Great Rivers Biennial

Kahlil Robert Irving, Tim Portlock, and Rachel Youn

The three artists selected for the ninth Great Rivers Biennial Arts Award Program, Kahlil Robert Irving, Tim Portlock, and Rachel Youn, have proposed exhibitions that involve kinetic sculpture, installation, ceramic, and digital prints. The award winners were chosen by a distinguished panel of jurors following individual studio visits with ten semi-finalists. More than 80 artists applied for the Great Rivers Biennial (GRB), a collaborative initiative between CAM and the Gateway Foundation designed to recognize artistic talent in the greater St. Louis metro area. Generously funded by the Gateway Foundation, the GRB awards each artist with $20,000 and a major exhibition in CAM’s main galleries.

The jurors—José Carlos Diaz, Chief Curator at The Andy Warhol Museum and a 2018 fellow at the Center for Curatorial Leadership; Christopher Y. Lew, the Nancy and Fred Poses Curator at the Whitney Museum of American Art and co-curator of the 2017 Whitney Biennial; and Amanda Ross-Ho, multidisciplinary artist, participant in the 2008 Whitney Biennial, and an associate professor and the University of California, Irvine—selected artists through each stage of the process.

Kahlil Robert Irving observes how materials and emotions are linked, simultaneously existing as static/dynamic, heavy/light, political/anarchic, old/new. Through his practice he intends to break cultural rules that have been developed by colonialism, and aims to navigate and challenge those constructs through materials, form, and performance.

Tim Portlock’s art focuses on the divergence between the idealism of American exceptionalism and the lived realities of contemporary American cities with declining populations. He contrasts the blighted buildings of cities like St. Louis; Camden, New Jersey; and San Bernardino, California, with the idealism articulated through the conventions of 19th century American landscape painting.

Rachel Youn sources materials and objects from home décor stores and hours of online secondhand shopping on Craigslist and Facebook Marketplace. In the studio, these objects are transformed into kinetic pieces that are often times clumsy, erotic, and absurd, playing with the relationship between manufactured goods and spirituality.

The Great Rivers Biennial 2020 is organized for the Contemporary Art Museum St. Louis by Misa Jeffereis, Assistant Curator.

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