Thanks to the Contemporary Forum of the Phoenix Art Museum, emerging artists in Arizona get an annual showcase in a well-trafficked spot, the Lyon Gallery near the museum store. This year’s slate of seven artists offers a pleasing mix of video art, portraits, photography, semi-abstract painting, and mixed media. Personal favorite: Larry Madrigal, for his portraits of people close to him. Even though some religiosity is present, the dignity and grace of his subjects makes them quite compelling. The Kendra Sollars & Lauren Strohacker installation is my second favorite, although I wish it had been given a bit more breathing room in this combination of gallery and corridor.
As the museum explains, Contemporary Forum is a support organization that awards up to seven grants to emerging artists working in Arizona. Since 1986, CF has bestowed more than $224,300 to 168 Arizona artists through a juried competition. Once selected, artists prepare for a group show the following year. The exhibition of the 2014 CF winners is now on view until May 31, 2015.
Here’s a glimpse into the winners, provided through the artist statements as displayed next to their works, followed by the titles of the works that are on display. Photos in the slideshow come from the Phoenix Art Museum:
— Kerstin Dale, whose art reflects her concern for the ecological fate of the Grand Canyon and the Colorado River, specifically the water supply of the desert Southwest amid explosive growth. Below Granite, 2015, baltic birch plywood, mahogany, 42″ x 56″ x 4”. Image courtesy of the artist.
— Bill Dambrova, whose wild and idiosyncratic paintings are colorful layers of anatomical imagery, organic forms, symbols and art-historical references. He states that the piece on display pays homage to the time he worked at the museum. The Body Remembers What We Forget, 2014, mixed media on canvas, 84″ x 180″. Image courtesy of the artist.
— Karen Hymer, who is influenced by the harsh desert landscape. “These visual ‘remnants’ — decontextualized close-ups of the human body and remains of plants and animals — reveal the subtle poetry of aging, decay and transformation,” she states. Skin Remnant 1, 2014, photopolymer gravure, 8” x 10″. Copyright Karen Hymer, 2015.
— Hyunji Lee, who brings her personal history to bear as she explores “thoughts and emotions generated between ‘the experiencing self’ and ‘the remembering self.’ “ Untitled, 2015, lightjet print, 18” x 16”. Image courtesy of the artist.
— Larry Madrigal, who mixes a Christian worldview with his roots in street art. “I want my work to evoke a sense of sacredness,” he states. St. Propaganda (Jason Petty) of Los Angeles, 2014, oil on canvas, 36″ X 24″. Image courtesy of the artist.
— Kendra Sollars & Lauren Strohacker, whose video installation creates a world where wildlife and humans interact in an urban space and questions whether cohabitation is possible. “It is an unfolding narrative wavering between displacement, reintroduction and loss.” Animal Land, 2014, projection of turkey vulture and black vulture, video footage collected at Liberty Wildlife, dimensions variable. Photo credit: Kendra Sollars.
— Ben Willis, who challenges viewers to shift perspectives as they view his work, in order to discover the various layers of the paintings as achieved through thin, transparent filters. Above the Rim, 2015, oil on canvas, 32″ x 42″. Image courtesy of the artist.
A further note about Contemporary Forum, just as important: The group also sponsors the Arlene and Morton Scult Contemporary Forum Artist Award, which annually bestows a solo show to a mid-career Arizona artist. The 2014 winner is Rachel Bess of Phoenix, and her show is just a few steps away from the Lyon Gallery. It too is on view through the month. Her show is phenomenal, in a word; see my review on Visual Art Source.