Last summer there was a giant black square on the lawn of the Olympic Sculpture Park—it looked like something had attacked, or something had formerly lived there and been removed, or like Seattle had a posthumous visit from Kasimir Malevich.

That art was by Andrew Dadson, who has just now been announced as the winner of this biennium's Brink Award from the Henry Art Gallery!

The Henry Art Gallery at the University of Washington is delighted to announce that artist Andrew Dadson is the recipient of The Brink award for 2011. The Brink is a biennial award granted to an early-career artist working in Washington, Oregon, or British Columbia whose work shows artistic promise and who appears to be on “the brink” of a promising career. Dadson will receive a prize of $12,500 and be given a solo exhibition at the Henry. A work of his art will be acquired for the museum’s permanent collection.

Andrew Dadson, of Vancouver B.C., creates paintings of intensely worked layers of oil paint, pushed unidirectionally across the painting's support, allowing a thick blur to settle on the picture plane while excesses of color build up at the edges. Combining multiple canvases in small groups that often sit on the floor and lean on each other, he emphasizes the physicality of his process and the object-like nature of the results. Through these paintings and his equally characteristic series of landscape photographs altered by monochromatic applications of paint, Dadson explores his assertion that “. . . everything has boundaries; the delimitations between such can be static and opaque or permeable and imagined. In my practice, I search for the spaces where society manifests these invisible distinctions, and how they can be indiscernibly breached and stretched.” Dadson received a BFA from the Emily Carr Institute of Art and Design. He is represented by Galleria Franco Noero (Turin, Italy).

Andrew Dadson and many of the other short-listed nominees for the award and jurors will take part in a public program at the Henry on Sunday, June 26, 2011, at 1:00 PM. The artists will share images of their work, and members of The Brink selection committee will respond to their presentations. The event is intended to be an open-ended, free-wheeling discussion about contemporary art in our region, and will be an opportunity for dialogue between artists, arts professionals, collectors, and the general public.

About The Brink

The Brink award, now in its second biennial cycle, is given to an early-career artist in Washington, Oregon, or British Columbia whose work shows artistic promise and who appears to be on “the brink” of a promising career. The selection committee considers artists whose work explores a range of ideas beyond the surface of mainstream culture and demonstrates innovation and high artistic quality. Evidence of some professional achievement is required as a demonstration of the artist’s commitment, but the artist does not need to possess an extensive record of accomplishments (exhibitions, critical reviews, commissions, grants, residencies, etc.). Appropriate benchmarks include a first significant exhibition, the receipt of an MFA or equivalent academic degree, or other evidence within the last five years indicative of the beginning of a professional artistic career.

The Brink award, now in its second biennial cycle, was established by long-time Henry Art Gallery benefactors and Seattle art supporters John and Shari Behnke. In developing the idea of The Brink, John and Shari Behnke sought a name that would evoke a critical point in an artist’s career, described by the Behnkes as “a crucial moment, the point at which something is likely to begin.” The award reflects the Behnkes’ adventuresome collecting interests as well as their desire to support artists in the region. As the Behnkes have succinctly put it, “We hope this award will provide a compelling reason for artists to stay in the region.”

The Brink complements the Henry Art Gallery’s role as a catalyst for the creation of new work, while simultaneously demonstrating the museum’s commitment to artists working in our region. Said Henry Director Sylvia Wolf, “Since its founding in 1927, the Henry has advanced the art, artists and ideas of its time. Today, John and Shari Behnke are building upon that mission with the Brink Award. All of us at the Henry are deeply grateful for the Behnke’s extraordinary generosity and support of artists in the Cascadia region.”

The selection committee completed the review of artists’ submissions in early March. For this year’s award, 62 nominations were received from arts professionals across the Pacific Northwest. Of those nominated, 43 artists submitted materials for consideration. The 2011 selection committee comprised Henry director Sylvia Wolf and curators Elizabeth Brown and Sara Krajewski; Seattle artist Victoria Haven; Vancouver artist Ken Lum; Reed College’s Cooley Art Gallery (Portland, OR) curator and director, Stephanie Snyder; and John and Shari Behnke.

In addition to Andrew Dadson, six other artists were chosen as finalists: Grant Barnhart (Seattle, WA); Debra Baxter (Seattle, WA); Dawn Cerny (Seattle, WA); Tannaz Farsi (Eugene, OR); Allison Hrabluik (Vancouver, BC); and artist team Anna Gray and Ryan Wilson Paulsen (Portland, OR). The committee conducted studio visits with all of the finalists before selecting the award winner. Henry Art Gallery Curator Sara Krajewski remarked, "Evaluating this year's Brink artists was a compelling and delightful process. The work of early career artists in our region is thriving, strong and provocative. The jury appreciated all the entrants' efforts in submitting work for our review."

About The Brink finalists:

Grant Barnhart uses painting to communicate with elements of history that he admires. In his work he attempts to “manifest the outcome through an imagined dialogue with the past generations. These Modernist amalgamations are interspersed with references to Greek Mythology, which has long served as a narrative compass in my work.” Barnhart received his BFA from Columbus College of Art & Design.

Debra Baxter combines dissimilar elements to create sculpture which “asserts that wanting is easier than having. Longing can become strangely comfortable, but it is the having or joining where a new level of awkwardness arises. My work is about finding strength in the uncomfortable moments and addressing the dichotomy of simultaneous success and failure.” Baxter earned an MFA from Bard College, a BFA from Minneapolis College of Art and Design, and has received numerous grants, including a 4Culture Special Project Grant in 2010.

Dawn Cerny is currently an MFA candidate at Bard College and holds a BFA, magna cum laude, from Cornish College of the Arts. She primarily creates assembled sculpture, as “Sculpture makes me ‘be with’ the way I am seeing and in turn forces me to look at how I see.” She suggests we “Consider a latex Halloween mask that has been turned inside out; it is known and unknown, a perversion of reality that makes room for something else to be considered.”

Tannaz Farsi uses “materials and forms that can be easily found within a pedestrian environment.” Through her often Spartan installations she works on “altering the symbolic nature of these materials.” Ultimately, she states, “I am interested in the translation of our cultural archive and invested in the production of speculative realities that can fundamentally alter and shape our culture.” Farsi holds both an MFA from Ohio University and a BFA, summa cum laude, from West Virginia University.

Anna Gray & Ryan Wilson Paulsen work together as an artist team and have done so for the last five years. They both received MFAs from Portland State University and BFAs from Pacific Northwest College of Art. Their installations, photographs and sculpture are usually a little sly and they openly acknowledge that they “draw extensively from books, from art history, literature, philosophy and philology, we do so while attempting not to neglect other forms of knowledge such as those acquired by watching YouTube or from talking to the cashier at the corner store. We translate, materialize and graft together the information we find, often reinventing or reenacting that which has come before us.”

Allison Hrabluik is a sessional Instructor at Emily Carr University of Art and Design and holds a BFA from the Alberta College of Art and Design. Through her videos, installations and other projects, she “has taken a lyrical and humorous approach to narrative exploration—mainly, experimenting with voice of narrative construction: the fable-like quality of third-person, the messy subjectivity of first-person, the humor and irony of allegory, magic-realist absurdity, and the wit in ‘rational’ argument. Formal explorations have included structural constraints, as well as collage and montage as both a subject matter and method.”