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Stein Prize goes to painter of ‘improvisational’ portraits

Stein Prize goes to painter of ‘improvisational’ portraits

March 23, 2016 // by Denise M. Reagan

It's fitting that a new prize for emerging artists goes to a painter who is reinventing the medium. After nearly six months of research and deliberations, the Museum of Contemporary Art Jacksonville, a cultural institute of the University of North Florida, has selected the first recipient of the Brooke and Hap Stein Emerging Artist Prize.

Established in 2015 by Brooke and Hap Stein, the Stein Prize is given on an annual basis in recognition of an artist, chosen from one of MOCA's self-curated exhibitions, whose work demonstrates a singular combination of talent, innovation, and promise.

Jackie Saccoccio with Profile Candy b
Jackie Saccoccio with (Profile) Candy. Image courtesy of Anna D'Alvia.

The first artist to receive the Stein Prize is Jackie Saccoccio, whose work appears in Confronting the Canvas: Women of Abstraction, opening June 4 at MOCA Jacksonville. Saccoccio is a painter who lives and works in New York and Connecticut and has exhibited internationally and abroad for the last twenty years.

“Jackie Saccoccio is one of the most exciting artists working today,” said Marcelle Polednik, director and chief curator at MOCA Jacksonville. “The Stein Prize places MOCA Jacksonville among a handful of elite museums that recognize the extraordinary accomplishments of emerging artists at the present time.”

In her recent paintings, Saccoccio emphasizes the process of painting by tipping, dragging, and shaking the large-scale works over one another, where liquid pools of color, directional lines, and translucent orbs coexist. Ambitious in scale and vibrant in color, Saccoccio's pictures (or “improvisational” portraits as she refers to them) first began in 2008. Though completely nonrepresentational, her works are borne out of her interest in centrifugal forces in portraits. In order to reinterpret portraiture, the artist researched materials utilized by Renaissance painters, such as mica. Evolving the practice, Saccoccio's surfaces are freckled with mica and translucent varnishes, creating multilayered planes of shifting forms.

“Jackie is the perfect selection for the inaugural recipient of the Stein Prize,” Brooke Stein said. “Her work sets the standard for what the Stein Prize represents and recognizes.”

Jackie Saccoccio Profile Candy
© Jackie Saccoccio, Profile (Candy), 2015. Oil and mica on linen, 106 x 79 inches. Collection of Carole Server & Oliver Frankel.
Jackie Saccoccio Profile Minter Meltdown
© Jackie Saccoccio, Profile (Minter Meltdown), 2015. Oil and mica on linen, 106 x 79 inches. Jay Franke and David Herro.
Jackie Saccoccio Profile Yellow Yuskavage
© Jackie Saccoccio, Profile (Yellow Yuskavage), 2015. Oil and mica on linen, 106 x 79 inches. John and Sally Van Doren.

In 2015, a new body of work was presented in Degree of Tilt, a two-venue exhibition at two notable New York galleries, 11 Rivington and Van Doren Waxter. Inspired by Cy Twombly's 2005 Bacchus series, Saccoccio includes the directional lines of transferred paint that bridge and overwhelm the vertiginous orbs. Metaphorically, her pieces serve as conceptual containers of overlapping influences that are embedded in the layers. The ill-fated couples Narissus and Echo, and Cop 663 and Faye from Wong Kar-Wai's film Chungking Express converge with palettes of Marilyn Minter, Mondrian, and Lisa Yuskavage. Referring to the ancient Roman drainage system, Saccoccio conceives the totality of her paintings as a Cloaca Maxima: a repository where paint and ideas flow and pool.

Born Providence, Rhode Island, in 1963, Saccoccio received an MFA in painting and drawing from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago and a BFA in painting from the Rhode Island School of Design. Saccoccio has taught at Brooklyn College, Cranbrook Academy of Art in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan, Princeton University, and RISD.

She has exhibited her large-scale abstract paintings and wall drawings throughout the United States and Europe, including Corbett vs. Dempsey in Chicago; the Nerman Museum of Contemporary Art in Overland Park, Kansas; the Rhona Hoffman Gallery in Chicago; The Rose Art Museum at Brandeis University in Waltham, Massachusetts; and Saatchi Gallery in London. Her first solo museum exhibition in Europe was curated by Ilaria Bonacossa at the Museo d'Arte Contemporanea di Villa Croce in Genoa, Italy.

Saccoccio is the recipient of numerous awards and grants, including the Rome Prize from the American Academy in Rome in 2005, a John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation fellowship, a Fulbright grant to Italy in 1990, a 2004 residency in Giverny, France, from The Claude Monet Foundation, and the 2015 Artadia NADA Award. Her work has been reviewed in Art in AmericaThe Boston GlobeFrankfurter RundschauGay City NewsThe New York SunThe New York TimesThe New YorkerTimeOut, and The Village Voice.

“It is an honor to be named the first recipient of the Brooke and Hap Stein Emerging Artist Prize, as it is an award which reflects the vision of the curatorial team at MOCA Jacksonville with a long-term commitment to emerging voices,” Saccoccio said.

Stein Prize Acquisition Jackie Saccoccio Time Smelt
Hap and Brooke Stein and Assistant Curator of Exhibitions Jaime DeSimone selected Jackie Saccoccio’s Time (Smelt) for MOCA Jacksonville's Permanent Collection. The acquisition was made possible by the Stein's generous gift.

As part of MOCA Jacksonville's commitment to emerging artists, the Museum is acquiring Saccoccio's Time (Smelt), an oversized oil and mica painting on linen of 2016, which will also be displayed in Confronting the Canvas. This acquisition would not have been possible without the generosity of Brooke and Hap Stein.

“We were thrilled to acquire this painting for MOCA's Permanent Collection,” Hap Stein said. “The canvas is a stunning example of Jackie's work and will be an enduring record of the exhibition and a prized object for MOCA visitors to enjoy for years to come.”

Highlighting the work of emerging artists is at the core of MOCA Jacksonville's artistic and educational mission. As an organization that promotes the discovery, knowledge, and advancement of the art, artists, and ideas of our time, MOCA endeavors to identify, highlight, and support the work of young, talented visual artists who promise to alter the course of contemporary art locally, regionally, and nationally.

The Stein Prize provides prominence and prestige for the artists and MOCA Jacksonville alike. The benefits for the artists include display of their work in a MOCA Jacksonville exhibition, a public program at the Museum, acquisition of a work for the Permanent Collection, and a stipend. 

Brooke and Hap Stein
Brooke and Hap Stein established the Stein Prize in 2015 to recognize an emerging artist, chosen from one of MOCA Jacksonville’s self-curated exhibitions, whose work demonstrates a singular combination of talent, innovation, and promise.

MOCA Jacksonville's curatorial staff selects one artist per year to receive the Brooke and Hap Stein Emerging Artist Prize. The selection is based on, but not limited to, the following criteria:

  • The artist must be represented in a featured exhibition or Project Atrium series at MOCA that year.
  • The artist will have demonstrated exceptional creativity and outstanding achievement, including a significant body of work in a signature style.
  • The compelling nature of the artist's ideas and contributions to the field.
  • The artist's commitment to developing their work and whose future artistic contributions promises to be lasting.
  • The prize is open to visual artists of all media.
  • Applications are not accepted for this prize.

Saccoccio's work is featured in Confronting the Canvas: Women of Abstraction, one of the first museum exhibitions to focus solely on contemporary female painters, with works by Keltie Ferris, Maya Hayuk, Jill Nathanson, Fran O'Neill, and Anke Weyer. Abstract Expressionism has historically been defined by male artists, who rose to fame in post-World War II America. While women were practicing unique modes of painting alongside their male counterparts, they were given little emphasis or attention within the canon of art history both then and now. Confronting the Canvas does not attempt to rewrite history, but instead it identifies and gives prominence to emerging and mid-career women working in the field of gestural abstraction today.

This exhibition expands the discourse of abstraction in the United States over the past ten years and focuses on the performance of painting. It explores each artist's signature style and poses questions about potential relationships between abstraction and gender. In the large-scale paintings of pours, stains, strokes, and drips, the use of gesture via new techniques is redefined and even reclaimed as the younger generation of abstract painters pay homage to their forerunners. In Confronting the Canvas, one discovers the significant role of women painters in the contemporary history (or “her-story”) of abstraction. 

“As an advocate for all artists, I believe women have been and are currently trendsetters in contemporary abstract painting,” said Jaime DeSimone, assistant curator of exhibitions at MOCA. “Given the Museum's mission that celebrates the art, artists, and ideas of our time, this project is a remarkable opportunity to marry mission with artistic accomplishments. I've been following Jackie's work since her early 2008 portrait paintings. Her dogged practice as an artist warrants this recognition.”




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