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UC Davis Magazine

Volume 30 · Number 1 · Fall 2012

End Notes

A not-so-still life

A brief history of the art icon known as the Slant Step: It was born at UC Davis nearly 50 years ago, made a splash in a Bay Area show, and, then, after just a few years on campus, the step was off to see the world, or the East Coast, anyway, returning occasionally for exhibitions like Flatlanders on the Slant this summer at the Nelson Gallery.

Now the step is home to stay, a gift to the university’s Fine Arts Collection from art alumni Frank Owen ’66, M.A. ’68, (an abstract painter, pictured) and Art Schade, M.F.A. ’70 (sculptor).

“This is a very important piece of UC Davis’ art history, and we are so grateful to have it,” said Jessie Ann Owens, dean of the Division of Humanities, Arts and Cultural Studies.

In fact, in any discussion of the art department’s claims to fame, the Slant Step ranks right up there with the California funk movement.

The Slant Step’s history as an objet d’art began in 1965 when Professor William T. Wiley and then-graduate student Bruce Nauman, M.A. ’66, came across the seemingly useless object in a Marin County shop. The 50-cent step would become an art icon of the 1960s — a muse for countless other works.

Painter Owen studied art at UC Davis around the same time and would become the Slant Step’s caretaker for 45 years, using the step as his “teaching pal” — in Sacramento, San Francisco, New York, Virginia, North Carolina and, finally, the University of Vermont.

“This was its job,” Owen said, “to pose on a model stand patiently (which it is very good at) and be drawn while also posing its eternal question: What is this thing, what is it for and why do we attend to it?”


Rock the hall

Photo: The late chemist at his desk

Lecture hall Chem 194’s new namesake, Peter Rock, was a chemistry professor and founding dean of the Division of Mathematical and Physical Sciences.

An iconic lecture hall known by thousands of students for nearly five decades as Chem 194 has a new name: Peter A. Rock Hall.

The hall’s namesake was a chemistry faculty member for 42 years and the founding dean of the Division of Mathematical and Physical Sciences, serving from 1995 to 2003. He died in 2006 at age 66.

Winston Ko, who succeeded Rock as dean, said renaming the 415-seat lecture hall was a fitting tribute. “Peter was very passionate about the quality of teaching done at UC Davis,” Ko said. “He made a great contribution to the campus in terms of both teaching and research, and increasing the prominence of mathematical and physical sciences at UC Davis.”

Chem 194, in addition to being a location for class lectures, also has served at various times as a movie theater, concert venue and a stage for the Chemistry Club Magic Show. It was built in 1965.

The name change, proposed by chemistry professor and chair Jacquelyn Gervay-Hague, has already taken effect in the class schedule for the fall quarter, and a new sign is in the works.