CCA Artists Dominate SFMOMA SECA Awards, Build Off-Site Exhibitions

Three members of the CCA community have been awarded the 2012 SECA Art Award (Society for the Encouragement of Contemporary Art), San Francisco Museum of Modern Art's biennial award program honoring Bay Area artists:

Zarouhie Abdalian (MFA 2010); Oakland-based New Orleans native and installation artist

Josh Faught, Textiles, MFA faculty; St. Louis-born, San Francisco-based textile artist

Jonn Herschend, former faculty member and visiting artist; Missouri native and video artist

Considering the fact only four artists (of 250 recommended by Bay Area curators, gallerists, professors, previous winners, and SECA members) are selected to receive the SECA Art Award, it's fair to say CCA artists dominated the awards -- including the fact the exhibition was co-curated by alumna Tanya Zimbardo (Curatorial Practice 2005), the assistant curator of media arts at SFMOMA.

Wait -- it gets even more impressive! Nine of the 11 other shortlisted artists are either CCA faculty or alumni, or both:

Elisheva Biernoff (BFA Painting/Drawing 2009); faculty, Painting/Drawing
Tammy Rae Carland, chair, Photography
Anthony Discenza (BFA Film/Video 2000); faculty, Fine Arts
Liam Everett (BFA Painting/Drawing 2012)
Cybele Lyle (BFA Printmaking 2001)
Jonathan Runcio (BFA Painting 1999, MFA 2011)
Jesse Schlesinger (BFA Painting/Drawing 2008)
Chris Sollars, faculty, First Year, Individualized Major
Lindsey White (MFA 2007); faculty, Fine Arts

Off-Site Exhibitions Transform Bay Area

Because SFMOMA has its doors closed for the next several years to accommodate a major renovation, it's the first time in history the museum has commissioned the four recipients of the 2012 SECA Art Award to create work outside the traditional gallery context.

As a result, the artists are presenting their work as a dynamic range of transformative art experiences around the Bay Area, which includes site-specific exhibitions, pop-up installations, public events, and collaborative presentations with partner museums.

The off-site, site-responsive exhibitions, which run from September 14 to November 17, 2013, range from drawing to performance, sound, video, and sculpture, and are on view in the following locations:

  • Downtown Oakland: Zarouhie Abdalian (Frank H. Ogawa Plaza, near 14th Street and Broadway. The public sound installation is activated for several minutes once a day.)
  • Neptune Society Columbarium in San Francisco: Josh Faught
  • SFMOMA website: Jonn Herschend
  • SFMOMA's Third Street building (currently closed for renovations), leading to various sites throughout San Francisco: David Wilson

Bay Area Influence on Artists

"The Bay Area is the perfect place to try things out," explains Herschend. "There's a lot of room to push boundaries and experiment. There is risk in it, but there is also room to fail. I think it's essential to fail. I also feel that there is more of an allegiance to one another here than in other cities.

"We are looking out for each other and celebrating each other's successes and pushing each other to go further. There's a spirit of competition here for sure, but there's also this real interest in seeing others succeed. It doesn't feel cut throat. I like that the most."

Paying tribute to history
Faught turned to the Bay Area's rich LGBT history and became especially interested in the ways that the Columbarium reflects the historical presence of the queer community. His installation is inspired by the visual language of the memorials that pay tribute to the deceased. These often include flowers and photographs augmented by holiday decorations, personal items, and lighthearted knickknacks.

Read a Q&A with curator Tanya Zimbardo and Josh Faught »

How CCA Prepared the Artist

Abdalian is grateful for how CCA prepared her for the honor: "CCA requires MFAs to do a fair amount of writing about their work. The thesis project in particular requires artists to develop both critical and expressive language around their work.

"Susan Gevirtz worked with me during the thesis year and really pushed me as a writer. I also took a project-based seminar, "Super Pop-Up Shop," with Rebeca Bollinger and Glen Helfand for which students had to develop and propose an ideal installation for a specific site.

"This coursework prepared me for the SECA application this year, which required both an artist statement and a site-specific project proposal."

Watch as Abdalian discusses her Occasional Music project »

(Note: In yet another CCA tie-in, alumna Anne Lesley Selcer (MFA 2013) writes about Frank H. Ogawa Plaza at SFMOMA's Open Space blog, the site of Abdalian's installation.)

Live Projects 2: SECA Art Award

Live Projects 2 emerges from the projects and practices of the latest winners of the SECA Art Award. The following are highlights from this year's series of don't-miss film screenings, talks, workshops, and performances created in collaboration with the artists.

Artist Talk: Wednesday, November 13 at 7 p.m.
Join the 2012 SECA Art Award recipients at SF JAZZ Center for a discussion about their site-responsive projects and engage in a broader conversation about public art with writer and RADAR Productions Executive Director Michelle Tea.

More information, including how to buy tickets »

Screening + Conversation: Thursday, November 14 at 7 p.m.
Jonn Herschend and Alex Karpovsky: Stories from the Evacuation and Red Flag is a special program of two film screenings: John Herschend's Stories from the Evacuation (2013, 22 min., digital) and actor Alex Karpovsky's (HBO's Girls) Red Flag (2012, 83 min., digital) at the Roxie Theater in San Francisco.

More information, including how to buy tickets »

Reception: Friday, November 15, from 4:30-6 p.m.
City Center as Place with Zarouhie Abdalian takes place at Oakland School for the Arts White Box Studio. This exhibition and reception will celebrate a collaboration between SECA Art Award winner Zarouhie Abdalian and OSA students on the occasion of Abdalian's sound installation Occasional Music in the nearby downtown area.

More information, including how to buy tickets »

Special Event: Saturday, November 16, noon to 6 p.m.
Notes from the Columbarium on Art, AIDS, and Activism with Josh Faught takes place at Neptune Society Columbarium an involves an afternoon of micro-talks and a pop-up cinema copresented with Frameline.

Visitors will have the opportunity to explore the Columbarium's niches and passageways as speakers, including Faught, meditate on the building's history, AIDS, activism, and craft and art making.

More information, including how to buy tickets »

About SFMOMA's SECA Art Award

According to the SFMOMA website: "Founded in 1961, SECA brings together art enthusiasts, collectors, curators, and arts professionals through a variety of events that strengthen members' knowledge of contemporary art. . . . The purpose of the SECA Art Award is to provide recognition to innovative and talented Bay Area artists whose work has not been accorded substantial institutional recognition.

"Recipients are chosen during a process over several months involving the local arts community, artists, SECA members, and museum staff. The final selection is made by SFMOMA's two SECA Art Award curators. (Jenny Gheith and Zimbardo).

"Since 1967 SECA has honored numerous Bay Area artists with the biennial award, which includes an SFMOMA exhibition, an accompanying catalogue, and a modest cash prize." (Look for the publication this month.)

Major support for the 2012 SECA Art Award: Zarouhie Abdalian, Josh Faught, Jonn Herschend, David Wilson is provided by SECA (Society for the Encouragement of Contemporary Art), an SFMOMA art interest group. Generous support is provided by Carlie Wilmans. Additional support is provided by the SECA Circle of Friends.