The 2009 California Open Juried Exhibition, runs through September 4th at TAG (The Artists’ Gallery) in Santa Monica, California. The competition recognizes excellence in a diverse range of media and offers selected artists a group show at TAG Gallery, cash awards totaling $1000, plus catalog and online exposure.
I attended the reception and awards presentation last night. Artists and art lovers filled all three rooms of the Gallery and spilled out onto the sidewalk. What struck me was the sheer number of paintings, photographs, and mixed media on display.
I caught up with juror Michael Zakian outside where it was a little cooler. Mr. Zakian is director of the stunning Frederick R. Weisman Museum of Art at Pepperdine University in Malibu, California. I asked him about the criteria he used to select 50-60 pieces for the exhibit from about 1400 submissions.
“Some jurors believe in working from their own esthetic when jurying a show. I like to judge each piece on its own merits. I look at each work and ask myself ,“What was the artist trying to do? How well did he or she do it? How does it stand up–is it a good example of work in that particular category?”
I asked Michael about his background in art and what influenced his choice of career.
“As a child, I had a natural talent for painting–one of the paintings I did in kindergarten was displayed in our library. But it ended badly.” Michael, originally from Queens, explained. ” When I was a little older, I was influenced by Andrew Wyeth and Norman Rockwell, two of the most admired painters of the time. l ended up taking a Saturday morning art class at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City. I wanted to paint, but instead, they had us make these magazine mosaics.”
Zakian subsequently abandoned painting, and decided to study medicine. As a sophomore, he took a class in 19th Century Art, taught by Head Curator of the Museum of Modern Art, Kirk Varnedoe. “I was inspired, and immediately switched from Pre-Med to Art History.”
As Director of the Weisman Museum at Pepperdine University, Michael has curated many shows, but is particularly proud of having curated an exhibit featuring Seattle glass artist, Dale Chihuly.
Mr. Zakian’s appreciation for painting is evident in his selection of work for the 2009 California Open. While there is a broad stylistic and conceptual range of two-dimensional art represented in the show, there were perhaps a half-dozen three-dimensional pieces represented. I would have preferred to see 10-15 sculptural or functional ceramics pieces in the 50-60 selected for the exhibition.
Three Ceramic works were included in the show. Judy Winard’s “Textures 2,” was a vessel made with different textured strips of stoneware, the raw clay accented by glaze rubbed into the myriad textures, and a glassy blue-green glaze on the inside for contrast, Lynn Halperin’s “Woman in a Flowered Scarf was a painterly paper doll, colorful and child-like. Susannah Biondo’s “Drawing for Prometheus II”, an abstract sculpture using a lava-like glaze with embedded slip cast porcelain had a presence that made me think it could have been a small maquette for a much larger public sculpture.
There were other noteworthy pieces that did not win any awards,. Jiong Li’s “I will be Back” (Acrylic and Collage on Wood), couldn’t have been more than 8” square, but its humorous portrayal of alienation spoke to me. Irena Jablonski’s “Pricky in Long Canyon,” (Oil on Canvas) packs an exquisite sense of color and composition into a piece under 12” square. Carson Pritchard’s “Adrienne” (Bronze), a cubist-influenced sculpture, was gracefully and sensitively portrayed. Isabelle Natale’s “Good and Pious” (Acrylic on Canvas), is an irreverent, tongue-in-cheek, if not hilarious commentary on religion based on the old Good and Plenty candy box.
Good news for TAG Gallery was that by the end of the evening, two pieces had sold. Awards were presented during the reception.
“Sounds of the Sea”
Oil on Canvas
“Fruit and Design”
Oil on Linen
Acrylic on Paper
“Owl, Death of my Past”
Oil on Linen
“Arrangement in Green & Black #3, Portrait of the Photographer’s Mother”
Hand-Painted Silver Gelatin Print
Oil on Paper