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The Outwin: American Portraiture Today

“Specialist Murphy” 52 x 62  oil and graphite on panel  2016

We would like to send a big congratulations to Julianne Wallace Sterling ~ a Mercury 20 Gallery Artist whom has been selected as a finalist in The Outwin: Amercian Portraiture Today. A major exhibit to feature timely portraits on socio-political themes.

The Outwin: American Portraiture Today a major exhibition from the Smithsonian’s National Portrait Gallery featuring the finalists of its fifth triennial Outwin Boochever Portrait Competition.  Every three years, artists living and working in the United States are invited to submit one of their recent portraits to a panel of experts chosen by the Portrait Gallery. In 2019, nearly 50 works were selected from over 2,600 entries in a variety of media, including painting, drawing, sculpture, photography, time-based media and performance art.  The resulting presentation reflects the compelling and diverse approaches that today’s artists are using to tell the American story through portraiture. Finalists have come from 14 states, Washington, D.C., and Puerto Rico.

The Outwin: American Portraiture Today features intimate depictions of individuals whose remarkable stories are rooted in the most pressing challenges of our time,” said Kim Sajet, director of the National Portrait Gallery. “Many of the leading national conversations from the past three years—immigration, the rights of workers, climate change and the impact of racial violence—are presented here on a personal level. It is a moment to stop, look around and admire the tenacity and beauty of the American spirit through portraiture.”

The latest edition of The Outwin addresses themes of socio-political relevance, including immigration, Black Lives Matter, adolescence, the status of American workers, gun violence and LGBTQ+ rights.

The jurors for the 2019 Competition were Harry Gamboa Jr., artist, writer and co-director of the program in photography and media at the California Institute of the Arts; Lauren Haynes, curator of contemporary art at the Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art; Byron Kim, artist and senior critic at the Yale School of Art; and Jefferson Pinder, artist and professor of sculpture and contemporary practices at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. Three Portrait Gallery curators also served on the committee: Taína Caragol, curator of painting and sculpture and Latino art and history; Dorothy Moss, curator of painting and sculpture and performance art; and Brandon Brame Fortune, chief curator emerita.

The exhibition is accompanied by a fully illustrated catalogue, available at the Springfield Museums Store.

Artist Pantea Karimi in the SF Weekly

 

“The Unbearable Lightness of Mathematics” is a reconstruction of Pantea Karimi’s school life in Iran during the late 1980s. (Photo: Jonathan Curiel)

Black & White

Pantea Karimi’s exhibit at Oakland’s Mercury 20 Gallery, “The Unbearable Lightness of Mathematics,” is a reconstruction of her school life in Iran during the late 1980s, when she struggled with the pressures of science education and struggled with the school administration’s attempts to root out her growing, teenage interest in the music of Madonna and Michael Jackson. A clash was inevitable, and Karimi, who now lives in San Jose, tells visitors how it ended through a sequence of 10 mock blackboards with mathematical formulas that gradually get more cloudy — with the final board almost completely shrouded in a chalky fog.
Iran’s 1979 revolution ushered in strict religious standards, so the Persian wording for “In the Name of God” shouts from each of the 10 blackboards. The first blackboard features a copy of Isaac Newton’s mathematical handwriting alongside Karimi’s Persian handwriting, which she uses to express her concerns about studying math and taking exams. Halfway through the 10 blackboards, two clouded photos of Iran’s religious leaders oversee the blackboards and a trove of Karimi’s personal objects from that time, such as Reebok sneakers and cassette tapes of U.S. pop stars.
The blackboards’ interplay of cloudy chalk, Persian lettering, and math formulas — and their sequential morphing from clearly visible to almost nothingness — is a kind of visual existentialism. This aspect of the work is underscored by the dark boards’ setting: a cavernous, white-walled space.
More than a decade ago, Marjane Satrapi’s graphic novel and accompanying film, Persepolis, made the world smile and cringe at her former life in Iran, including her student life. “The Unbearable Lightness of Mathematics” produces a similar effect — only this time, we’re asked to physically stand in a place that mirrors what Karimi felt three decades ago. The mirror gets fuzzy in places. But even hazy images produce meanings that are crystal clear.

“The Unbearable Lightness of Mathematics”
Free, Through Oct. 17
Mercury 20 Gallery, 475 25th St., Oakland
mercurytwenty.com