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Ann Pibal awarded deCordova Museum’s artist prize

Rappaport Prize winner Ann Pibal’s works include “EXTS,” “DLUV,” and “LNIO.”Michele McDonald for The Boston Globe/Boston Globe

Ann Pibal, a Minneapolis-born abstract painter whose work is driven by expressive colors and patterns of lines painted on aluminum, has been awarded the 2013 Rappaport Prize by the deCordova Sculpture Park and Museum in Lincoln.

The award, whose past winners include Liza Johnson, Orly Genger, and John Bisbee, comes with a $25,000 cash prize and the potential for future work with the museum.

Genger’s “Red, Yellow, and Blue,” made of more than a million feet of lobster fishing rope, will be installed at the deCordova in October after it’s taken down from Madison Square Park in New York.

“With each of these artists, we’re selecting them in part because we want to have some kind of continued dialogue or relationship within them,” said deCordova director Dennis Kois. “We think their work is rich enough we might want to show it, collect it, and do a project with them.”


The museum had a relationship with Pibal even before she received the call recently telling her about the Rappaport honor. Her works were featured in the deCordova’s 2012 Biennial, a show marked by its emphasis on conceptual artists.


“Doing a studio visit with her was a revelation,” said curator Dina Deitsch. “As a colorist, she is so subtle and thoughtful. What it comes down to is that when you really just look and say, ‘What is it?’ It’s really about paint.”

Pibal’s work is notable in that it employs the same elements – lines and color – without sticking to a formula. Lines run parallel, lines twist, they form triangles and swirls and reflections as if in a mirror.

“She’s like a physicist scribbling equations over a white board, puzzling out vital, small-scale unknowns,” wrote the Globe’s Cate McQuaid about Pibal’s show at Steven Zevitas Gallery earlier this year. “But her methodical equations . . . have a graceful simplicity you don’t see on many white boards: straight lines, intersections, and little trolley-like loafs of color that ride along the lines, adding up to a system of weights and balances.”


Pibal splits her time between Vermont, where she teaches at Bennington College, and Brooklyn, N.Y. She and her husband, Colin Brant, also an artist, have a daughter, Oriole, 7.


In an interview, she talked of her love of such minimalists as Agnes Martin, Ellsworth Kelly, and Frank Stella, not merely as historical references but as jumping-off points for her own work.

“Abstraction isn’t something that was a mid-20th century thing that kind of ended,” said Pibal. “It’s just getting going, like a baby in the world. I don’t think of it as a kind of recycling, but at the same time, what I do is totally steeped in precedent.”

As for the award, Pibal said she was thrilled and immediately called Phyllis and Jerome Lyle Rappaport, who fund the prize. Unlike so many awards, the Rappaport comes without any requirement that the winner organize an exhibition or provide a piece of art to the institution, she said.

“It is completely without strings or obligations,” said Pibal. “I think something that’s utterly impressive about the award is just that it exists.”

Geoff Edgers can be reached at gedgers@globe.com.