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Amber Esseiva

Associate Curator
Institute for
Contemporary Art
Virginia Commonwealth University

Amber Esseiva, Associate Curator, Institute for Contemporary Art, Virginia Commonwealth University

© Vikesh Kapoor

Juror Statement

There is no denying that this world needs change. Massive structural change. This tremendous task asks something of everyone but from artists it asks for an escape hatch to see the world differently. In different ways each of these artists show us what it looks like to center what was at one point considered marginal.

The three selected artists Vikesh Kapoor, Christopher Desanges, and Dominic Hawgood explore what it means to be of a place and in a body and mind. They offer an imaginative reprieve to the rubble that we call our past and present. Kapoor cinematic photographs tell a personal story of immigration through images that evoke a sense of longing and grace. Desanges’s photographic series “shapeshifter” capture the ghostly slippages of bodies trapped in predatory logics. Hawgood’s installations delve into the inner mind putting into question how our egos effect our view of the world.

If the winning slots were not restricted, I could have selected many more, the list of finalists reflects this. Together these artists inspired me to think and dream and most importantly to question dominant and pervasive logics so familiar to our visual culture. There’s no denying that our constant states of precarity have produced dilemmas and resistances so important to art but, at times, harmful to artists. This is the intersection for which we are find ourselves that we have to work through.

© Christopher Desanges

Curator Biography

Amber Esseiva is the Associate Curator at the Institute for Contemporary Art at Virginia Commonwealth University (ICA VCU). A VCUarts alumna, Esseiva has been essential to the ICA’s programming since joining the institution. Esseiva co-curated the ICA’s inaugural exhibition, Declaration (2018), and shows featuring work by Corin Hewitt, Jonathas de Andrade, and others. Most recently, she curated Great Force (October 5, 2019 – January 5, 2020), the ICA’s recent exhibition featuring new commissions and recent work by an intergenerational group of 24 established and emerging artists, exploring how art can be used to envision new forms of race and representation freed from the bounds of historic racial constructs. Esseiva has also curated Provocations: Guadalupe Maravilla (November 9, 2019 – July 1, 2020), the second iteration of the ICA’s annual commission series, which debuts new work by the El Salvador-born multidisciplinary artist and a solo exhibition by Martine Syms (February 16, 2019 - May 12, 2019).

Esseiva received her M.A. in 2015 from the Center for Curatorial Studies, Bard College (CCS Bard). At CCS Bard, she curated and co-curated numerous exhibitions featuring works by artists such as David Altmejd, Louisa Chase, Roe Ethridge, Gabriel Orozco, Jason Rhoades, Mika Rottenberg, Kenny Scharf, and Avery K. Singer. She also co-founded the interdisciplinary curatorial journal aCCeSsions and was appointed the curator of the 2014 M.F.A. graduate thesis exhibition at Bard MFA Milton Avery Graduate School of the Arts. In addition to thesis exhibitions, she has worked closely with M.F.A and B.F.A students through professional development and mentorships.

From 2015 to 2016, she worked extensively curating exhibitions by emerging and mid-career artists. Highlights include Anything on a Surface has Space, a discursive event at The Judd Foundation; and a solo exhibition by artist and VCU alum Alina Tenser at A.I.R. Gallery. After her stay at CCS Bard, Esseiva was appointed director of Retrospective gallery in Hudson, NY; guest curator at the 2016 Glasgow International biennial festival of contemporary art; and curator at September gallery, in Hudson, NY. 

© Dominic Hawgood

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