The jury’s in
Student artwork gets the real-world treatment in annual juried competition
I was expecting something along the lines of a courtroom drama. A prim expert witness with an extensive background in, say, contemporary art; an aggressive yet passionate defense, extolling the virtues of an outrageous painting; a brutal cross-examination involving obscure historical terminology.
I was a bit let down to learn that a “juried” art show had little in common with Matlock. Admitting my ignorance on such a subject, I asked this year’s guest juror for Chico State’s Annual Juried Student Exhibition to explain the concept.
Carrie Lederer, the curator of exhibitions and programs for Walnut Creek’s Bedford Gallery, graciously explained via telephone that such exhibitions are open to the community (in this case students at Chico State studying art), and there are often parameters related to a specific theme or medium. Most important, the pieces that end up in the show are chosen by a “juror,” an outside member of the art community.
“Usually with a juried exhibition the hosting institution is interested in an outside point of view to judge the work,” Lederer explained. This allows for a different perspective, a “paradigm shift.”
“The process is an arduous one,” she conceded, as there is enough space in the University Art Gallery for only 60 to 70 pieces, and there were over 155 entrants this year. “I don’t right away decide what’s in and what’s out. … I circle around for part two.” And circle around she must, as pieces are scattered about the small Taylor Hall space, on tables, propped against walls, their continued existence dependent on carefully placed steps and a good sense of balance.
So how does one decide which pieces make the grade? “I’m looking at the work for many different qualities that I’m interested in as a viewer, curator and artist. These things include an understanding of craft and medium and a capacity for control.”
In addition, Lederer looks for an “individual voice that is apparent when I’m looking at the work—a unique vision.”
Picture a part-dog, part-teddy bear, feathered creature emitting feral noises from an embedded CD player. Christina Pate’s piece, “Forward/Backward,” attracted Lederer for its emotional and conceptual perspective, as it “addresses childhood memory, as well as childhood attachment.”
Sarah Reid’s “Untitled” sculptures utilized that dreaded material that all of us have billowing out of kitchen drawers, the plastic bag. Her “punkish, high-tech Mad Max bridal dresses” have an approach that is simple but conceptual, and one is “inclined to begin a narration about them.” You’d certainly want to be wearing pleasant undergarments when donning such a transparent ensemble.
Rob Miller’s “Untitled” pair of glass sculptures reside together “quite gracefully” and appear as though they are “fluffy” and filled with air. “The skin is adorned with a crackle of rich silver. … They have a gem-like quality to them.”
Lederer was drawn to Randy Bricco’s “Altered Space,” a “well-executed, interesting, unusual, beautiful” bowl, for its tentacles, blue conical structures that reach inside and pull the viewer in. She likened the work to that of Eva Hesse, a renowned East Coast sculptor.
Jason Tannen is the curator for the University Art Gallery. I cornered him late on a Friday afternoon to grill him about Carrie Lederer’s role as guest juror.
“She seems to have a broad sense of contemporary art and current trends and will have the ability to judge the student works on their merit.” In other words, let’s remember that these are students, from freshmen to four-year veterans of the program.
Tannen applauded Lederer for her respect for the students and her ability to view the whole range of efforts.
And, as a snapshot of what is happening in the department, Tannen was visibly pleased, not just with the variety, but also with the skill. “It’s clear that they have an ability to use the materials.”