Laura Hoptman, the Kraus Family Senior Curator at the New Museum of Contemporary Art in New York, is the juror of this year’s Artists of Hawai’i exhibition. We are so honored that she accepted the position, coming off of the now traveling “Elizabeth Peyton: Live Forever” (which she just helped install at the Walker Art Center) and the upcoming “The Generational: Younger Than Jesus.”
Hoptman has completed the jurying process for Artists of Hawaii—accepted artists will be notified by Friday (the anticipation is killing me). She arrives Feb. 18 to do studio visits to pick the nine award winners for the exhibition (award money is almost double this year, since Artists of Hawai’i is now a biennial). And on Feb. 19 she will give a free talk on the state of contemporary art in the U.S. at the Doris Duke Theatre.
In the meantime, we asked her five questions (via email) about her experience jurying Artists of Hawai’i.aloHAA: Did you have a preconceived notion of what the submissions would be like? If yes, what was it, and did the submissions live up to it, or did the submissions surprise you?
Laura Hoptman: Of course everyone who hasn’t visited Hawai’i has an idea about how the natural beauty of the place affects the people who live there and the art they make. I had my preconceptions, I admit, and some of them were met. I saw an abundance of landscape painters, an abiding interest in the theme of water, color photography of natural wonders like Hawaiian plant life. A number of artists took as inspiration Hawaiian culture specifically. None of this surprised me, but it was interesting for me to see because this kind of work is distinctly different from the kind of thing I am usually exposed to. I guess what surprised me most was how much I enjoyed the regional nature of many of the selections. There are so few places in America that have retained their distinct regional cultures, and it seemed from the submissions I saw, Hawai’i is one of them. New Orleans is another place with a distinct regional culture, by the way.aloHAA: Your predecessor, Russell Ferguson, wrote about submissions in 2006: “reflections on nature also played a major role, perhaps unsurprising in a setting of such natural beauty.” With major urban issues such as a plan to
introduce light-rail public transportation to Honolulu and a recession staring
Hawai’i in the face, I was wondering if this year’s submissions, in general, had a harder edge?
LH: There were several works of art that referred to issues specific to Honolulu and Hawaiian environmental issues. Others took as their themes more general political and social issues. I wouldn’t, however, characterize the group as particularly issue-oriented, and certainly not critical. To that point, there was very little art that one could characterize as “conceptual” (idea-based). It was a very visual group of works, a characteristic I took much delight in.
aloHAA: Did you see in the submissions anything that makes Hawai’i art stand out from comparable regional exhibitions?
LH: See my answer to your first question. There is a strong regional flavor to much of the work, inspired as it is, by natural beauty, the difference in the quality of light in a coastal area, indigenous forms and themes particular to the area.
aloHAA: What is it like jurying an exhibition online? Do you use different criteria than you do for a studio visit? And is online jurying the norm now?
LH: Online jurying is the norm, and although the chance for error is definitely there (scale can make a big difference), with such a large group of artists, nuance is less critical than more obvious qualities like, skill, conception, visual ingenuity, level of risk, etc. These qualities are pretty obvious.
aloHAA: You have worked with artists such as Elizabeth Peyton and Yayoi Kusama, and more recently young artists from around the world for “The Generational.” Were there entries that made you think the artist is capable of work (or shows promise of being capable of creating work) that could stand up in the international art world?
LH: Yes, of course.