I sometimes dread being invited to art openings -- especially when the invitation comes from the sponsor or the curator. It's not the awkward conversations or cheap wine that I fear. (Not much at least.) It's the worry that I won't like what I see. And, then, what do I say when my friend asks me what I think about the work? Lie, of course -- but that won't make you feel good about yourself.
Happily I've seen some pretty terrific work at the last few openings that I've attended. The trend continued last Wednesday evening, when I went to the opening reception of En Foco's New Works #17. Works by each of the five 2013-14 photography fellowship winners was on display, and it ranged from very good to truly superb. That's only to be expected; the photographers are at very different stages of their careers.
Elva Salinas: Full of Grace, Morena Wrapped in White series, 2012.
If you're going to be anywhere in the vicinity of New York City from now until September 26th, when the show closes, you owe it to yourself to stop by the President’s Gallery at John Jay College of Criminal Justice, 899 Tenth Avenue, 6th Floor.
Here's how En Foco describes the exhibition:
En Foco, in collaboration with the President’s Gallery at John Jay College of Criminal Justice, is proud to present a major exhibition by the 17th New Works Photography Fellowship Awardees: Elva Salinas, Paccarik Orue, Will Wilson, Tomiko Jones and An Rong Xu.
Each artist's work is unique in form. Juror Mary Virginia Swanson says that “Many of the projects asked the viewer to look outward and consider issues from different perspectives, while others invited us to look inside and reconsider who we are as individuals living among others on this planet.”
Paccarik Orue: Hombre con Chuyo, El Muqui series, 2013.
Elva Salinas explores contemporary cultural dynamics surrounding the identities of Mexican-American women while Paccarik Orue documents the mining city of Cerro de Pasco, in the Peruvian Andes and the stories of its residents, their struggles, and environmental concerns.
William R. Wilson: Eric Garcia Lopez, Critical Indigenous Photographic Exchange series, 2012.
William R. Wilson photographs Indigenous peoples using the wet plate collodion process, allowing the subjects of his photographs participate in the re-inscription of their customs and values in a way that leads to a more equal distribution of power in the cultural conversation.
Tomiko Jones: Untitled, Rattlesnake Lake series, 2013.
Tomiko Jones' work reflects her concern with clean water resources and ecological stewardship of public land while An Rong Xu intimately explores the evolving identity of Chinese Americans and the transition from immigrant to American, unpacking the disparity between assimilation and cultural heritage.
An Rong Xu: Houston, The Chinese Americans series, 2012.
I'm a big fan of the work that En Foco has done over the last 40 years, particularly when it comes to finding new talent. As executive director Miriam Romais says, “The magical part of New Works, is to witness the process of creation over many months, as the artists bring their work to fruition. En Foco provides tools and resources that nurture and encourage exploration –- we’re a stepping stone, and many times provide the first exposure to great talents that others soon notice, such as LaToya Ruby Frazier, Annu Palakunnatthu Matthew, Ana de Orbegoso or Osamu James Nakagawa.”