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2009 Awards for Distinction

posted by Christopher Howard — Jan 13, 2009

CAA announced today the recipients of its 2009 Awards for Distinction. These annual awards honor outstanding member achievements and reaffirm CAA’s mission to encourage the highest standards of scholarship, practice, and teaching in the visual arts.

CAA President Paul Jaskot will formally recognize the honorees and present the awards at Convocation, to be held during CAA’s 97th Annual Conference on Wednesday, February 25, 2009, at the Los Angeles Convention Center in California. The Annual Conference—hosting scholarly sessions, panel discussions, career-development workshops, art exhibitions, and more—is the largest gathering of artists, art historians, students, and arts professionals in the United States.

With these awards, CAA honors the 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. The 2009 winners are:

Artist Award for Distinguished Body of Work
Mary Heilmann

Mary Heilmann’s contribution to contemporary art has been long and generous, as seen in her recent retrospective exhibition, Mary Heilmann: To Be Someone, curated by Liz Armstrong, that opened at the Orange County Museum of Art in California in the spring of 2007. Traveling for nearly two years to the Contemporary Arts Museum in Houston, Texas; the Wexner Center for Arts in Columbus, Ohio; and the New Museum of Contemporary Art in New York, the exhibition showcased the work of an audacious yet respected artist who, after moving to New York from California (where she had grown up and gone to school) in 1968, gave up a more object-based practice in favor of painting—mostly because, to hear her tell it, painting was what you “shouldn’t” do.

Distinguished Artist Award for Lifetime Achievement
Chris Burden

One of the most recognized and respected artists of his generation, Chris Burden has for more than thirty years engaged the most intellectually challenging and provocative ideas of our time. Beginning with his now-legendary performance pieces of the early 1970s that tested the limits and endurance of the body, Burden helped to reshape the possibilities for body and performance art, and his work has had a major influence on artists throughout the world. Much of his work has been about experience and the concept of trust, and how society depends on interpersonal responsibility. Throughout his practice he has maintained his aesthetic and social purpose, principles based in deeply abiding personal ethics and grounded in his immense integrity.

Distinguished Feminist Award
The Guerrilla Girls

In many ways the Guerrilla Girls, recipients of CAA’s inaugural Distinguished Feminist Award, embody the very spirit of the feminist art world: collaborative, proactive, and persistent. Since 1985, members of the group have harassed, entertained, shamed, and moved the art world with their direct campaigns that provide statistical information on the inequities of the art world. Their masked appearances and performances, as well as their public posters, have precisely and pertinently “called out” the art world on its practices and habitual behaviors, using humor and satire to expose gender bias, gender erasure, and gender-centric concepts of creativity and genius. The Guerrilla Girls also won CAA’s Frank Jewett Mather Award in 2004.

Charles Rufus Morey Book Award
Anthony J. Barbieri-Low, Artisans in Early Imperial China, University of Washington Press

In this book, a magisterial study of the myriad and mostly anonymous artisans of early imperial China, Anthony J. Barbieri-Low examines the lives of artisans—from the men and women working in the royal court to the indentured workers in prison and slave camps—who crafted objects as diverse as lacquer bowls, stone funerary monuments, bronze lamps, ceramic sculpture, and wall paintings. Artisans in Early Imperial China goes far beyond the materialist analysis of works, adding an often-overlooked human dimension to an already brilliant synthesis of social history, archaeology, anthropology, and aesthetics.

Alfred H. Barr, Jr., Award
Tim Barringer, Gillian Forrester, and Barbaro Martinez-Ruiz, eds., Art and Emancipation in Jamaica: Isaac Mendes Belisario and His Worlds, Yale Center for British Art, in association with Yale University Press

Remaining attentive to the material objects, the editors and authors of Art and Emancipation in Jamaica advance bold arguments to elucidate a complex network of colonial interchange, and in the process address subjects as seemingly disparate as English slavery, Jamaican Jewry, and hybrid traditions of performance. The exhibition catalogue for a show at the Yale Center for British Art offers a striking, new perspective on a remarkable set of objects and a pivotal venue at a volatile moment in history and in the history of art.

Alfred H. Barr, Jr., Award for Smaller Museums, Libraries, and Collections
Phillip Earenfight, ed., A Kiowa’s Odyssey: A Sketchbook from Fort Marion, University of Washington Press, in association with the Trout Gallery, Dickinson College

In what has become a substantial body of art-historical study and literature on Plains Indian ledger book art, and on the drawings of the Fort Marion prisoners in particular, A Kiowa Odyssey stands out because of its more comprehensive evocation of historical and ethnographic context and its astute visual analysis. Although the broad story has been told in print many times before, this book ventures far deeper into the “mirror dance” of colonialist visual expression as told through the poignant experiences and powerful artistic expressions of the artist/prisoner.

Arthur Kingsley Porter Prize
Marnin Young, “Heroic Indolence: Realism and the Politics of Time in Raffaëlli’s Absinthe Drinkers

In his nuanced and elegant article from the June 2008 issue of The Art Bulletin, Marnin Young offers an insightful and original interpretation of the work of an artist who has been virtually ignored since the early twentieth century. Firmly grounding his reading in social and historical context, the author closely analyzes contemporary critical responses to Absinthe Drinkers when it was exhibited at the Sixth Impressionist Exhibition in 1881 and charts the ways in which the painting engages with the politics of both absinthe and the banliue. Young’s well-crafted and subtle argument is beautifully paced, a kind of enactment of the very subject of his study that reminds us that when we look closely and proceed slowly, depth of meaning reveals itself in ever-more eloquent ways.

Art Journal Award
Richard Meyer, “ ‘Artists sometimes have feelings,’ ”

The Art Journal Award is presented to Richard Meyer for his insightful, rich, and personal essay, “ ‘Artists sometimes have feelings,’ ” published in the Winter 2008 issue as part of a larger forum focused on working with living artists. Grounding his exegesis in the Fogg Art Museum director Edward Forbes’s 1911 account of the beauties and pitfalls of working with living artists, Meyer gives an unusual measure of historical depth to his work and the issue’s topic, making clear that the “problem of the living artist” is indeed not new. Using the interview as a subject—he writes about his experiences talking with Paul McCarthy and Anita Steckel—Meyer explores how personal feelings structure work on contemporary art, and how those feelings, even in their capacity to hinder and thwart communication, construct useful boundaries and limitations.

Frank Jewett Mather Award
Boris Groys

The work of Boris Groys maintains and extends the tradition of art criticism as provocation. His essays in Art Power (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2008) posit his arguments as stylish paradoxes that dismantle contemporary art and modernism, their presentation in public venues such as museums, and the role of curatorship and criticism within this framework. Groys consistently questions established and fashionable art-world notions but acknowledges and even honors the continued significance of utopian ideals in our construction of modernity.

Distinguished Lifetime Achievement Award for Writing on Art
Georges Didi-Huberman

One of the most distinctive and influential voices in the field of art history, Georges Didi-Huberman has written a cascade of publications that address works of art created in a variety of geographical locations and widely differing historical moments. His work constitutes a call for the recognition of the poetry of images and their continuing appeal to interpretation, while nevertheless perpetually escaping its grasp. Among his important books are the pioneering The Invention of Hysteria: Charcot and the Photographic Iconography of the Salpêtrière (1982, translated to English in 2003); Confronting Images (a 2005 translation of Devant l’image of 1990), Fra Angelico: Dissemblance and Figuration (1995; from a French edition of 1990); L’Image survivante (2002); and Images Malgré Tout (2003), translated as Images in Spite of All (2008).

Distinguished Teaching of Art Award
Roland Reiss, Claremont Graduate University

Roland Reiss, professor emeritus of the art program at Claremont Graduate University in California, stands out through his legendary energy, passion, and intellectual commitment—and above all for his transformative connection with the individual student. During the course of thirty-five years, he helped shape his school’s reputation as a cutting-edge art program. An exceptional teacher can connect with the current generation of students and lead them into the future, and it is a rare educator who can do this generation after generation, deeply penetrating the pulse of the times.

Distinguished Teaching of Art History Award
Charles W. Haxthausen, Williams College

Charles W. Haxthausen has provided long, transformative, and inspiring leadership to one of the most important master’s degree programs in art history in the United States. As Robert Sterling Clark Professor of Art History at Williams College in Massachusetts and director of the Graduate Program there from 1993 to 2007, he has served as an enthusiastic and energetic intellectual model, with his love of scholarship and carefully crafted and innovative pedagogy creating a degree program that in turn has produced numerous leading scholars, teachers, and curators in art history.

CAA/Heritage Preservation Award for Distinction in Scholarship and Conservation
Carol Stringari, Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, and Chris McGlinchey, Museum of Modern Art

For Imageless: The Scientific Study and Experimental Treatment of an Ad Reinhardt Black Painting, Carol Stringari and Chris McGlinchey presented the work of the AXA Conservation Research Project in conjunction with their respective museums. The results of this effort were several: a major advance in the understanding of Ad Reinhardt’s materials and techniques; the improvement of a relatively new conservation technique, laser ablation, which now holds much greater promise for the treatment of intractable problems like those posed by Reinhardt’s damaged and overpainted black paintings; and the presentation of these findings in a modest but remarkable exhibition and catalogue that presented the damaged work together with pristine examples by the artist and a lucid explanation of the treatment and findings, assisted by a video produced for an exhibition at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum.

Contact
For more information on CAA’s Awards for Distinction, please download the full press release or contact Emmanuel Lemakis, CAA director of programs.