16th ANNUAL NATIONAL ART COMPETITION
SMALL GROUP FORMAT
TRUMAN STATE UNIVERSITY
UNIVERSITY ART GALLERY
January 23 – February 24, 2006
by Shannon Fitzgerald
Chief Curator, Contemporary Art Museum St. Louis
It is a great opportunity to serve as this year's juror for Truman State University's 16th National Art Competition – SMALL GROUP FORMAT. I reviewed just over 100 submissions from artists from all over the county that revealed a pool of talented artists working in a wide spectrum of styles. The seven artists selected for this exhibition work in a variety of media which includes painting, printmaking, photography, video, sculpture, and installation. My task in selecting the artwork for this exhibition was difficult, but through the process an interesting body of work emerged that kept me revisiting the submissions over and over again. With the Small Group Format, I was aware that each artist had the opportunity to present a body of work in its entirety and with that visibility started to hone in on bodies of work that were formally rigorous, conceptually resolved, skillfully crafted, and interesting. I felt confidant that the seven artists I selected would be able to present a substantial exhibition as individuals and also work dynamically in respectful relationship to one another. While a shared visual language is not represented in this grouping, all artists uniquely express their interest in the world around them and are all engaged in contemporary art discourse. It was an enormous pleasure to see the exhibition in person, and a rewarding experience to witness how each artist held up and delivered conceptually astute work that is timely, thought provoking, and curious.
Ken Konchel’s series of architectural, black-and-white photographs extend from an established formal lineage of modernist photographers. The artist shares such formal concerns of his predecessors regarding pure form, pure light, and pure geometry. Whether industrial structures (stacks and bridges) or highly sophisticated and significant architecture (Ando, Calatrava), Konchel seeks balance and harmony in a platonic sense. His abstract presentations are about balance, symmetry, the cube, the square, the circle, and the arch. While some works are recognizable, all are highly abstract and represent frozen moments that work to maintain or present each building’s integrity as an intrinsic quality. Konchel hones in on the sculptural integrity as it exists, but also conveys a choreography of vision and purposefulness that allows his gray-scale to become pattern, repetition, and rhythmic arrangements. This series conjures a painterly sensibility and recalls Charles Sheeler and Rawlston Crawford who sought beauty in the ever-changing industrial landscape.