The Larry Aldrich Foundation Award is given annually to a contemporary American artist of exceptional merit. An independent panel selected the 1998 recipient: Ann Hamilton. Ann Hamilton’s installation whitecloth was conceived after a series of visits by the artist to The Aldrich Museum. She responded to the incongruity between the Museum’s exterior appearance — as an austere historic home — and its interior life as a changing exhibition space for contemporary art. This architectural dichotomy prompted her ideas for an installation of sculpture responding to the building’s unique architectural history.
The Aldrich is housed in a 1783 colonial structure once nicknamed “Old Hundred” for its community service from 1783 to 1883 as a general store, post office, and town meeting place. In 1883 “Old Hundred” was remodeled as a private residence. In 1929 it became the First Church of Christ, Scientist and in 1964 the building was purchased by Larry Aldrich and converted into a museum for contemporary art.
Focusing solely on the exhibition spaces in the 200 year-old section, Hamilton initiated whitecloth by revealing thirteen windows throughout the galleries, which had been covered over during the 1964 conversion. The space, animated by the return of natural light and a view to the exterior, became the context for domestic objects transformed by movement and touch. Some pieces are embedded into the building’s membrane, some cut through walls and pass through floors, others are arranged in the space like objects in a still life. Many of the ideas for these site-specific sculptures extend out of Hamilton’s identification of the table as a social space resonant with early New England history. Often Hamilton’s work incorporates the presence of a body — usually a person conducting a task within a materially laden environment. The cumulative effect of the work is a sensory experience for the actor and the viewer. In whitecloth the emphasis is instead on the absence of the body, or what the artist refers to as “phantom presences.”
Accompanying the whitecloth exhibition is a full-color catalogue with text by poet and MacArthur grant recipient, Ann Lauterbach and writer Nancy Princenthal. Ms. Lauterbach, as in conversation, will respond to Hamilton’s “atmosphere” of thinking. Hamilton will provide key words that are extracted from what she is thinking and reading in preparation for The Aldrich exhibition. This “call-and-response” format (with roots in blues, gospel music or jazz) will produce parallel visual and verbal responses. Ms. Princenthal, who is a regular contributor to Art in America, The Print Collector’s Newslettter/Art on Paper, and BookForum, and is an editorial advisor for Art and Text., will provide the catalogue essay. Ms. Princenthal has also contributed articles to Parkett, the Village Voice, Artforum, Art News, Art Press, American Craft, Vogue, Industrial Design, and other publications. Anticipated publication for the catalogue is early March 1999.
Ann Hamilton has achieved critical acclaim for her metaphorically complex and labor-intensive installations over the past ten years, culminating most recently with her appointment as the 1999 American representative at the Venice Biennale. Comprised of organic material, objects, and performative gestures — all juxtaposed in a materially laden yet minimal environment — Hamilton’s installations can be perceived as ecologies paying homage to specific human conditions and evoking visceral responses.
Trained in textile design at the University of Kansas, Ann Hamilton also earned a Master of Fine Arts in sculpture from Yale University, and shortly thereafter embarked on a successful exhibition career. In 1993 Hamilton was awarded the prestigious MacArthur Fellowship, which allowed her to work full-time as an artist, producing more than ten major installations within the past five years. Hamilton participated in the 3rd Lyon Biennale of Contemporary Art (1995-96) and represented the United States at the 21st International Sao Paulo Bienal (1991). Hamilton’s international roster of solo exhibitions during this time includes; Project 48: seam, Museum of Modern Art, New York (1994); lumen, Institute of Contemporary Art, Philadelphia (1995); tropos, DIA Center for the Arts, New York City, (1993/94); reserve, Stedjelik van Abbemuseum, Eindhoven, Holland (1996); the body and the object: Ann Hamilton 1984-1996, Wexner Center for the Arts, Columbus, Ohio (1996), Miami Art Museum (1998), and Musée d’Art Contemporain de Montreal (1998/99); kaph, Contemporary Arts Museum, Houston, TX (1997); and present-past 1984-1997 Musée d’Art Contemporain de Lyon, Lyon, France (1997).
Established in 1992 and first awarded in 1993, The Larry Aldrich Foundation Award signified individual achievement in the visual arts and is presented to and American artist whose talent, innovation, and risk-taking have made an outstanding contribution to the field of contemporary art.
Over time, the amount of the award has increased from $5,000 in 1993 to $7,500 in 1994, and still higher in 1995. Today, recipients of the prize are awarded $25,000 and a one-person exhibition at The Aldrich Museum with accompanying catalogue. The 998 recipient is multi-media installation artist Ann Hamilton, who joins a distinguished list of past recipients including Charles Ray (1997), Robert Gober (1996), Bruce Nauman (1995), Cindy Sherman (1994), and Elizabeth Murray (1993).
The award selection committee is an independent panel of fourteen diverse individuals with expertise in contemporary art. The 1998 panel members are galleries Marianne Boesky; collector Eileen Cohen; collector Joel Dictrow; DIA Center for the Arts director Michael Govan; executive assistant to director of the Guggenheim Museum Max Hollein; Boston dealer Barbara Krakow; collector Marty Margulies; Creative Time director Anne Pasternak; artist Charles Ray; curator and writer Ingrid Schaffner; collector Barbra Schwartz; collectors Howard and Donna Stone; and Los Angeles County Museum of Art curator Lynn Zelevansky.