At the last benefit exhibition of the Fondation pour les arts contemporains, 106 artists unite for a common cause

The Foundation for Contemporary Arts was established almost 60 years ago by artists Jasper Johns and John Cage. From the start, his aim was to mount exhibitions, award grants and produce performances, providing critical support to emerging creators working in the fields of dance, music / sound, theater, performance. poetry and visual arts. Since 1963, when FCA was operating out of Johns’ studio, more than 1,000 artists have contributed to periodic benefit exhibitions, including the one that runs through December 18 at the Greene Naftali Gallery in Manhattan. (Its proceeds go directly to CFA grant programs for individual artists.)

The FCA has invited Harlem-based visual artist, writer and performer Sonia Louise Davis to host this month’s show, for which 106 artists have donated their works. The opportunity had a deeply personal resonance for Davis. “I received the timely support of the FCA on two occasions via emergency grants as rapidly approaching exhibitions seemed almost impossible to achieve,” she said. “Over the years since, I’ve spoken to countless other artists about this lifeline, especially those who show and perform in non-profit, artist-run venues.” Needless to say, FCA’s help has been especially needed over the past two years, when canceled opportunities meant, for many artists, lost income.

For “Sonia Louise Davis Selects: Exhibition and Sale to Benefit the Foundation for Contemporary Arts” – which had a cheerful and well-attended opening last night – Davis examined how artists “are always integrated into larger ecosystems, even when we have relatively lonely studio practices. To this end, she thought of groups of friends and couples of artists who worked both collaboratively and alone; several artists whom she admired but did not know personally; and others who she believes could benefit from being in FCA’s orbit.

The resulting exhibition is extremely varied: a miniature work in ink on plastic by Johns stands alongside a recent sculpture by Suzanne Jackson and twisted metal by Robert Rauschenberg. Nasturtium Summer Glut shares space with Precious Okoyomon’s Angel of light which is made from wool, yarn, dirt and blood. Alex Katz, Ken Okiishi, Deborah Willis, Nick Mauss, Jacqueline Humphries, Nan Goldin and Rochelle Feinstein are just a few of the other artists for sale, and next weekend an Ashley Grier performance will answer curation by movement and voice.

With its spirit of artist-to-artist camaraderie, the show creates a welcoming scene, even on the cooler evenings of December.


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