In the Moment: Timely Work Lands KCAD Community Members on ArtPrize Nine Jurors’ Shortlist
As ArtPrize jurors gathered last night to reveal their top picks in the ninth annual radically open art competition, the theme of the evening was timeliness.
Much of the work named to the Jurors’ Shortlist this year addresses social issues that are undeniably shaping the contemporary human experience. The best of ArtPrize Nine is sparking conversations that, as the jurors pointed out, are more urgent now than ever before, and at the forefront of the dialogue is the extended community of Kendall College of Art and Design of Ferris State University (KCAD).
The Fed Galleries @ KCAD were nominated for the Outstanding Venue Award for the fifth straight year. The work in Society of Spectacle | KCAD + ArtPrize Nine confronts the ways in which we passively identify and commodify our social experiences while accumulating a series of intangible moments, considering the artificial reality we mirror and the authentic experiences we fail to define.
Outstanding Venue juror Larry Ossei-Mensah, an independent curator based in New York and the co-founder of ARTNOIR, praised KCAD Curator of Exhibitions Michele Bosak’s emphasis on new media work, calling it a “really smart risk.” Ossei-Mensah also celebrated the topical nature of the pieces on display, as well as the exhibition’s use of question prompts to inspire deeper viewer engagement.
“For me that said a lot about the care the curator put in; now viewers have to slow down and take it all in, and it really invites them to reflect and get into the mood when they see each piece,” he said. “Hopefully that sparks dialogues between viewers that continue after they leave the space, because these are important conversations that need to be happening right now in our country.”
“Searching,” a Time-Based entry, presents the viewer with two video presentations. LeSeur, a Black artist, performs in the first series, meant to recall the minute details of recent racially unjust murder cases. The second series focuses on Black women. The subjects of the videos stay silent and maintain eye contact with the camera, inducing feelings of discomfort meant to stir viewers and to challenge their assumptions and biases.
"Searching" by Le'Andra LeSeur
“This is a really powerful piece. On one screen, you’ve got strong women looking right at the viewer, but also being vulnerable, and that’s juxtaposed with the other screen where you’ve got images talking about police brutality. These images are initially jarring, but you realize over time how numbing it becomes,” said Time-Based juror Scott Stulen, director and president of the Philbrook Museum of Art in Tulsa, Okla. “It puts it back on us as a society to look closer.”
"Searching" by Le'Andra LeSeur
Miller’s “Two-way Protocols,” named to the Installation shortlist, invites viewers inside cubes constructed of two-way mirrors, providing an immersive experience that prompts them to question the balance between public and private space in the 21st century.
View from outside Zane Miller's "Two-way Protocols"
“This piece is extremely simple, yet not simplistic; it’s actually very elegant. It has this translucency that’s inviting but also slightly repelling, and when I noticed I could go inside the piece, suddenly it bloomed into this space where I could see myself and other people could see me too,” said Installation juror Anila Quayyum Agha, an associate professor of drawing at Herron School of Art in Indianapolis who won both the Public Vote and half of the Juried Grand Prize in ArtPrize 2014. “It talks about our phones and the way we interact, and how we are narcissistic in a way. It was very sensitive to the way we are now.”
View from inside Zane Miller's "Two-way Protocols"
KCAD’s Urban Institute for Contemporary Arts (UICA) was also nominated for the Outstanding Venue Award. The work in ArtPrize Nine: Cultivate uses food as a lens to examine cultural history, social equity, and the effects of globalization on communities.
Graphic for UICA's ArtPrize Nine exhibition, Cultivate (image courtesy of UICA)
“I haven’t seen many exhibitions looking at our world through the lens of food; this is very topical and important work,” said juror Ossei-Mensah. “I was especially impressed with the way the exhibition went outside and into the community. It’s good to invite people in to see the sights, but it’s also important that art comes to the community.”
The jurors were especially taken with Seitu Jones’ “The Heartside Community Meal,” which was named to the Time-Based shortlist. On September 23, Jones welcomed over 250 people to a 300’ long table in Heartside Park for a healthy, locally-grown meal and conversation surrounding healthy food access in Grand Rapids.
"The Heartside Community Meal" by Seitu Jones (image courtesy of ArtPrize)
“You’re sitting down and talking to people you wouldn’t normally talk to; it was a conversation, this empathetic, open moment,” said juror Stulen, who was invited to participate in the piece. “We need to have these kinds of conversations instead of yelling at each other on social media. We need to talk to our neighbors and the people in our community.”
“Cancelled Edition” by Pippin Frisbie Calder, also on display at UICA, was named to the Installation shortlist. The piece is a site-specific collection of approximately 780 hand-carved, woodcut prints of dead Ivory Billed Woodpeckers, a now extinct bird that was once largest species of woodpecker in North America. Viewers are encouraged to participate in the installation by removing a bird from the wall to take home with them.
"Cancelled Ediiton" by Pippin Frisbie Calder
“When I looked at this piece, I felt like this is exactly what human presence has done to our environment,” said juror Quayyum Agha. “As sole custodians of earth, we need to be better at dealing with this kind of thing.”
KCAD alumni Sofía Ramírez Hernández (’14, BFA Printmaking) earned a spot on the 2D shortlist with her piece “Sofía Draws Every Day: Years 2, 3, and 4.” The entry is composed of three years-worth of Ramírez Hernández’ “non-negotiable” daily drawings, ranging from self-portraits and humorous quotes to fantastical cartoons and personal confessions.
"Sofía Draws Every Day: Years 2,3, and 4" by Sofía Ramírez Hernández“ (image courtesy of ArtPrize)
"This is such an intricate, well-drawn piece; it felt like I was looking at a diary,” said 2D juror Miranda Lash, curator of contemporary art at the Speed Art Museum in Louisville. “Sofía has taken on this task with discipline, and I felt like I got to know her as a person, and what it’s like to be an artist. I love that she lets you into her world.”
Cultura Collective at Rumsey Street, a venue featuring the work of several KCAD alumni and current students, was nominated for the Outstanding Venue Award as well. The community-driven venue is focused on honoring and documenting narratives that are crucial to the fabric of the Grandville Avenue neighborhood in Grand Rapids.
Ramírez Hernández’ work is part of the venue, as is that of alumni Enrique Andrade (’17, BFA Industrial Design), Fernando Ramirez (’15, BFA Industrial Design), and Colby Roanhorse (’17, BFA Fashion Studies); as well as current students Gustavo Enrique Bastidas Medina (Graphic Design) and Joshua Solas (Illustration).
KCAD alumnus Fernando Ramirez with his ArtPrize Nine entry
“This was my first time in Grand Rapids, and it’s been amazing to discover different communities,” said juror Ossei-Mensah. “I loved that this venue wasn’t downtown; you go out into the community and really get a chance to talk to other people and see what they’re going through on the day-to-day.”
This year, all of the pieces named to the Jurors’ Shortlist are eligible to win juried category awards as well as both the $200,000 Juried Grand Prize and the $200,000 Public Vote Grand Prize. Top entries in terms of public voting will be revealed on October 1.