Project Description

Acres of Walls

Artists: Johanna Barron
September 26th, 2015 – October 18th, 2015

In the ongoing project Acres of Walls, artist Johanna Barron presents the first images from her efforts to access and re-create a collection of abstract paintings that hang in the original CIA headquarters building, loaned to the agency by art collector Vincent Melzac. Barron has used the Freedom of Information Act to access documents related to the collection, including research, denials, appeals, redacted pages, as well as her correspondences with the CIA, historians, curators, museums, politicians and scientists, among others.

Following an interest in the CIA’s covert operations during the Cold War, which supported and used art as a “cultural weapon” against the Soviet Union and communism, Barron considers how the Melzac collection is related to the work the CIA was secretly promoting. Barron’s re-creation includes the only images released by the CIA over the years, rendered in three-quarter scale, among them some works that were traded out to other collections. The loan to the CIA began in 1968 and continues to be in flux today with the Melzac estate.

Barron’s work is part of a larger project about art in government agencies and tests the FOIA against government transparency. It complicates a conversation about CIA history and its effect on the trajectory of the art world, as well as explores a gray area of art as information, creating a visual reference to the FIOA process.


Barron received her MFA from UC Davis, has exhibited nationally and internationally, including, PDX Contemporary, The Headlands Center for the Arts, California College of the Arts, The Hudson Valley Center for Contemporary Art, and Center Pompidou, among others. She is a fifth generation Oregonian, and lives and works in Portland, Oregon.

The project is supported by grants from the Regional Arts and Culture Council, The Oregon Arts Commission, the Ford Family Foundation and a donation from Gamblin Paint.


Disjecta, Flex Space


Free public reception: Saturday, September 26, 6 to 8pm

Exhibition: Fri / Sat / Sun
Noon to 5pm or by appointment