By Aidin Vaziri | May 3, 2022
The winners are multidisciplinary artist Binta Ayofemi, visual artists Maria Guzmán Capron and Marcel Pardo Ariza, ceramics-based artist Cathy Lu, and painter Gregory Rick.
An exhibition of their work is scheduled at the museum from Dec. 17 to May 29, 2023. It will be organized by Andrea Nitsche-Krupp, SFMOMA’s assistant curator of media arts, and Jovanna Venegas, assistant curator of contemporary art.
Artist Maria Guzmán Capron creates sculptural works from textiles. Photo: Seth Capron.
“We did not want to limit ourselves or the breadth of talent in the Bay Area to a single theme but stay open to what the work we are seeing is telling us of this moment in art making,” Nitsche-Krupp told The Chronicle. “There’s something really special happening. These are artists with wildly different practices and perspectives, creating work that is bold and intimate and opens us up to experiences about our shared existence beyond art.”
The Society for the Encouragement of Contemporary Art Award was created by the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art in 1967 and is reserved for artists who have “not, at the time of nomination, been accorded substantial recognition from a major institution,” according to SFMOMA. Every two years since then, the institution has recognized five emerging Bay Area artists and given them a group show at the museum.
It is widely known as the Bay Area’s highest-profile program for giving recognition to up-and-coming contemporary artists. While many of those selected for the awards have had their work featured in local galleries, Venegas said this provides them with an opportunity to reach a broader audience.
“Some artists we had been following for a few years and seeing their practices develop, and some were completely new to us,” Venegas said. “It seemed they were confident in their mediums enough so that it would allow them to take a big jump with a new project that has a uniquely quick time frame. Museums usually take years to plan an exhibition, but the artists will only have seven to eight months to create new works.”
Marcel Pardo Ariza’s “Kin Skin” installation at San José Institute of Contemporary Art. Photo: David Pace / San José ICA.
Ayofemi, who is based in Oakland, activates common urban spaces such as a neglected meadow or abandoned wood mill as “a safe haven for Black people to find joy,” according to her biography. Capron creates sculpture-like pieces out of hand-sewn textiles and fabrics. Ariza, who lives in Oakland, explores queerness through constructed photographs and site-specific installations. Rick, also based in Oakland, inspired by graffiti and muralism, creates imagery “that depict scenes of conflict and struggle,” according to the museum.
Lu, who hails from Richmond, manipulates traditional Chinese art imagery and cultural references in her ceramic art to challenge “assumptions about Asian American identity and claims of authenticity.”
“Seeing the group of SECA finalists really highlighted to me what an amazing, thriving and vibrant art community I am lucky to be a part of,” Capron told The Chronicle. “Being selected as an award winner is an incredible honor, and I am excited to get in the studio and make work that is full of this energy.”
SECA RECIPIENT CATHY LU WORKS WITH CHINESE ART-IMAGERY TO CHALLENGE STEREOTYPICAL ASSUMPTIONS.
This year’s winners were selected following a series of studio visits by curators. Each will produce new works for the upcoming SFMOMA exhibition.
“We will work very closely with each artist to help realize their vision in a way that works in the museum’s space and in an accessible way for our visitors,” Nitsche-Krupp said. “This is the crux of our work, right? That we above all uphold the integrity of an artist’s work and help that work translate into a museum environment.”