$10,000 Award Recognizes Best Booth Devoted To A Woman Artist In The Fair’s Main Galleries Section
Luis De Jesus Los Angeles is proud to announce that June Edmonds has won the inaugural AWARE Prize at The Armory Show 2020 in New York. The juried award is presented by the Paris-based nonprofit Archives of Women Artists, Research and Exhibitions (AWARE) and the Aware Foundation in collaboration with The Armory Show. The $10,000 prize goes to a female artist whose work is shown as a solo booth presentation within the fair’s main Galleries section.
“There are a lot of prizes today, but very few women [get them],” Aware cofounder Camille Morineau says. “A few years ago we launched a French Aware Prize in Paris, and when I was invited by the Armory to walk through the fair [around then], I became conscious that there were quite a lot of women in the fair and solo booths, and this felt new, interesting and strong.”
At the 2020 Armory Show, Edmonds was unanimously selected by the jurors who coalesced around the discovery of her flag paintings – a new body of work presented by Luis De Jesus Los Angeles at this year’s Armory Show. “We were all flabbergasted by Edmond’s work. I think that’s what fairs are about, discovering work and having strong experiences of the art that is beyond words,” Morineau says. “I didn’t know June’s work well, and fairs are a place of surprises and a place to learn. I hope that the prize will be about sharing these surprising and strong moments with other people.“
June Edmonds was born 1959 in Los Angeles, where she lives and works. She received her MFA from Tyler School of Art, Philadelphia, and a bachelor’s degree from San Diego State University. She also attended Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture and is the recipient of a 2018 City of Los Angeles Individual Artist Grant (COLA) and Exhibition at the Los Angeles Municipal Art Gallery; a California Arts Council Individual Artist Grant; Paducah Artist Residency in Kentucky; Helene Wurlitzer Foundation artist residency in Taos, NM; and Dorland Mountain Community artist residency in Temecula, CA. Edmonds has exhibited at the California African American Museum, the Los Angeles Municipal Art Gallery, Luckman Fine Art Gallery at CalState Los Angeles, Watts Tower Art Center in Los Angeles, CA; Angels Gate Art Center in San Pedro, CA; and the Manhattan Beach Art Center in Manhattan Beach, CA. Edmonds has completed several works of public art with the city of Los Angeles and the Department of Cultural Affairs, including an installation at the MTA Pacific Station in Long Beach, CA.. Her paintings are held in collections throughout the United States including the Davis Museum, Wellesley College, Wellesley, MA; California African American Museum, Los Angeles, CA; The Pizzuti Collection, Columbus, OH; as well as Rodney M. Miller Collection, New York, NY; and Kelly Williams Collection, New York, NY, among others.
Edmonds’s Flag Paintings explore the American flag as a malleable symbol of ideals, promises, and identity and create space for the inclusion of multivalent identities that consider race, nationality, gender, and political leanings. Each flag is associated with the narrative of an African American, past or present, a current event, or an anecdote from American history.
Color has played an especially important role in the intersection of Edmonds’s personal, political, and artistic journeys. Color associations can be tied to culturally symbolic imagery, trauma, and emotion, giving color the unique discursive ability to communicate about power and systemic disenfranchisement. The Flag Paintings explore the psychological construct of skin color utilizing the primary colors of brown skin tones to build Edmonds’s radical propositions: symbols of American identity that not only more accurately reflect the broader changes in the racial and ethnic makeup of the country’s population but the ideals and promises enshrined in the Constitution. With thick, shifting brushstrokes in rich earth colors organized into columns of varying widths, the flags are oriented vertically, shifting the flag from a strategically designed symbolic object into a portrait of black and brown embodiment—challenging the misrepresentation, capitalization, subjugation, fetishization, policing, disenfranchising, or invisibility of black and brown bodies.
Edmonds’s Flag Paintings are created through methodically applied sculptural paint strokes in columns of varying widths. The titles of the paintings make direct allusion to lesser-known African Americans and their stories, and the palette is derived from the spectrum of black skin complexions, which in themselves embody the narrative of the global geopolitical diaspora of which American history is such a touchstone. They are vertically oriented as portraits because, as the artist says, they “stand for something” and directly express the degree to which the black body is actually the subject of the project.
Among the paintings presented at The Armory Show is the Shadd Cary Flag and Capitol Chasm Flag. Mary Ann Shadd Cary was born a free African American woman in Wilmington, Delaware in 1823, and was an American and Canadian anti-slavery activist, journalist, publisher, teacher, and lawyer. She was the first Black woman publisher in North America and the first woman publisher in Canada. Shadd Cary was an abolitionist who became the first female African-American newspaper editor in North America when she edited The Provincial Freeman in 1853.
Capitol Chasm Flag is named after Mary Eliza Church Terrell. Terrell was born on September 23, 1863 in Memphis, and was a well-known African American activist who championed civil rights and women’s suffrage in the late 19th and 20th century. An Oberlin College graduate, Terrell was a founder and charter member of the NAACP. She said: “Surely nowhere in the world do oppression and persecution based solely on the color of the skin appear more hateful and hideous than in the capital of the United States, because the chasm between the principles upon which this Government was founded, in which it still professes to believe, and those which are daily practiced under the protection of the flag, yawn so wide and deep.“
About the Flag Paintings, Edmonds states: “In February 2017 I did an Artist Residency in Paducah, KY run by Alonzo Davis (co-founder of Brotman Gallery). I was not concerned [for my safety] about being there until the [2016 presidential] election. It felt like the end of a Second Reconstruction and I became intensely curious about the first one and the Civil War era before that, especially in the area where I was visiting. I started and finished a painting [titled Story of the Ohio: For Margaret (2017)] dedicated to Margaret Garner, an enslaved woman from Kentucky, in an area very close to where the residency was located. Her story was the inspiration for Toni Morrison’s book Beloved. I did some reading and listened to books on the subject while painting. The Flag Paintings came to me in a dream some months later. I was tremendously moved when I learned that the formally enslaved viewed their Americaness intensely. They were extremely loyal and committed to American ideals and their relationship to the flag was that of complete ownership. Their passion even in those horrendous times is just mind-blowing to me. That sense of ownership and a full understanding of this country’s promises were energizing powers that my American ancestors harnessed.
Fighting in the Civil War gave the formally enslaved agency and I see Colin Kaepernick and other athletes [protesting by] kneeling as a complementary battle. This idea has worked into my flags from the very beginning in contemplating what it meant and what it means to be American. Kaepernick, Muhammed Ali, Tommy Smith, John Carlos (of 1968 Olympic black power fist fame), and Jessie Owens are all heroic athletes because of their bravery to rebel. I would say that the American flag, in the hands of white supremacists, has been reappropriated into a tool of violent exclusion. I think we have this new understanding, no matter how we use this (newest) definition or respond to it. I am sure this is what inspired my dream in the first place.“
“We are very proud to partner with Camille Morineau and Aware for this year’s Armory Show,” says Eliza Osbourne, the fair’s Deputy Director. “Her thoughtful and erudite commentary on the work of women artists address our greatest goal – to give a platform to and to reward exceptional work.”
The 2020 Armory Show continues tomorrow, Sunday, March 8, 12-6 pm.
All images courtesy of the Luis De Jesus Los Angeles Gallery, 2685 S La Cienega Blvd. Los Angeles, CA 90034 | T 310 838 6000