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CAA Announces Recipients of 2011 Awards for Distinction

The College Art Association has announced the recipients of the 2011 Awards for Distinction, which honor the outstanding achievements and accomplishments of individual artists, art historians, authors, conservators, curators, and critics whose efforts transcend their individual disciplines and contribute to the profession as a whole and to the world at large.

CAA will formally recognize the honorees at a special ceremony to be held during the 99th Annual Conference in New York, on Thursday evening, February 10, 2011, at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Led by Barbara Nesin, president of the CAA board of directors, the ceremony will take place in the Grace Rainey Rogers Auditorium and precede the Centennial Reception. In connection with CAA’s one-hundredth anniversary, past recipients of each award will introduce the winners of the same award, bringing past and present together.

The 2011 Annual Conference—presenting scholarly sessions, panel discussions, career-development workshops, art exhibitions, a book and trade fair, and more—is the largest gathering of artists, art historians, students, and arts professionals in the United States. The awards ceremony is free and open to the public; the reception is a ticketed event.

Distinguished Artist Award for Lifetime Achievement:
Lynda Benglis

For more than forty years, Lynda Benglis has challenged prevailing views about the nature and function of art, producing sculpture, painting, video, photography, and installation that demonstrate extraordinary breadth and invention. She models the life of an artist lived according to the rhythm of her own creativity and curiosity, rather than to the beat of fashion or the market and its enormous but inconstant rewards. Benglis’s career inspires younger artists, not because she was a star as a young artist, or because she has now begun to be recognized as a major artist at a later date. Her work has been and continues to be an ever-shifting monument to the body in motion, as she herself continues to change and grow as an artist.

Artist Award for Distinguished Body of Work: 
John Baldessari

Few artists of the postwar era are so influential—or so elusive of definition—as John Baldessari, who has made extraordinary contributions in such wide-ranging registers as Conceptualism, appropriation, and art education. This seeming paradox—in which the artist at once towers over contemporary art and often slips through its cracks (while also prompting his students to seek new alternatives)—no doubt arises, at least in part, from his subtle wit.

Distinguished Lifetime Achievement Award for Writing on Art:
Mieke Bal

The protean career of Mieke Bal, Royal Academy of Arts and Sciences Professor at the University of Amsterdam, has traversed many fields in the humanities. Emerging as a brilliant biblical scholar with path-breaking books that explored the gendered nature of Old Testament narratives, Bal became a star in literary criticism with her book Narratology. Ever curious and creative, her interests then migrated to art history, where she rapidly challenged established methodological conventions with Reading Rembrandt: Beyond the Word Image Opposition, 1991, and Quoting Caravaggio: Contemporary Art, Preposterous History, 1999,—not to mention her well-known essay “Semiotics and Art History,” coauthored with Norman Bryson and published in The Art Bulletin, 1991. Applying philosophical principles to an enterprise too often obsessed with empirical “evidence,” Bal offers provocative rethinking of the status of artistic authorship, the nature of the text/image relationship, the structure of text/context relationships, and, perhaps most profoundly, the character of historical time.

Frank Jewett Mather Award:
Luis Camnitzer

Luis Camnitzer has translated his tricultural perspective—born in Germany, raised and educated in Uruguay, and a participant in the New York art world—into a tripled practice. As artist, teacher, and critic, he has addressed the artistic, social and political conundrums of our times with low-key but firm, subtle, and lucid authority. His latest collection of writings, On Art, Artists, Latin America, and Other Utopias (Austin: University of Texas Press, 2009), speaks incisively to issues of cultural displacement, transnational aesthetics, and the peripheral condition of contemporary art. Written originally for international art journals, exhibition catalogues, and academic conferences, the essays, which date from 1969 to 2007, assume a universal address.

Distinguished Feminist Award:
Faith Ringgold

The work of Faith Ringgold not only captures the strength of black women in fighting slavery, oppression, and sexual exploitation, but it also chronicles the dreams of black women who sought to transcend circumstance and find a brighter future. She has been a forceful voice for feminism while also successfully and gracefully encapsulating crucial issues of race, despite the often-contentious relationship between gender and race in enfranchisement movements over the last four decades. Her “American People” paintings , 1963–1967, and “Black Light” series, 1967–, sought to examine how traditional color values could be modified for black subjects. From there Ringgold explored traditions of “women’s work” in fabric, first in collaboration with her late mother and then in her Story Quilts, which have become her signature statement. As a committed activist, Ringgold was a founder of Women, Students, and Artists for Black Liberation and a cofounder and member of Where We At, a collaborative of black women artists in the 1970s and 1980s.

Distinguished Teaching of Art Award:
William Itter

William Itter’s gifted teaching approach, commitment to the instruction of freshman students, and curricular innovations in foundations have had a momentous, immeasurable impact on art pedagogy for more than fifty years. During his tenure as director of the Fundamentals Studio Program at Indiana University in Bloomington, which he joined in 1969, he has mentored several generations of graduate students with insight and commitment, turning them into great artists and teachers from a time when the MFA degree was in its infancy to the present day. In a unique pedagogical approach, Itter has regularly and generously shared his museum-quality collection of ceramics, textiles, baskets, and sculpture with students as pedagogical tools to understand how visual languages have manifested across cultures and times. Now professor emeritus of fine arts, he continues to exhibit his own painting and drawing in numerous prestigious venues nationwide.

Distinguished Teaching of Art History Award:
Patricia Hills

An active, gifted teacher, faithful mentor, and valued colleague, Patricia Hills has maintained a prodigious career, producing scholarship that has profoundly shaped the history of American art and visual culture. Her textbook Modern Art in the USA: Issues and Controversies of the Twentieth Century (2001) has become standard reading in the field, and her work on Jacob Lawrence, Alice Neel, Stuart Davis, John Singer Sargent, and Eastman Johnson is highly esteemed. Professor of art history at Boston University, she is a creative, active, and engaged classroom leader who has developed an innovative style of teaching that emphasizes intellectual role-playing and demonstrates striking methodological openness. Hills’s admirable commitment to the time-demanding aspects of pedagogy, such as her rigorous attention to student writing and her ability to combine that investment with a remarkable publication record, are a model for students and teachers across the discipline.

Charles Rufus Morey Book Award:
Molly Emma Aitken

Informed by history, connoisseurship, and contemporary artistic practice, Molly Emma Aitken, The Intelligence of Tradition in Rajput Court Painting (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2010) is an original contribution to the history of South Asian art. Aitken’s closely argued yet accessible account overturns long-held assumptions regarding the conservatism of Rajasthani miniatures, revealing the subtle yet powerful dynamism that animates this tradition. She acknowledges that the “enormous red-tipped eyes, narrow skulls, and squat or strangely arching bodies” of the figures depicted in these miniatures can seem formulaic or alienating, but these images cannot be understood as mere repetitions of moribund conventions. Instead, Aitken shows that these court paintings were intended to elicit emotional states from the viewer, a conclusion she reaches through an innovative application of formal analysis and social history.

Alfred H. Barr, Jr., Award:
Darielle Mason, ed.

Darielle Mason’s Kantha: The Embroidered Quilts of Bengal from the Jill and Sheldon Bonovitz Collection and the Stella Kramrisch Collection of the Philadelphia Museum of Art (Philadelphia: Philadelphia Museum of Art, 2009) constitutes a model of how to make a catalogue about specific collections that far outreaches the task of honoring the collectors in question. Offering acute insights into an important region and an understudied medium, Kantha not only celebrates a lively vernacular textile tradition but also accords, for the first time, a comprehensive, sensitive treatment to this form of women’s domestic, creative, and social expression. In a series of richly grounded, engagingly written essays, Mason and her collaborators—Pika Ghosh, Katherine Hacker, Anne Peranteau, and Niaz Zaman—locate Kantha in wider sociocultural, historical, political, economic, and religious currents while tackling issues sometimes avoided in such studies, such as matters surrounding the quiltmakers’ agency.

Alfred H. Barr Jr. Award for Smaller Museums, Libraries, and Collections:
Yasufumi Nakamori

Yasufumi Nakamori’s Katsura: Picturing Modernism in Japanese Architecture; Photographs by Ishimoto Yasuhiro (Houston: Museum of Fine Arts, 2010) revisits a book of photographs of an elegant imperial villa in Kyoto, a seventeenth-century structure that interestingly foreshadows Western modernist design. While this errand may sound obscurantist to some, the author has a profoundly fascinating story to tell. It emerges that the architect Tange Kenzō (with Walter Gropius, who authored the original Herbert Bayer–designed book from 1960), extensively altered the vision of Ishimoto, a fledgling photographer, by drastically cropping the images to better align them with Bauhaus aesthetics, and to reinforce his own position in postwar Japanese debates on the relation of the modern to tradition. In this astutely, impeccably produced catalogue, Nakamori importantly rehabilitates Ishimoto’s initial vision of Katsura, reproducing his original, perfectly stunning photographs.

Arthur Kingsley Porter Prize:
Ross Barrett

In “Rioting Refigured: George Henry Hall and the Picturing of American Political Violence,” published in the September 2010 issue of the Art Bulletin, Ross Barrett recovers the history of the artist and a landmark painting of an American laborer. Rooting his analysis in close observation, the author enlivens a work that could easily be dismissed as little more than an academic study of a male model. Calling attention to the title Hall gave his 1858 painting, The Dead Rabbit (a term New Yorkers applied to a street rowdy), to bruises on the man’s torso, and to the brick clutched in his right hand, Barrett identifies the figure as a working class, Irish immigrant. Barrett calls on an arsenal of resources—history, biography, iconography, pedagogical practices in the academy, reports and illustrations in the popular press, theories of the body and spectatorship, and ancillary images of the male athlete in mid-nineteenth-century America—to build a clear and convincing case for reading class conflict and civil disorder in this material body.

Art Journal Award:
Kirsten Swenson, Janet Kraynak, Paul Monty Paret, and Emily Eliza Scott

An impressive, useful, and theoretically significant series of articles, organized by Kirsten Swenson in the Winter 2010 issue of Art Journal, constitutes an exemplary forum on issues in the new genre of Land Use, both inside and outside what is thought of as “art.” Each contribution to “Land Use in Contemporary Art” is socially, economically and conceptually significant, but especially impressive are the differences, particularly in the authors’ descriptions of their approaches and values, particularly the spectrum from a self-conscious nonjudgementalism to explicit activism. Presented with relevant introductions and histories of the issues at hand, the articles taken as a whole are even more compelling and informative than any one of them alone. The Winter 2010 Art Journal will be published later this month.

CAA/Heritage Preservation Award for Distinction in Scholarship and Conservation:
Joyce Hill Stoner

Based at the University of Delaware’s Center for Material Cultural Studies, Joyce Hill Stoner is a highly respected scholar, dynamic, beloved professor, and superb conservator of paintings. As director of the Preservation Studies Doctoral Program, which developed from the first art conversation program in the United States that she founded at her school in 1990, she has developed an interdisciplinary focus on art history and conservation. As one nominator wrote, “three decades ago the prospect of conservation as a scholarly discipline was, at best, nascent if not merely notional. Since that time conservation scholarship has come to embody inquiries that include the investigation of an artist’s materials and techniques, the documentation of a contemporary artist’s ideas and intentions, the history of conservation, the development of new techniques in the conservation of art, to name but a few. Dr. Stoner has contributed essential research in each of these areas and has thereby fundamentally shaped the discipline.” As an art historian, Stoner has contributed numerous articles in journals, book chapters, and exhibition catalogues that attest to a lifetime of scholarly excellence.