.”

The Mandeville Art Gallery is on the UC San Diego campus at 9500 Gilman Drive, La Jolla. Learn more at ◆