New Directions 2019
Juror: Akili Tommasino, Associate Curator, Modern & Contemporary Art, Museum of Fine Arts Boston
Juror’s Statement at bottom
JURORS FIRST PRIZE
JURORS SECOND PRIZE
The 40 works in New Directions 2019 were selected from a national open call that netted over 700 submissions. They exhibit a variety of artistic techniques, ambitions and visions united in their contemporaneity. Featuring painting, photography, sculpture, textile, video, and works in hybrid mediums by 34 artists working across the United States, this broadly conceived exhibition was not shaped by a specific prompt. However, it is organized according to common themes that emerged among the submissions. Woven together, they demonstrate a spectrum of current approaches.
New Directions 2019 begins with a group of landscapes, a genre perhaps now more singularly charged than in previous eras as a mnemonic for the ever-present and increasing threat of ecological disaster. Photographs of landscapes constructed with refuse hint at our destruction of nature through pollution, and ruled or gridded scenes allude to the violence of the fictional boundaries we place on natural environments. A pixelated seascape makes visible the artificial gaze of the camera and signals the transition to a group of works that contain a range of responses to the expanded purview and capabilities of surveillance and information technology (whether consensual—participatory, even—or covert). Through metonymy and metaphor, a group of highly topical works in diverse mediums addresses political disunity and social conflict.
Surreal landscapes and expressionistic abstractions embody a turn from social issues at the macro level to issues of individual subjectivity. They are followed by a suite of figurative paintings and photo-based images whose protagonists’ languid bodies, and alternately concealed or expressive faces recount multiple narratives of inner retreat. We move from despair to psychedelia with a pair of paintings that depict the drugs (whether glorified or demonized) that assuage or fuel our anxiety, and that inevitably precipitate our demise when abused. After so much dissolution, death, and decay, lies the possibility of paradise; this section concludes with ethereal depictions of the heavens.
The exhibition culminates with a selection of boldly elegant geometric abstractions incorporating a dazzling array of materials: burnt and painted wood, pastel, wax, and 3D printed plastic.
I wish to convey my gratitude and congratulations to the exhibitors and award winners. Their technically masterful and compositionally imaginative paintings set the tone for New Directions 2019.