Boston artist Andrew Witkin is the winner of the 2008 James and Audrey Foster Prize, the Institute of Contemporary Art
announced. This biennial award recognizing a Boston-area artist of exceptional promise includes a $25,000 prize an d an opportunity for the finalists to present their work in an exhibition at the ICA. Andrew Witkin's poetic installation blurs the lines between his art and daily life, provoking questions about how these activities overlap and intersect. Witkin's exhibition, along with work by the three other finalists—Catherine D'Ignazio, Rania Matar, and Joe Zane—are on view at the ICA through March 1, 2009.
"We are delighted to congratulate Andrew Witkin and all the finalists for the Foster Prize, which recognizes the fine work coming out of the Boston art community," says James Foster, Chairman, President and CEO of Charles River Laboratories. James and Audrey Foster, passionate collectors and supporters of contemporary art, endowed the prize with their $1 million gift to the ICA.
"Andrew Witkin's quiet installation suspends the boundary between the artistic and the everyday, simultaneously evoking a sense of isolation and a longing for connection," says Jill Medvedow, Director of the ICA.
For the James and Audrey Foster Prize exhibition, Andrew Witkin created Untitled, 1990 -, a tightly composed installation inspired by, and nearly indistinguishable from, his deliberate approach to life, work, and relationships. Two corridors, holding either worn towels or a shelf placed over dozens of mismatched frames, lead to the installation's heart, where furniture and Witkin's personal objects are artfully arranged to create an ambiguous vignette touching on most aspects of the artist's life. Witkin refers to the installation as a physical manifestation or "stopping point" in an ongoing exploration of essential life questions that the artist began in 1990, and will continue into the future.
Witkin has invited his friends to play music in the installation in a series of informal concerts to take place on Sunday afternoons this winter. (More information about the performances is listed below.) Witkin received an MA from the School of the Museum of Fine Arts/Tufts University in 2003. He has presented his work at the Allston Skirt Gallery in Boston, Boston Center for the Arts, Real Art Ways in Hartford, Connecticut, University of the Arts, Philadelphia, and LaMontagne Gallery, Boston.
The winner was chosen by a distinguished jury including Nicholas Baume, ICA Chief Curator; Ian Berry, Associate Director and Curator, Tang Museum, Skidmore College; Ambreen Butt, Artist and 1999 recipient of the Foster Prize; Jennifer R. Gross, Curator of Modern and Contemporary Art, Yale University Art Gallery, and Denise Markonish, Curator, Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art.
Witkin was chosen from a group of finalists that includes Catherine D'Ignazio, Rania Matar, and Joe Zane. For the ICA, Waltham-based artist Catherine D'Ignazio created new works exploring our collective desire for safety and anxiety over potential disaster. Her video Exit Strategy shows the artist passing through several of the ICA's exits, never managing to find the way out. An audio adaptation of the artist's 2007 work, It Takes 154,000 Breaths to Evacuate Boston, fills the gallery with the sound of the artist's breaths as she runs Boston's official evacuation route. Rania Matar, who lives in Brookline, presents a number of photographs taken in her native Lebanon that capture the everyday humanity that persists there amidst turmoil and upheaval. The exhibition includes several haunting still lifes from Matar's new series of color work, Lost Memories. Through the medium of the self-portrait, Cambridge-based Joe Zane explores both the jubilation and incertitude that arises in an artist who participates in an artist competition. His multi-layered work-including oil paintings, plaster sculptures and an actual trophy-blends numerous art historical references with a comic awareness of the impossibility of comprehending any ultimate truth in art.
The James and Audrey Foster Prize is key to the ICA's efforts to nurture and recognize Boston-area artists of exceptional promise. The program creates a significant opportunity for four locally-based artists to exhibit their work in a leading contemporary art museum, and offers a substantial financial award of $25,000 to the winner and $1,500 to the finalists. The ICA looks to a broad network of local and national colleagues to identify eligible artists for the prize. They are asked to look for work that demonstrates innovation, conceptual strength, and skillful execution by artists who live or work within Greater Boston. Recipients of the Foster Prize to date include Ambreen Butt (1999), Laylah Ali (2000), Taylor Davis (2001), Alice Swinden Carter (2002), Douglas R. Weathersby (2003), Kanishka Raja (2004), and Kelly Sherman (2006). Works by Ali, Butt, Davis, and Sherman have entered the ICA Collection, as well as by Rachel Perry Welty, a 2006 prize finalist.