The San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (SFMOMA) is proud to present the 2002 SECA Art Award and exhibition. On view from March 20 through August 10, 2003, the exhibition features work by Bay Area artists John Bankston, Andrea Higgins, Chris Johanson and Will Rogan. Administered by In/Site, one of the Museum’s seven auxiliaries, the SECA Art Award honors local artists of exceptional promise with this biennial award, which includes an exhibition at SFMOMA, an accompanying catalogue and a modest cash prize.
The SECA Art Award distinguishes artists working independently at a high level of artistic maturity whose work has not received substantial recognition. This year, more than 200 artists entered the selection process upon recommendations from Bay Area art professionals, including museum curators and directors, gallery owners, In/Site members, art school instructors and other artists. Janet Bishop, SFMOMA curator of painting and sculpture, and Clara Kim, SFMOMA curatorial associate, in dialogue with In/Site members, selected the winners. Of this year’s award process, Bishop states, “It was an extraordinary year. There is tremendous vitality among artists working in the Bay Area right now, which made the final decisions especially challenging.”
Since 1967, 49 Bay Area artists have been honored through the SECA Art Award program. Recent recipients include Rachael Neubauer and Kathryn Van Dyke (2000); Chris Finley, Gay Outlaw, Laurie Reid and Rigo 98 (1998); and D-L Alvarez, Anne Appleby and Barry McGee (1996). Many of these artists have since received critical acclaim both nationally and internationally.
The paintings and drawings of San Francisco–based artist John Bankston address issues of self-definition, power, domination and redemption through childhood imagery typically found in fairy tales and coloring books. Bankston’s current work explores notions of masculinity and is inspired by the idea of secret societies, Igbo masquerade, African American slave narratives and fairy tales. His work involves simultaneously creating paintings and drawings that are intentionally under-developed—color and lines don’t quite meet, forms remain indistinct, colors bleed into each other and ooze over the edges of the canvas. Bankston states, “I apply oil paint in a variety of ways—thick, thin, brushed and poured—to express the paint’s physicality. I use line to impose the boundaries of the forms in the paintings…Ultimately, any ‘narrative’ in my work is more than simply the ‘story’ of the action in an individual image. It is also the story of my engagement—and the viewer’s engagement—in the visual process.” Bankston received an MFA in painting from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago in 1990; he attended the Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture in 1989.
For the SFMOMA presentation, Bankston will exhibit new paintings and drawings from a continuing body of work called The Capture and Escape of Mr. M, a contemporary fable about the protagonist’s odyssey-like adventures into imaginary lands where gender and sexuality are ambiguous.
Painter Andrea Higgins’s work represents textile patterns that become dynamic abstract compositions while referencing specific, culturally charged fabric sources. Highly exacting in their composition and technique, her paintings are created by applying paint repetitively, stroke by stroke. Higgins describes, “Just as fabric is the end result of weaving together a multitude of single threads, my paintings are an accumulation of humble marks, none of which can stand alone.” Her most recent works are based on the wardrobes of the wives of American presidents—Jackie Kennedy, Hillary Clinton, Nancy Regan, Betty Ford and Laura Bush, among others—calling attention to relationships between abstraction and representation, women, fashion and power. The SFMOMA exhibition will include a selection of works from this First Ladies series.
Higgins received a BA from Dartmouth College in 1992 and an MFA from the San Francisco Art Institute in 1995.
Based in San Francisco, artist Chris Johanson works in the street/skate/surf vein (recently dubbed “urban rustic” or “Mission School”) that has come to be one of the most identifiable aspects of contemporary Bay Area art. Grounded in a rough-hewn aesthetic that finds its geographic center in San Francisco’s Mission district, Johanson brings a gritty directness, comic-book aesthetic and well-developed sense of humor to his work. He typically makes site-specific installations, which include sculpture, paintings, drawings and text that collectively address any number of salient issues, from personal relationships, art making and social conformity to the environment and world events. For the SECA Art Award exhibition, Johanson will create a new installation.
Johanson is a native of San Jose, California. His work was included in the 2002 Whitney Biennial.
Will Rogan’s conceptually based work uses the physical world around us as sculptural medium. His “sculptures” often take the form of texts, photographs or three-dimensional objects. In a recent series of photographs called Public Sculpture, Rogan captures found situations in the urban landscape (scaffolding crumbling down the side of a building or a bag of garbage caught in barbed wire) in a banal and poetic manner while referencing notions of grand public monuments or ambitious, often abstract, public sculptures. Consistent in Rogan’s diverse body of work is his concern with the physicality of the world around us and its potential for beauty, manipulation and function in art making. He states, “It is important to me that my work always leads people back to their immediate surroundings. Like a bridge or a raft, the things I make are there for the viewer to move from the world back into the world…I like how a photograph can simultaneously be an object in the space where it is being viewed, an object in the world where it was taken and an object in the mind of the viewer. I find pleasure in the distances between these things.”
For SFMOMA’s exhibition, Rogan will exhibit a new body of work including a suite of photographs that takes as its point of departure the formal and conceptual possibilities of circular patterns and objects. Rogan received his BFA from the San Francisco Art Institute in 1999 and attended the Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture in 1998.
The SECA Art Award is funded by In/Site, an auxiliary of SFMOMA. The cash prize is made possible by the Robert Huston Memorial Fund.