The Armory Show
First AWARE Prize goes to June Edmonds
Paris-based artist June Edmonds has been selected out of five finalists for the debut AWARE Prize at The Armory Show. The prize is juried $10,000 and highlights the excellence of the artist’s work and the gallery’s courage to present a solo-female artist’s work in a male-dominated market.
AWARE: Archives of Women Artists, Research and Exhibitions, a Paris-based nonprofit with a mission to reposition women artists in the canon of 20th century art history, in partnership with The Armory Show, announce that artist June Edmonds has been awarded the debut AWARE Prize at The Armory Show.
June Edmonds was born 1959 in Los Angeles. Edmonds received her MFA from Tyler School of Art, Philadelphia, and a bachelor’s degree from San Diego State University. Edmonds has exhibited at the California African American Museum, the Los Angeles Municipal Art Gallery; Luckman Fine Art Gallery at CalState Los Angeles; Watts Tower Art Center in Los Angeles; Angels Gate Art Center in San Pedro; and the Manhattan Beach Art Center in Manhattan Beach. Her paintings are held in collections throughout the United States.
“We’re so proud to present The AWARE Prize to June Edmonds, on an international stage like The Armory Show,” states co-founder Camille Morineau. “Edmonds was unanimously selected by the jurors, who coalesced around the discovery of her new Flag Paintings—a breakthrough body of never-before seen work by the artist presented by Luis de Jesus Los Angeles at this year’s Armory Show.”
A jury selected Edmonds from a short list of five finalists which included Rina Banerjee, Yuko Nasaka, Aase Texmon Rygh and Alexis Smith. The jurors are Camille Morineau, AWARE co-founder; Bloum Cardenas, Trustee, Niki Charitable Art Foundation and President of the Giardino dei Tarocchi; Simon Castets, Director, Swiss Institute; Susan Fisher Sterling, The Alice West Director, National Museum of Women in the Arts, Washington, D.C.; and Maura Reilly, arts writer and curatorial activist.
June Edmonds uses abstract painting to explore how color, repetition, movement, and balance can serve as conduits to spiritual contemplation and interpersonal connection. Of critical importance is her interest in redefining traditional Western color theory. Color associations can be connected to culturally symbolic imagery and emotion, and are thus able to communicate about power and systematic disenfranchisement. Exploring the psychological construct of skin color or tone through pattern and abstract painting has proven to be a revealing gesture. By researching lesser-known Black Americans and incorporating their stories into her work, she has found a way to navigate the complexity of these ideas in painting and create space for these discussions.
Edmonds began her Flag series in February 2017, following her Artist Residency in Paducah, KY. The conjunction of the context of the recent 2016 presidential election, and her discovery of this area’s History with the Civil War, inspired her to produce those works. With these paintings, she explores the representation of the alignment of multiple identities including race, nationality, gender, and/or political leanings.
Edmond’s Flag Paintings explore the American flag as a malleable symbol of ideals, promises, and identity and create space for the inclusion of multivalent identities that consider race, nationality, gender, and political leanings. Each flag is associated with the narrative of an African American, past or present, a current event, or an anecdote from American history. Color, which plays an especially important role in the intersection of Edmonds’s personal, political, and artistic journeys, can be tied to culturally symbolic imagery, trauma, and emotion, giving color the unique discursive ability to communicate about power and systemic disenfranchisement. The Flag Paintings explore the psychological construct of skin color utilizing the primary colors of brown skin tones to build Edmonds’s radical propositions: symbols of American identity that not only more accurately reflect the broader changes in the racial and ethnic makeup of the country’s population but the ideals and promises enshrined in the Constitution. With thick, shifting brushstrokes in rich earth colors organized into columns of varying widths, the flags are oriented vertically, shifting the flag from a strategically designed symbolic object into a portrait of black and brown embodiment—challenging the misrepresentation, capitalization, subjugation, fetishization, policing, disenfranchising, or invisibility of black and brown bodies.
The AWARE Prize at The Armory Show awards $10,000 to a superlative woman artist’s solo exhibition, given to either a living female artist or her estate, underscoring the importance of the artist’s work, as well as the courage and commitment of the gallery to undertake a solo presentation of work by a woman artist. Artwork made by women has been historically and financially under-valued in the art market. The AWARE Prize at The Armory Show aims to correct this course and demonstrate both the academic and canonical importance of work by women artists as well as the financial advantage to the presentation of their work.