For the past 13 years, the San Diego Art Prize, sponsored by San Diego Visual Arts Network, has been awarded to two established artists, with each one asked to choose an emerging artist to share the cash award and exhibition. This year, at the May 10 opening of the exhibit at La Jolla Athenaeum — which has hosted the Art Prize since 2011 — SDVAN founder/coordinator Patricia Frischer announced a new direction.
From now on, all four prize-winners will be emerging artists, and the Art Prize will have a new curator/administrator, Chi Essary, who curated the excellent art-and-science show “Extra-Ordinary Collusion” at San Diego Art Institute in 2017 and is a board-member-at-large of Vanguard Culture. Essary has strong connections with artists on both sides of the border — including her soon-to-be husband, Einar de la Torre — so this sounds like a nice infusion of young blood into the Art Prize.
But the news was not the main feature of the evening, which was the art. Anne Mudge’s intricate wire sculptures delicately commanded almost half the gallery and demonstrated why she’s been called “an artist’s artist.” Her choice for emerging artist, furniture maker Erin Dace Behling, showed several austerely attractive wood-and-concrete tables, inspired by her observations of desert plants — strong, with minimal undergrowth.
Robert Matheny, who started making art over half a century ago because, as he says, “it pleased me and challenged my intellect,” had only three small framed pieces on display — a Real and a Fake Two-Dollar Bill and a Black Hole made of wood, glitter and an LED light — but they gave a glimpse of his thinking and sense of humor.
His emerging artist, Max Robert Daily, has a notable talent for whimsy. He’s best known for his sardine bar/edible art-installation at Bread & Salt in Barrio Logan — it’s currently off on a national tour but will be back at Art San Diego in Del Mar in October. At the Athenaeum, he strolled around selling artist print sardine boxes (sardines included), passing out red rubber clown noses, and offering quarters to anyone who wanted to get a handful of sea glass and skipping stones from his seaside carnival gumball machine.
• IF YOU GO: San Diego Art Prize Exhibition runs thrugh July 11, 2019 at Athenaeum Music & Arts Library, 1008 Wall St., La Jolla. NOTE: Don’t miss the SDSU Art Council Scholarship Exhibition in the Athenaeum’s Rotunda Gallery with interesting work by this year’s award-winning student artists. (858) 454-5872. ljathenaeum.org