The Hammer introduces Houseguest, an occasional series in which we invite an artist to study the collections first-hand and curate an exhibition from our holdings. For the first of this series, Los Angeles-based artist Jennifer Bornstein visited the Grunwald Center for the Graphic Arts over a period of six months. She browsed through a historical landscape of works on paper, and selected prints, drawings, and photographs by artists as diverse as Rembrandt van Rijn and Man Ray.

Curator Biography

Jennifer Bornstein was born in Seattle and lives in Los Angeles. She received her BA from UC Berkeley in 1992, and her MFA from UCLA in 1996. Bornstein has had solo exhibitions at the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles; Greengrassi, London; Gavin Brown’s Enterprise, New York; Blum and Poe, Los Angeles; and Studio Guenzani, Milan. Group exhibitions of her work include the 2nd Moscow Biennale; the Biennale d’art contemporain in Le Havre, France; and exhibitions at the ICA, London and the CCA Wattis Institute, San Francisco.


By Jennifer Bornstein

We are all collectors of things, whether we know it or not; it’s the definition of thing that varies. Some of the things that I collect are books, words, handwritten letters, and disposable works on paper (what others might call trash). I’m possessive only about the books. With few exceptions, I don’t like it when people browse through my books. For some reason, nearly everyone who visits my apartment seems to browse through my books, and some even ask to borrow them. I do lend books because I believe that they should be used, but it’s usually with regret. There are several reasons why I want my books to be left alone, but the main one is that they always become disorganized when people pull them out. I know that the shelves must appear haphazard, but there’s actually a logic in place. Some people organize their books according to author or subject; I organize mine according to sunlight. That is to say, the books are kept on a shelf that runs along a wall in my apartment. The right side of the shelf faces a window and receives some sunlight; this is where I keep books that are expendable, like novels and biographies. The left side of the shelf, especially the area near the floor, stays dark. This is where I keep the books that are most treasured to me.

As a collector I also take pleasure in seeing what others collect and how their collections are organized. It particularly interests me to see how ephemera like notes, proofs, or casual sketches can transition from throwaway status to valued objects, with sentimental or monetary value imparted to them. I’m as interested in collections themselves as in why things have been collected, how they are grouped together, and the narratives that result. The narratives woven around objects often have nothing to do with the objects themselves. They are narratives about the possessor, are often intimate, and are attached to experiences that are not tactile. Their generation reveals the ability of objects to function as souvenirs of authentic experience.


 A Castle in Disneyland, California 

 Portrait of Marcus Rothkowitz  Composition Untitled (Self-Portrait) 

 Location Piece #2, New York City–Seattle, WA, July 1969 

Dear Jennifer Bornstein,

This is written confirmation that I must rescind my agreement, (by telephone), to give a talk at UCLA on Oct. 16. I left a message on your answering machine but did not want to back out that way, therefore this note.

When I was Dean at CalArts I worked hard to provide more money for the honoraria offered to visiting artists (and to insure that all offers were the same amount). I certainly do not believe that you should take the heat on this matter, but in today’s market $150 is not adequate for preparation of material, and actual presentation time. (I was asked to make a second lecture after speaking with you for substantially more and refused because I did not feel that I had the time.) As I said, I should have confirmed the honorarium before finishing our telephone conversation but because UCLA had paid my airfare and a $400 or $500 honorarium 20 years ago I assumed a reasonable fee for my services based on that--!

Douglas Huebler

Jennifer Bornstein is a guest curator.