Spending a significant amount of time studying a vast range of international artistic production was not only a sincere privilege but also a responsibility that I did not take lightly. After all, providing unrestricted grants to artists is a vital yet often missing element of the global arts landscape.
The submissions to the Hopper Prize provided a microcosm of the array of and energy surrounding artistic practices globally. The artists’ innovative skill sets and offered insights—embedded in both discrete and hybrid practices of painting, photography, sculpture, drawing in an expanded sense, video, performance, and installation—is incontestable.
As a contemporary arts curator, I sought to reward pioneering work that I found to be singular, be it in technique, content, or vision. The selected finalists used a diverse set of captivating techniques in their practices; some employ metonymy for portraiture, showcasing bodily elements such as enlarged torsos. Others focus on bringing highly-stylized worlds to life through their craft. Additional techniques at play in the submissions include using painting as a medium to capture and manifest humor, sculpture to capture nearly-tactile textures and forms, or photography to obscure key content elements from the viewer.
The works also speak to larger thematics at play in our contemporary moment; they tease out issues of identity and personhood, explore community and belonging, question ideas around nationhood, depict the fragility and joy of youth, celebrate the enduring yet fleeting natural world, and investigate structural society inequities. The artists also demonstrates that their chosen medium is not rigid, but rather through formal and content choices, they demonstrate that the field needs to be further provoked, interrogated, and reimagined.
Patricia Restrepo is a curator, writer, and researcher based in Houston, Texas. She is the Assistant Curator and Exhibitions Manager at the Contemporary Arts Museum Houston (CAMH), where she has worked for four years. At CAMH she has recently curated Stage Environment: You Didn’t Have to Be There, an exhibition that revisits and reinvigorates CAMH’s seventy-year performance focus, and Dissent and Desire, the institution's 2018 FotoFest Biennial presentation showcasing the daring photographic work of Sunil Gupta and Charan Singh documenting LGBTQ+ lives in Delhi, India. She manages and contributes to the institution’s publication production and has orchestrated the digitization of all of CAMH's catalogues to increase accessibility to the museum’s prolific and significant scholarship. Restrepo has curated exhibitions and performance programming at Alabama Song, Hardy and Nance Studios, Houston Center for Photography, and Northset Residency. Fostering exhibitions as laboratories, her curatorial interests include the generative potential latent in archives, museology, and performative work.