Wednesday, February 7, 2007

Who should win the Foster Prize?

Geoff Edgers of the Globe's Exhibitionist blog reports that none of the artists in the running for the ICA's $25,000 Foster Prize are very happy about the ongoing visitor poll as to who should win. According to Edgers:

". . . since we're keeping score, the most recent public vote shows Sheila Gallagher(above) in the lead (40.47 percent of the vote), followed by Rachel Perry Welty (below) (30.16), Kelly Sherman (14.98) and (Jane D.) Marsching (14.4)."

Of course no, the Foster Prize isn't a popularity contest - still, it's striking how good the public's taste has turned out to be, isn't it? Kelly Sherman's floorplans, poignantly witty as they are, hardly exist beyond their conceptualization (I know, to many lost souls that's enough), while Jane D. Marsching's digital imagery (below) feels almost completely appropriated from other artists.

For the record, I think I lean toward Rachel Perry Welty (perhaps because I wrote one of her first local raves), although Gallagher is certainly a worthy winner. To me, however, Gallagher's installation, "The Cloud of Unknowing," was in something of a fog as to how it should coalesce around any correspondence between form and content. Its centerpiece,"Cumulonimbus," (detail above) a "live" painting made of flowers, was lovely but vague in its Hare-Krishna-esque ramifications; far stronger were her paintings in smoke (yes, smoke), such as "Unknown Title, After Church 2" (left) - if Gallagher had centered her exhibit on these elegies to the romantic American landscape, I'd have handed her the prize, hands down. As it is, after suffering through her video installation, I'm not so sure she understands her own strengths.

By way of contrast, Rachel Perry Welty is almost too focused on herself. Welty builds up sculptures and "paintings" from the obsessive manipulation of consumer detritus - she weaves zillions of twist-ties into shimmering columns and vast quilts (below left), or teases shop receipts into subtle, haunting glyphs. Unlike Gallagher, she has a clear handle on how form and process can sensually align with content; her work is gorgeous (she's truly a painter and a sculptress, not just some web-enabled conceptualizer). The trouble is that, not too surprisingly given its provenance in obsession, her work is also getting a little - well - repetitive.

So the choice seems to be between a far-ranging talent without much in the way of quality control, and a perfectionist who may just be stuck in a rut. The committee is expected to announce its decision within a few days.


  1. "sculptrESS"?!? what is this, the 1950's??
    you might want to hire carolee shneeman as a private tutor to bring you up to speed,
    no offense

  2. She's a girl, get over it. I suppose you prefer "sculptron."