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Contemporary Realism - Sept 2014

In celebration of The Art League's 60th Anniversary in 2014, the Gallery is revisiting and reflecting upon the major art movements from the last six decades.

Contemporary Realism
September 10–October 6, 2014
Juror: Dorothy Moss, National Portrait Gallery
Reception: Thursday, September 11, 6:30-8:00 pm

Exhibit links: view on Flickr | download program (PDF)

Pensive, colored pencil and acrylic, by Suzanne Vigil

Juror’s Dialogue with Erica Fortwengler

As first time Art League juror Dorothy Moss, associate curator of painting and sculpture at the National Portrait Gallery and director of the triennial Outwin Boochever Portrait Competition, evaluated the work submitted for the September “Contemporary Realism” exhibit, she looked for well-crafted work that fit the genre and captivated her attention.

Contemporary Realism as an art movement brought the return of straightforward, realistic approaches to representation. Moss had her eye out for pieces that strongly depicted the figure, a recognizable landscape, or still life. When she felt that a work started to veer from representation into abstraction, she eliminated it from contention.

“I’m always looking for a tension – something that’s eye catching or unexpected that makes the piece unforgettable. The element of tension isn’t always the same thing – might be an aspect of the composition, the application of the paint, the pose of the figure. This tension doesn’t cause the piece to fall apart, but rather, it holds it together.”

Moss noted that she was surprised to see so many works submitted that didn’t fall into the category of Contemporary Realism. These works were not selected, as Moss remained true to the theme. For works that did fit the theme but were not selected, there were often compositional issues, or anatomical issues with the figure.

The Shayna Heisman Simkin Award for Best in Show was awarded to Suzanne Vigil for Pensive, a colored pencil and acrylic piece. Moss was immediately struck by the composition, and taken by the pose and strong rendering of the figure. The hybrid medium, Moss noted, is in dialogue with work that is increasingly acquired in the museum world. She’s seeing a lot of medium mixes where it’s hard to tell where one medium stops and the other starts.


Cindi Lewis’ Focused received the Jane McElvany Coonce Award for Contemporary Realism. Moss loved the use of light, the strong composition, and the way Lewis animated the figures through the pose. She also liked the scale – how the painting is intimate but has a much larger presence.


Meal Two a pastel by Moira McQuillan was awarded the Dee Gee Watling Award for pastel. Moss selected this piece for its beautiful composition, great color, and how wonderfully the reflection in the silver is handled.


Moss was quite impressed with the painting overall, though she wished she had seen more works on paper. She remarked that the framing and presentation was very professional, often much better than what they receive that the National Portrait Gallery for the Outwin Boochever Portrait Competition!


And, speaking of that competition, Moss commented that a lot of The Art League’s very talented portrait artists should be entering… the call for entries for the 2016 Outwin Boochever Portrait Competition is now open, and entries are accepted through November 30, 2014.


Moss is associate curator of painting and sculpture at the National Portrait Gallery and director of the triennial Outwin Boochever Portrait Competition. Moss has held positions at the Corcoran Gallery of Art and the Smithsonian American Art Museum. From 2008-2013, she taught an American Studies seminar for the Smith College/Smithsonian program centered on the subjects of the uses of new technology in American art museums from the 19th century to the present and the impact of new media on the exploration of identity in contemporary portraiture. She has contributed to numerous exhibition catalogues and her commentaries and articles have appeared in the Burlington Magazine, American Art, click!: photography changes everything, and Gastronomica. After graduating from Smith College, Moss earned a master’s degree from Williams College, and a Ph.D. from the University of Delaware.



Promotional support for our 60th Anniversary has been generously provided by the Alexandria Marketing Fund.



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