Ogden Museum announces Louisiana Contemporary Prize winners

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Ogden Museum announces Louisiana Contemporary Prize winners
Rachel David, Dripping Cycle, 2018. Hand forged, formed and fabricated steel, 34 x 20 x 24, Collection of the artist.

NEW ORLEANS, LA.- The Ogden Museum of Southern Art announced today the artists who have received awards as part of Louisiana Contemporary, the Museum’s annual juried exhibition featuring work by contemporary artists from across the state. Each year, with support from The Helis Foundation, the Ogden Museum honors four of the presenting artists, highlighting some of the most provocative and compelling works in the exhibition. This year, the lead award, The Helis Foundation Art Prize, which comes with $5,000, has been given to artist Jessica Strahan, whose most recent paintings explore the African diaspora within the context of life in New Orleans. Artists Sarrah Danziger, Thomas Deaton, and Rachel David were also recognized for their exceptional work.

The Ogden Museum first launched Louisiana Contemporary in 2012, to establish a vehicle that would bring to the fore the work of artists living in Louisiana and highlight the dynamism of art practice throughout the state. The 2019 edition, which opened to the public on August 3, includes 23 artists and 44 works of art, spanning painting, photography, sculpture, works on paper, and mixed-media installation. Artists were chosen from among 364 applicants by guest juror David Breslin, the recently promoted Director of Curatorial Initiatives at the Whitney Museum of American Art, and represent the forefront of Louisiana's vibrant visual culture. The Helis Foundation, which funds the associated awards for the initiative, also provides critical annual support for the creation of exhibition. Louisiana Contemporary, which is accompanied by a catalogue, will remain on view through January 5, 2020.

“Louisiana Contemporary provides an essential ongoing platform to discover and experience the depth and diversity of work being produced by Louisiana artists, in support of our wider mission to connect audiences with and widen understanding of art of the American South. Each year, we are inspired by the visions and innovations of the featured artists, whose work engages with formal and conceptual dialogues within contemporary practice, as well as with some of the most pressing social and political issues of our time. We are grateful to The Helis Foundation for their ongoing support for this initiative and to the artists who continue to challenge and compel us in new and exciting ways,” said William Pittman Andrews, Executive Director of the Ogden Museum.

To provide opportunity for participation by the widest array of artists and to ensure a robust curatorial program, the Ogden Museum developed a two-part selection process, which includes an open call for applications and a jurying process that is led by a different invited juror each year. In addition to Breslin, prior jurors have included Courtney J. Martin, Director of the Yale Center for British Art and former Deputy Director and Chief Curator at the Dia Art Foundation; Shantrelle P. Lewis, an independent curator, author, and documentarian; and Bill Arning, former Director of Contemporary Arts Museum Houston. Jurors also participate in public programs that examine the scope of each year’s presentation, and for the 2019 edition, Martin joined Breslin for an intensive portfolio review and public discussion. Since the inaugural exhibition, eight years ago, the Ogden Museum has shown 394 artists, making Louisiana Contemporary an important moment in the national arts calendar to recognize and experience the spectrum and vitality of artistic voices emanating from New Orleans and across Louisiana.

For the 2019 edition, Breslin was attuned to artists and artworks that are actively engaging with this particular moment in American history, through different media and stylistic and technical approaches. The featured works are further connected by a sense of hopefulness in difficult times. In his Juror’s Statement, Breslin said, “The works hold us here, as testaments of our time, but also signal that other, better futures can still be within reach.”

The full roster of 2019 artists includes:

John Alleyne • Luis Cruz Azaceta • Mac Ball • Sean Clark • Tony Dagradi • Sarrah Danziger • Rachel David • Thomas Deaton • Ben Depp • Sarah French • John Gargano • Kristina Larson • Julian Martin • Kristin Meyers • Lara Morgan • Tom O’Brien • Ruth Owens • Dan Rule • Claire Samani • Jill Shampine • Leona Strassberg Steiner • Jessica Strahan • Carlie Trosclair

As part of Louisiana Contemporary, the Ogden Museum and The Helis Foundation also established a series of awards that celebrate some of the most innovative work in the exhibition and provide unrestricted funds to four of the featured artists, further supporting their practices and careers. Awardees are selected by the guest juror during a critical review of the work after installation has been completed. More information about the 2019 award recipients follows below.

Jessica Strahan’s drawings and paintings are inspired by the physical, emotional, and spiritual landscape of New Orleans. The city’s rich culture, distinct landmarks, and colorful—and tragic—history emerge within Strahan’s work as she works to visually capture the essence of her home city. In her latest series, House of Blues, Strahan positions individuals with strongly defined African features in distinctly New Orleans spaces, emphasizing the history and experience of the African diaspora. Her work was recently the regional winner of the Bombay Sapphire Artist Series at Art Basel in Miami.

Sarrah Danziger is a photographer currently based in New Orleans. For more than two decades, Danziger has used her camera lens to examine womanhood, in both historic and contemporary contexts. Her images are often imbued with a kind of magical realism that suggests a potent mythology around femininity. Her practice is rooted in using the camera as a tool to engage with the depths and layers of identity. Her work has been featured in BUST, Vice, OUT, Rolling Stone, Newsweek, American Songwriter (cover), Fader, and the Wall Street Journal, among others.

Thomas Deaton, who is currently based in New Orleans, began his artistic career as a printmaker, receiving a degree in the discipline from The University of Lafayette in 2011. When he found himself without a print shop in 2015, he began working exclusively with woodcuts and engravings. Most recently, Deaton has added painting to his practice, producing works that are infused with the textures, patterns, and shapes of his woodcuts. Deaton combines these graphic qualities with freeform painterly gestures and rich color saturation, creating works that live between “printer-ly painting” and “painterly print.”

Rachel David is a blacksmith, sculptor, designer, and maker, based in New Orleans. Her practice embraces a wide range of approaches, including sculpture, furniture, architectural work, and garden elements. David is committed to social activism and to working in ways that speak to the importance of community-building and environmental justice. Her diverse works capture both her imaginative spirit and her commitment to social engagement. Her work has been collected by the City of New Orleans, the Simone Benetton Foundation, and numerous private collectors.

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