James and Audrey Foster Prize Exhibit at ICA Celebrates Local Artists

Now and until the new year, Boston residents and visitors can witness the 2019 James and Audrey Foster Prize exhibition at the Institute of Contemporary Art (ICA) in Boston. The exhibit officially opened on Aug. 21, and runs through Dec. 31. 

First established in 1999, the James and Audrey Foster Prize is central to the ICA and Boston’s efforts to nurture and recognize local artists, showcase exceptional artwork, and support a thriving local arts scene, explained the Institute in an official press release

The biennial James and Audrey Foster Prize aims to encourage artists to remain in the Boston area. The city attracts and educates many students at its numerous art schools, but the high rent, coupled with a lack of living options, eventually drives them away.

This year’s exhibition showcases works from artists Rashin Fahandej, Josephine Halvorson, Lavaughan Jenkins, and Helga Roht Poznanski.

Ruth Erikson, Mannion Family Curator, handpicked each artist to represent the Foster Prize. “Relying upon ongoing recommendations from curators, artists, and other colleagues, she previewed more than 150 artists’ work online, and set up studio visits with 50 of these artists,” Erickson said in the release.

The works of each artist display different mediums and talents. Fahandej produced an interactive project on mass incarceration in communities of color using song and video. Halvorson observes and paints her surroundings with gouache. In order to establish a connection to her environment, Halvorson is also known for “collecting stones, soil, and debris from the sites where she paints, she grinds these materials and mixes them with pigment to create subtly distinct “frames” for her gouache paintings,” according to the release.

Poznanski assembled a compilation of abstract watercolors that exemplified her personal fashion style and history. Lastly, Jenkins employed three-dimensional structures to comment on relationships and power dynamics.

“This intergenerational group of artists works across media including painting, sculpture, film, and video to explore questions of place, portraiture, and belonging,” said Erickson in the official press statement.

Erickson hopes that viewers will realize that there is not a certain path to becoming an artist. 

“You can be 92, you do not even need to know that you want to be an artist,” she said. The beauty of the Foster Prize aids to encourage a celebration of new and aspiring artists.

In a recent conversation, Erickson redirected the definition of art from an individual’s passion to a community’s pleasure. Erickson noticed a cross-pollination among artists who recommended other artists and began to learn about their unofficial colleagues. Something that appears to be an individual experience is, in reality, backed by an entire community.

Erickson emphasized that the exhibition represents a theme of belonging, which manifested itself into a place where artists can continue to grow and thrive. The prize has helped many artists join a community of diverse yet like-minded people.

“There is a lot of heart in this show,” she said.  “I think that comes from the artist, and the heart that they put into their work. I have heard from our gallery guards and other visitors that there is that sense that comes through in the work.”

Jill Medvedow, the Ellen Matilda Poss Director of the ICA, couldn’t agree more. 

“We are eager to share with the public a broad range of talent in this important biennial showcase,” she said.

Image Courtesy of the Institute of Contemporary Art Boston