ICA announces 2019 Foster Prize winners

“Duchess in Green” by Lavaughan Jenkins, one of four James and Audrey Foster Prize Artists.
“Duchess in Green” by Lavaughan Jenkins, one of four James and Audrey Foster Prize Artists.© Lavaughan Jenkins (left);

The Institute of Contemporary Art has announced 2019’s James and Audrey Foster Prize Artists: Rashin Fahandej, Lavaughan Jenkins, Josephine Halvorson, and Helga Roht Poznanski.

Established in 1999, the Foster Prize provides funding for artists and culminates in an exhibition for the winners. It will showcase contemporary Boston-area artists and their respective practices, and open in August.

“I see the ICA’s Foster Prize exhibition as Boston’s biennial,” Ruth Erickson, the Mannion Family curator at the ICA, who selected the four artists, said in a statement to the Globe. “It is a chance to showcase artwork by some of the best artists living and working in the Boston-area.”


Erickson consulted curators, artists, and other colleagues. She previewed more than 150 artists’ work online and scheduled 50 studio visits before the four recipients were selected for 2019.

“This Foster Prize exhibition acknowledges the heterogeneity of Boston’s artistic ecosystem,” Erickson said, “bringing into dialogue artists at different stages of their lives and artistic careers.”

While Halvorson, Jenkins, and Poznanski primarily create visual art, Fahandej, 40, works with multimedia.

Fahandej’s most recent project, a multiplatform, multilayer research and collaborative work titled “A Father’s Lullaby,” combines video and audio components.

“It brings attention to the absence of fathers because of the issue of mass incarceration in the United States, and also the racial disparity of it,” Fahandej said in a telephone interview. “So there are many men in the communities of color and they are absent, and it has become a cyclical and generational impact on the communities.”

Jenkins, 42, is a painter first, but his recent work, and what he plans to continue doing for the exhibition, combines elements of sculpture to help create “three-dimensional paintings.”

“To be completely free,” said Jenkins, whose idea came to him in a dream, “I need to eliminate my borders and make them freestanding paintings.”


His sculptures are made with layers of oil paint instead of clay, with a wire, paste, and plaster structure to help support the weight. The idea was to “delve into the realm of: What’s a painting?,” according to Jenkins.

Halvorson, 37, also works with paint. She’s an observational artist and her work is “in relation to a particular place.” Her current project comprises paintings of the ground, showing elements like pebbles and grass, which she then surrounds with another form of painting that “has a surface preparation of some of the same kind of sediment from the ground where I painted.”

The other Foster Prize recipient, Poznanski, 91, is also currently painting, but she’s worked with a variety of media in the past.

Once a fashion designer in New York, she began studying visual arts at the School of the Museum of Fine Arts when she and her husband moved to the Boston area. Her current focus is on abstract watercolor, which she handles in an innovative way, by painting with transparent watercolors rather than opaque, and using very little water. This creates a strong pigment, which she uses to make shapes for her abstract artwork.

Although Poznanski fled her native Estonia in her teens to escape Soviet oppression, she credits her “very colorful” paintings with growing up in a northeastern European country, where the “national costumes” are also full of color. “The colors probably come from there because I’m accustomed to seeing artworks in Estonia as a child,” Poznanski added.


Unfamiliar with the other prize recipients, she’s done some research.

“It’s interesting to be with young people because obviously there’s a tremendous age difference between us,” Poznanski said, “but I think it’s going to be an interesting show, because there will be variety there.”

Lillian Brown can be reached at lillian.brown@globe.com. Follow her on twitter @lilliangbrown.