SFMOMA’s 2019 SECA Art Award

Written by:
Emily S. Mendel
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Since 1967, the Society for the Encouragement of Contemporary Art (SECA) of the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (SFMOMA) has honored more than 90 Bay Area emerging or under-recognized artists with its SECA Art Award. The 2019 SECA Art Award was granted to three deserving artists from San Francisco’s East Bay: Kenyatta A.C. Hinkle, Sahar Khoury, and Marlon Mullen. Each of the three worthy winners has a dedicated gallery on SFMOMA’s second floor, preceded by a small introductory interpretative gallery with vitrines showing the range of materials the artists employ.

In the center gallery are the extraordinary works by Marlon Mullen (b. 1963), who has maintained his art practice at NIAD (Nurturing Independence through Artistic Development) Art Center in Richmond, CA, since 1993. Mullen, who is, perhaps coincidentally, autistic and primarily nonverbal, already has works collected by several museums and is a participant in the prestigious 2019 Whitney Biennial. Mullen often uses art magazine covers and pages, which he tears apart, reinterprets, and re-works into dramatic, colorful abstract paintings, sometimes using complicated grids and other patterns with words or parts of words. In addition to ordinary paint materials, Mullen has also used shoe polish and hand soap to achieve his desired effects. All of his paintings are untitled.

On the left, the blood red-painted gallery of  Kenyatta A.C. Hinkle (b. 1987), who is an Assistant Professor at the University of California at Berkeley Department of Art Practice, focuses on questions of race, gender, sexuality, and history, which she interprets through a variety of visual and textual media. Her provocative projects explore what she calls the “Historical Present,” her term for the ways in which black images have been mistreated and distorted by the power structure. So, in one piece, she started with a colonial image in a postcard, greatly enlarged it and applied ink, paint, and glitter, all as a form of providing armor to the image. Her work, “The Sower Pt. II” (2016), is a prime example of her powerful works of art.

On the right is Sahar Khoury’s (b. 1973) gallery.  She is an Oakland, CA sculptor who combines personal, political, and abstract themes into her work. She primarily uses found, reclaimed, and recycled objects, such as animal cages, security gates, and a transaction window, which she combines with colorful textiles, papier-mâché, concrete, ceramic, and silk-screened materials to create art that is often whimsical, but sometimes sad or intense. Khoury refers to these sculptural pieces as “topiaries” or forms she has manipulated and changed.

Although remarkably diverse in style and content, these three talented 2019 SECA winners employ art to convey very personal views and emotions. The three fresh and innovative SECA galleries are a glimpse into rising trends in art — well worth a visit.

By the way, SECA is open to all who pay the annual $650 membership dues. Members are invited to select galleries and studios throughout the year. SECA members are called upon to nominate local artists for the prestigious award and may visit finalists’ studios, accompanied by SFMOMA curators, and attend the SECA Art Award Opening Preview.

By Emily S. Mendel


©Emily S. Mendel 2019    All Rights Reserved

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