Axis Gallery is pleased to have Lucía Sanromán, from the Yerba Buena Arts Center, Director of Visual Arts, as a member of the jury of the 13th National Jury Exhibition
For 13 years, Axis Gallery's National Jury Exhibition has provided greater visibility to artists across the United States. In the age of Trump, when arts and culture are under constant attack that only equates to the culture wars of the 1990s, this alone should give us hope. But there is more, an artist-run cooperative in operation for 35 years, Axis Gallery itself provides an example of a way of doing things, through collective support rather than individual profit, which is contrary to the current national sentiment in which competition, opposition and racial politics are used to manage the population by appealing to our basic instincts through the Like All. the others, artists and artisans of all kinds working across America are coming to terms with a new reality that at least surprises, and often feels alienating and violent. In fact, of the more than 1,200 artists who submitted works of art to this contest, many reflect on the current political climate directly, proposing paintings, photography and video with overtly political content, in a natural reaction to a triggering and sometimes chilling news cycle.
Given this, the prevalence of work with political content indicated that my role was not to use the jury process to describe a political issue, or to attempt to create an exhibition with a thematic focus, but rather, to remain sensitive and open to the quality of the work itself, and in this way allow a narrative of the process itself to emerge that could point to what may not be obvious. Final selection of 47 works of art is diverse. Included are pieces that address this moment, such as Jenny Wu's humorous appropriation of images of the former apprentice presenter and current president of the United States repeating "Believe me, oh, believe me" over and over again, to the opposite effect; or Peter Hassen's altered photographs with text that addresses the landscape as disputed territory; a wide variety of media caught my attention, including for the first time in an Axis contest, video work, such as the humorous animated short by Susi Lopera. Also notable are many pieces made in traditional media, such as the quiet portrait of a swimmer by Pamela Mooney, or the intricate ink on paper drawing by Elizabeth Zunino, an image reminiscent of the tradition of the Arts and Crafts of the nineteenth century, but with an unexpected element that points to something more disturbing. Also present is an astonishingly intricate tapestry by Steven Donegan, where the shadow of photography is strongly felt. Overall, the mimetic mechanics of photography have given way to the augmented reality of digital media with works by David Gardner, a post-industrial landscape created with digital tools, and even a work created on the iPad by Kevin Pride that reflects the street culture of hip-hop and the visual pop fluidity of the post-internet generation.
As a group, the pieces do not openly mount an offense against the vitriol and hatred that is now fostered in American public life, but give evidence of more connected and hopeful forms in the world, where the creation of art is itself a form of resistance. Entangled in the journal of creation, the artists of this 13th edition live wonderfully in the intermediate space of communication.
Lucía Sanromán joined the Yerba Buena Arts Center as Director of Visual Arts in October 2015. Throughout his career, he has selected innovative exhibitions throughout the United States, Mexico, and Latin America. Recent projects at YBCA include, but are not limited to, Tania Bruguera: Talking to Power (2017) (co-curated with Susie Kantor, curatorial associate at YBCA), and the upcoming Futurefarmers: Out of Place, in Place, opening April 20, 2018.