MFA Alumna Liza Johnson's recipient of the "

11th Rappaport Prize

September 30, 2010

deCordova Sculpture Park and Museum, 51 Sandy Pond Rd,
Lincoln, MA 01773

DeCordova awarded the 2010 Rappaport Prize to Liza Johnson for her narrative shorts and experimental videos that bridge the gap between art and cinema, documentary and narrative, and gallery and public art. With a background in fine art and cinema, Johnson's work inhabits a unique position between the two, ultimately extending the boundaries of both media. She combines public art and video installation with documentary, narrative, and abstract film to create what she terms "critical realism." In her recent work, the artist has collaborated with participants to produce films that are also collectively formed public art projects. By portraying the quiet moments of the actors own life, she creates a heightened realism heavily grounded in the imagery of the participant's environment.

In "South of Ten" (2007), Johnson's portrayal of the post-Katrina gulf coast, the artist worked with non-professional actors to develop a nuanced vision of the area's residents. The participants in the film act the events of their everyday life in a mode beyond direct interviewing and documentation. In 2009, Johnson released another collaborative film called "In the Air." The film focuses on adolescents in a circus school in a dead-end Ohio county. Cultural historian Tavia Nyongo commended the film, commenting that it "grows in significance until it reached its final scene, one of pure cinema, that is equal parts High School Musical and Gus van Sant. "In the Air" leaves the emotions, just as the title promised, deliciously suspended."

What does the prize mean to you?
"I am so flattered and honored that you've invited me to receive your prize. I'm really grateful to the Foundation and to the Museum, and I'm really just thrilled. It's also perfect timing. I have this year as my sabbatical from Williams College and so I have a big slate of new work and a feature film [Return] that I'm working on. It really makes a concrete, material difference to have your support as I go into a year where I can do that."

Where is she now?
Liza Johnson is currently an associate professor of art at Williams College. She has exhibited at the Museum of Modern Art, New York, NY; Wexner Center for the Arts, Columbus, OH; Walker Art Center, Minneapolis, MN; Centre Pompidou, Paris, France; as well as New York, Berlin, and Rotterdam Film Festivals. Her 2009 film "In the Air" received the Vienna Short Film award in 2010 and was nominated for Best Short Film at the Berlin International Film Festival. Johnson has also curated museum exhibitions including "Mix-NY Queer Experimental Film and Video Festival" at the Anthology Film Archives and "Through Afghan Eyes: Culture in Conflict 1987-1992" at the Asia Society Museum in New York.

DeCordova's Rappaport Prize recognizes the importance of art and artists in our cultural and economic life and is an investment in the current work and future work of an individual artist.

The Prize was founded by the Phyllis & Jerome Lyle Rappaport Foundation to support the Foundation's mission of promoting leadership in public policy, medical research, and art.

"Our greatest hope with the annual Rappaport Prize is to celebrate an important artist, generate excitement for their art and perspective, and provide some financial support to advance their careers to newer heights," says Foundation Chair Phyllis Rappaport.

The Rappaport Prize helps deCordova fulfill its mission of supporting significant artists while inviting public engagement with developments in contemporary American art. While deCordova exhibits artists from around the world, its collecting is focused on art created by artists with a relationship to New England—meaning artists who were born, educated, resided, or currently reside in the region. The Rappaport Prize is given to artists with New England ties, consistent with deCordova's, and the Rappaport Foundation's commitment to sustain the creative economy of Boston and New England

Each prize is given to foster two goals:

Celebrate the achievement and potential of an artist who has already demonstrated significant creativity and vision.
Encourage the artist to continue in a career of innovative art making.
Together, deCordova and Rappaport Foundation hope to create a community of accomplished artists whose careers have been enhanced by the recognition of the Rappaport Prize.

Related Link:

Liza Johnson

Still image courtesy of Liza Johnson and Indie Wire