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Contemporary artists who like to push boundaries by creating works that challenge, perplex or even annoy patrons have found support at the Salt Lake Art Center.
This is, after all, the art gallery that's hosted a collective that enshrined fruit preserves, home-sewn aprons and tchotchkes, as well last year's popular artist-created miniature-golf-course exhibit.
Now comes an exhibit of the work of Los Angeles-based Kim Schoenstadt, who won the center's first Catherine Doctorow Prize for Contemporary Painting, which includes a $15,000 prize and a solo exhibition.
One of her boundary-busting piece on display is "Sound Drawings: Car Crash Theory No. 5," which can be viewed as underscoring the center's openness to experimentation. After all, the "drawing" in the work is based on police photographs of automobile crashes.
The viewer though "listener" might be a more accurate term stands beneath an audio speaker looking at a blank canvas and listening to a recording of Schoenstadt's scratching as she draws. The only clues to what the work looks like are the sounds and the title.
Here's the kicker: Schoenstadt destroyed the drawing after making the tape, so the work only exists as an audio recording and, fleetingly, in the listener's imagination.
Schoenstadt, who has shown her work internationally, says she tries to push curatorial limits by offering art such as "Car Crash." That's why she was delighted when the Salt Lake Art Center accepted "Car Crash" for her Doctorow exhibit, which runs through Feb. 12. "I want the opportunity to do the unusual and they didn't say 'No,' " she says.
Center executive director Adam Price jokes, "We're very promiscuous here," as he praises "Car Crash" as a boundary-crossing work.
Schoenstadt's exhibition includes other forays into conceptual art, some of which also involve the viewer. "Paint by Numbers (and Shapes)" allows gallery visitors to choose colors for the numbered shapes in a wall-size architectural mash-up that includes buildings in Salt Lake City. At the end of each week, assistants paint in the colors. (Price explains that allowing the patrons to apply the paint themselves would, unfortunately, run afoul of fire-safety regulations.)
"This will evolve into a giant mess," Schoenstadt says of "Paint by Numbers."
Much of the artist's work plays with ideas of architecture and place. For instance, her "Lake Powell Series: Site Plan 5" includes the architecture of three cities Los Angeles, Sinai, Israel, and Salt Lake City which mostly have in common concerns about water, and little else.
Schoenstadt enjoys watching viewers recognize architecture from their hometown in her paintings. "I like that moment when people have that 'aha!,' " she says. "That's when I got hooked on using architecture in my work."
Another work that relies on audience interaction is "Soundtracks: Doctrow Prize Exhibition 2011," which is simply a boombox on a milk crate. Visitors are invited to load their own music tapes into the box to create a soundtrack for the exhibit as they view it. "I'm hoping some local musicians will make a soundtrack expressly for the exhibit," she says.
The center's biennial Doctorow Prize and its accompanying solo show, which includes promotion and national advertising, should help establish Salt Lake City as a modern-art center, Price says.
The Jarvis & Constance Doctorow Family Foundation, established in New York with ties to Salt Lake City, has made the Salt Lake Art Center the permanent home of the Catherine Doctorow Prize for Contemporary Painting for emerging and midcareer artists. Price says the recipients of the award "will become the leaders of American art in the next decade."
"The size and amount of the Doctorow puts it in the top echelon of prizes," he says. "Our hope is that Salt Lake City will be come a contemporary-art capital."
The architecture of art
Los Angeles artist Kim Schoenstadt has been awarded the Salt Lake Art Center's first-ever Doctorow Prize for Contemporary Painting, which includes a $15,000 award and a solo show.
When • Through Feb. 18
Where • Salt Lake Art Center, 20 S. West Temple, Salt Lake City
Hours • Tuesday-Thursday and Saturday, 11 a.m.-6 p.m.; Friday, 11 a.m.-9 p.m.
Info • Free admission; more information at http://www.slartcenter.org, 801-328-4201