Athenaeum Music & Arts Library exhibit celebrates 2014 San Diego Art Prize winners in La Jolla

For the past nine years, the San Diego Art Prize, funded by San Diego Visual Arts Network, has been awarded annually to two established artists, each of whom gets to choose an emerging artist to also receive the award.

The Art Prize committee, including Patricia Frischer of SDVAN, Ann Berchtold of Art San Diego, art collector Debra Poteet and Erika Torri, executive director of the Athenaeum Music & Arts Library, choose winners from a list of nominees by visual arts professionals and former Art Prize recipients. By the end of 2015, they will have distributed $56,000 in awards to 36 artists.

Recent artworks by 2014 prize-winners, established artists Marianela de la Hoz and Philipp Scholz Rittermann and their handpicked mentees, Bhavna Mehta and Joseph Huppert, are on view at the Athenaeum through May 2.

This year, for the first time, there are collaborative works by the two pairs of artists — photographic installations by Rittermann and Huppert, and two beautifully cut, drawn and embroidered paper pieces by de la Hoz and Mehta.

La Jollans may be familiar with Rittermann’s work: his large-scale photographs of China’s Grand Canal were shown at the Museum of Contemporary Art in 2011, and in 2013, with Robert Irwin, he co-created La Jolla Mural No. 12 (‘The Real Deal’ in the parking lot of the former Jonathan’s Market). Huppert has been Irwin’s assistant since 2007, and is now working with Rittermann on new outdoor art “interventions.”

Their curving, translucent, near-lifesize, photographic portrayal of the Athenaeum’s interior is a space-transforming eye-catcher. But there’s a special attraction to the small-scale pieces on display — the surreal drawings and paintings of de la Hoz, who combines a contemporary, darkly mischievous sense of humor with painstaking medieval technique, and the intricate, cut-paper constructions of Mehta, who puts her own, very personal spin on Indian folk art.

“I draw with a knife, cutting paper to tell visual stories,” Mehta said. “My work is based on the idea that everything is connected.”

At the March 27 reception, hundreds of art-lovers seemed to feel the connection, as they gathered to celebrate the winners and their work. Patricia Frischer announced the 2015 prizewinners: Wendy Maruyama and Roy McMakin. sdvisualarts.net

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