The three artists selected for the tenth Great Rivers Biennial Arts Award Program, Yowshien Kuo, Yvonne Osei, and Jon Young, have proposed exhibitions that involve multi-component sculptures, large-scale paintings, and an immersive installation featuring video and photography. The award winners were chosen by a distinguished panel of jurors following individual studio visits with ten semi-finalists. More than 105 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—Carmen Hermo, Associate Curator for the Brooklyn Museum’s Elizabeth A. Sackler Center for Feminist Art; Jen Liu, a New York-based visual artist working in video, painting, dance performance, and biomaterial; and Hamza Walker, Director of LAXART, a nonprofit art space in Los Angeles, and adjunct professor at the School of Art Institute of Chicago—selected artists through each stage of the process.
Yowshien Kuo’s paintings feature glimmering candy-colored surfaces to mask haunting themes, alluding to social trauma as a result of historical and contemporary narratives. The figures’ reactions to themselves and even the audience’s gaze intend to encourage viewers to confront potentially harmful cultural and social norms. The figures are intertwined with an environment that appears as a collage of reality and dreamscape, often including visual artifacts that reveal the mood and intentions of the scene taking place. For his exhibition at CAM, Kuo conveys these themes in new large-scale paintings with subtle installation elements to encourage contemplation and self-reflection.
Yvonne Osei’s multidisciplinary creative practice explores topics of beauty, racism and colorism, the authorship and ownership of history, as well as the residual implications of colonialism in postcolonial West Africa and Western cultures. Through performance art, engaging public spaces, site-specific installations, video, photography, garment construction, and textile designs, Osei’s work serves as a mouthpiece for generations that have been marginalized as she pushes against unilateral perspectives. The exhibition at CAM features an immersive video installation that utilizes the language of clothing and textiles, as well as the medium of time, to reckon with past and ongoing racial atrocities in the United States.
Through wood, sand, and fabric sculptures, Jon Young explores the development of language and signage of the American West. These works, which he refers to as “waymarks,” adopt historical symbols from Paleolithic cave paintings, ancient Greek pottery, and imagery found in Hollywood Westerns and Looney Tunes cartoons. Young’s work investigates and collapses layers of time and signifiers, particularly relating to the Romanticism of the West. The artist characterizes his practice as attempting “to make a map using fluctuating symbols, to get back to a home that hasn’t existed for a very long time or for so long that you question if it existed at all.”
Great Rivers Biennial 2022 is organized for the Contemporary Art Museum St. Louis by Wassan Al-Khudhairi, Chief Curator.