Thank you so much to all the artists who entered their work to The Hopper Prize; congratulations! Thank you also to the organizers of the Prize for the invitation to participate in the process. It is an honor and privilege to jury this season’s submissions, and I am grateful to learn about so many new practices from across the world. After my review, I am impressed with the quality and scope of artworks included in this cohort, and I am delighted to consider such a varied and high-caliber selection of objects and ideas.
The artists’ work reflects a breadth of interests—from aesthetic and formal concerns to issues of representation and identity, geographies and borders, and practices seeking to reclaim or elucidate queer and feminist narratives. Many works celebrate or contemplate the beauty or frailty or individuality of the human body, an apt topic for a contemporary moment that is comprised of geopolitical strife, racial and socioeconomic disparities, violence, and a seemingly endless global pandemic. In these uncertain times, I feel strongly it is important to look to contemporary artists to help us explore and think through the complexities of the issues confronting us.
The submitted artworks also encompass a diverse array of materials and media. Interestingly, this round included a large selection of painting- and fiber-based practices, and the chosen winners reflect this. Above all, I sought to highlight innovative artists whose works reflect a clear point of view, a deft command of materials, and rigorous ideas and execution. These makers grapple with personal, communal, and political stories that illuminate lesser-known histories and distinct relationships to place and personhood. In this way, their works simultaneously celebrate and complicate our understanding of the human condition and the state of social and/or institutional infrastructures that govern or have somehow informed our daily lives.
Tyler Blackwell is the Cynthia Woods Mitchell Associate Curator at the Blaffer Art Museum at the University of Houston. For the Blaffer, he has organized or co-organized exhibitions that include Jagdeep Raina: Bonds (2021); Carriers: The Body as a Site of Danger and Desire (2021); Rodney McMillian: Historically Hostile (2020); Jacqueline Nova: Creación de la Tierra (2019); Beatriz Santiago Muñoz: Otros Usos (2019); Yoshua Okón: Oracle (2019); and Rebecca Morris: The Ache of Bright (2019). Blackwell also organized the Houston presentation of the traveling survey exhibition Paul Mpagi Sepuya (2019). His upcoming projects include a major survey exhibition of the work of artist and writer Molly Zuckerman-Hartung and new presentations of artists Hugh Hayden and Monira Al Qadiri.
Blackwell previously held positions at the Smart Museum of Art at the University of Chicago and the Art Institute of Chicago’s Department of Modern and Contemporary Art, where he supported permanent collection acquisitions and the organization of wide-ranging exhibitions, commissions, programs, and performances. Blackwell holds a MA in Art History and The Humanities from the University of Chicago.