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South Arts 2021 Southern Prize & State Fellows
About This Exhibition
Curated by Wim Roefs
The South Arts State Fellows project, it seems, meets a critical moment in which calls for more equality, equity, and social justice are loud. The earth burns and floods all at once, while science deniers deny and monied interests whistle to the tune of après moi, le déluge. Citizens of color are killed by police and others, but now in plain, recorded view. Alternative facts, internalized fiction and doublespeak beat Orwell at his game. Some pandemic politics present protective masks as shackles of totalitarian rule. If it seems that humanity is quickly becoming irredeemable or its demise, irreversible, the South Arts artists didn’t get the memo or haven’t resigned themselves to such a fate.
This doesn’t mean these artists are naïve or wide-eyed optimists; it’s the very recognition of issues and problems that is the impetus for their work. And they push back, providing hope that improvement and reversal remain possible. Such engagement is no surprise; most of the artists have first-hand experience with issues surrounding race, ethnicity, identity, belonging, colonialism and gender – and typically not as members of dominant groups.
This exhibition presents the nine 2021 fellowship recipients of the South Arts Southern Prize & State Fellows project, which launched in 2017. The artists and State Fellows hail from the South Arts region – Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Tennessee.
The artistry on display is a testament to the strength of art in the south, presenting diverse themes, visions, and styles. The 2021 Southern Prize winner, Marielle Plaisir, creates lavish, grand, elaborate artworks in a wide range of media populated with contemporary, colonial, and other historical figures against lush, Caribbean-inspired backdrops. Southern Prize Finalist, Fletcher Williams III, addresses Southern history and culture using found and natural materials, focusing on “our desire to establish a home and self” within the South. As a group, the 2021 South Arts Fellows bring multiple identities to the table, individually and combined. This cohort demonstrates not only the aestheticism of art, but the power of creativity to provide hope and perspective.
South Arts is a nonprofit regional arts organization empowering artists, organizations, and communities, and increasing access to arts and culture.
About The Curator
Wim Roefs is an independent curator, author, art consultant, exhibition designer, and the owner of if ART Gallery in Columbia, South Carolina. He is the former chair and a co-founder of Columbia’s 701 Center for Contemporary Art (CCA) and was the organization’s founding volunteer Executive Director from 2008 until February 2013. He organized and curated numerous exhibitions for 701 CCA and edited a dozen catalogues and other publications for the non-profit. Roefs is the organizer, curator and catalogue editor for South Arts’ annual Southern Prize & State Fellows exhibition. He has curated over 100 exhibitions for his own gallery and other art institutions. Through his gallery, Roefs has published more than two dozen exhibition catalogues and written a number of essays about artists and their work. Roefs, a native of The Netherlands, was a member of the Art in Transit Advisory Committee (ATAC) of the Charlotte Area Transit System (CATS), supervising the implementation of the light rail system’s public art component. He has taught courses in contemporary art and African-American art at the University of South Carolina Art Department and Honors College.