Crocker Art Museum receives national award for exhibition

Sacramento’s Crocker Art Museum has received a Best Show award for excellence from the International Association of Art Critics-USA for an exhibition that spotlights the interplay of poetry and art in the mid-century Bay Area cultural scene.

The award, announced Wednesday, recognizes the exhibition “An Opening of the Field: Jess, Robert Duncan, and Their Circle,” as the best thematic national show outside New York. The exhibition was organized by William Breazeale, curator at the Crocker Art Museum, with guest curators Michael Duncan and Christopher Wagstaff.

The AICA-USA awards recognize excellence in art criticism and curatorial achievement in the conception and realization of exhibitions by galleries, museums and related cultural institutions. Eighteen first- and second-place winners in nine categories were selected from more than 140 exhibitions nominated by AICA-USA’s national membership of more than 400 critics, curators and scholars, according to a news release announcing the awards.

“We are thrilled to receive this award for our provocative and powerful exhibition, and especially to be recognized for excellence amongst our peers from the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C.; the Philadelphia Museum of Art; the Hirschhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden in Washington, D.C.; and the Museum of Modern Art in Chicago,” Lial A. Jones, Mort and Marcy Friedman director of the Crocker Art Museum, said in a written statement.

Artist Jess Collins, known simply as Jess, and poet Robert Duncan formed a personal and artistic partnership in San Francisco in the early 1950s. The Crocker exhibition is the first to explore the couple’s artistic production and relationship. Through more than 140 individual and collaborative works of art and personal letters drawn from private and public collections, the exhibition looks at their influence and unique position as precursors of Postmodernism. A companion catalog includes essays by curators Breazeale, Duncan and Wagstaff.