Visual artist Byron Kim and experimental filmmaker Bruce McClure (pictured at left) are among the “five engaged, wildly independent artists” receiving 2008 Alpert Awards in the Arts. Initiated and funded by The Herb Alpert Foundation and administered by California Institute of the Arts, the awards provide unrestricted prizes of $75,000 to artists in the fields of visual arts, film/video, dance, music, and theatre. Kim was selected from a slate of 20 nominated artists by a panel composed of curators Elizabeth Brown (of the University of Washington’s Henry Art Gallery) and Franklin Sirmans (of the Menil Collection) and art historian James Elkins, while cultural critic Rosa-Linda Fregoso, Whitney curator Chrissie Iles, and the Walker Art Center’s Dean Otto picked McClure.
Known for minimalist canvases with a conceptualist twist, Kim says he is “interested in making abstraction and abstract painting relevant today, and doing so in a way that might subvert our usual ways of perceiving.” To wit: a painting of horizontal stripes takes on a new meaning when the viewer learns that it is a code of sorts, based upon the head-to-sneakers colors of Kim’s son. Meanwhile, the Alpert Foundation labels the difficult-to-describe McClure as an “artisan of light and sound ephemera,” which may be more helpful than the artist’s own explanation: “I should describe what I do as continuity of movement never fully completing a figure.” Brooklyn-based McClure was trained as an architect. “It’s a two-dimensional representation of three-dimensional objects,” he said of architecture in a 2006 interview with The Brooklyn Rail. “Just as film is two-dimensional and somehow becomes three-dimensional.”