Press Release


Boston, Mass. - The James and Audrey Foster Prize is the ICA's biennial exhibition and award recognizing Boston-based artists of exceptional promise. Work by the finalists for the 2008 prize—Catherine D'Ignazio, Rania Matar, Andrew Witkin and Joe Zane—will be featured in a new exhibition opening at the museum. On view from November 12, 2008, through March 1, 2009, the Foster Prize exhibition introduces these four early-career artists making an impact in Greater Boston and beyond. The winner of the prize will be announced in early 2009.

First established in 1999, the James and Audrey Foster Prize (formerly the ICA Artist Prize) expanded its format when the museum opened a new facility in 2006, with four finalists presenting their work in one of the ICA's inaugural exhibitions. James and Audrey Foster, passionate collectors and supporters of contemporary art, endowed the prize with a $1 million gift, ensuring the ICA's ability to sustain and grow the program for years to come.

"When the new ICA opened, it was a thrill to see visitors so engaged in the 2006 James and Audrey Foster Prize exhibition," says Jill Medvedow, Director of the ICA. "This program is an opportunity not only for the artists to advance in the field, but for audiences to appreciate the artistic innovation happening in our community."

The ICA looks to a broad network of local and national colleagues to identify eligible artists for the prize. They are asked to look for work that demonstrates innovation, conceptual strength, and skillful execution by artists who live or work within Greater Boston. Over 30 locally-based arts professionals nominated 38 artists, from which a distinguished jury selected the four finalists named above. This jury will select the winner from among these finalists in January 2009. Jury members include: Nicholas Baume, ICA Chief Curator; Ian Berry, Associate Director and Curator, Tang Museum, Skidmore College; Ambreen Butt, Artist and 1999 recipient of the Foster Prize (previously named the ICA Artist Prize); and Denise Markonish, Curator, Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art.

All four finalists stood out to the Foster Prize jury as early career artists whose confident artistic approach will lead to the sustained creation of compelling work.  Early, pivotal support of artists at this stage is an important feature of the James and Audrey Foster Prize.

"We're thrilled that D'Ignazio, Matar, Witkin and Zane will join the expanding list of artists who have grown artistically through this effort.  They will have their work in the spotlight of a museum that is watched closely by the international art community," says James Foster, ICA Trustee.

Catherine D'Ignazio
The often collaborative work of Catherine D'Ignazio, or kanarinka, is based in the belief that small actions can lead to poetic transformation. Her work appears in several formats, including performance and street interactions, online and in galleries. To create her 2007 project entitled It takes 154,000 breaths to evacuate Boston, D'Ignazio ran Boston's official evacuation route over several months, keeping count of the number of breaths required to run this 100-mile system. Data about her series of runs, which the artist calls "an ambitious attempt to measure fear," was made available through a dedicated website and podcast. This project was recognized by the New England Chapter of the International Association of Art Critics in 2007 as an exhibition of note in a public space. D'Ignazio is creating a new adaptation and video work of 154,000 Breaths for the Foster Prize exhibition, part of which engages with the ICA's own safety evacuation route. D'Ignazio is co-director of the experimental arts organization iKatun, and a founding member of the performance art collaborative The Institute for Infinitely Small Things. She teaches at the Rhode Island School of Design's Digital + Media Graduate Program. Her artwork has been exhibited at Eyebeam, MASSMoCA, the DeCordova Museum and the Boston Center for the Arts. D'Ignazio received an MFA from the Maine College of Art in 2005. She lives in Waltham. 

Rania Matar
Rania Matar's photographic work captures the everyday humanity that persists amidst catastrophic circumstances. She primarily focuses on the Middle East, especially its women and children. More recent projects examine refugee camps, the meaning of the veil and the aftermath of war. For her ICA exhibition, Matar will present several black and white prints - many of these showing women and girls in states of repose and introspection - along with new color work that reveals the haunting traces of domestic life found within chaos and rubble. Born and raised in Lebanon, Rania Matar moved to the U.S. in 1984. She trained as an architect at Cornell University before studying photography at the New England School of Photography and the Maine Photographic Workshops. Matar's work has been exhibited at such venues as the Center for Contemporary Arts in Texas and the Koppelman Gallery at Tufts University. Her images are in the permanent collections of the Museum of Fine Arts in Houston, the Portland Art Museum, the DeCordova Museum and the Danforth Museum of Art. She has won several awards in photography, including a fellowship from the Massachusetts Cultural Council. Matar lives in Brookline.

Andrew Witkin
Andrew Witkin's artistic approach is inspired by, and nearly indistinguishable from, his deliberate approach to life, work, and relationships. His solo project at Boston's Allston Skirt Gallery in 2007 presented poetic arrangements of familiar, everyday items such as clothing and running shoes along with things slightly less ordinary, such as cow's knees and lamb's knuckles. Witkin refers to his shows as physical manifestations or "stopping points" of his continued examination of essential life questions, such as how one balances personal fulfillment with community responsibility. Witkin continues to explore these ideas in a new installation created for the Foster Prize exhibition. Two corridors will lead to a central area holding a day bed, writing desk and ping pong table - items associated with work, rest and play. The installation will present a judicious arrangement of objects, some originating from casual encounters and others of great personal significance to the artist. Of his work Witkin says that it "is and is not art, is and is not finished." In addition to the Allston Skirt Gallery in Boston, Witkin has presented work at the Boston Center for the Arts, Real Art Ways in Hartford, Connecticut, and University of the Arts, Philadelphia. In his academic education, Witkin focused on music, set design and art history, and received an MA from the School of the Museum of Fine Arts / Tufts University in 2003. He lives in Boston.

Joe Zane
Joe Zane probes essential questions that circulate around the making and presentation of art. His work uses a variety of media, including drawing, video and sculptural objects that include frequent references to art history and the art world. Zane attempts to instill a comic awareness of the impossibility to comprehend art's ultimate meaning.  For the Foster Prize exhibition, Zane presents several new works that offer a playful acknowledgement of the show's award. Through the medium of the self-portrait, Zane explores both the jubilation and incertitude that arises in an artist who participates in this type of competition. Among the works on view will be brightly-colored glass flowers, a sculpture of a deflating balloon sculpture that sports the ICA logo, and a painting in Italian text that translates as "I love you, too." Zane's work has been exhibited at MIT's List Visual Art Center, ArtSpace in New Haven, Allston Skirt Gallery in Boston and the Andrew Kreps Gallery in New York. Zane received an MFA from Cornell University in 2003.  He lives in Cambridge.

Related Program
Artist Talk: James and Audrey Foster Prize Finalists
Sunday, Dec. 7, 2008, 1:00 pm
All four Foster Prize finalists-Catherine D'Ignazio, Rania Matar, Andrew Witkin and Joe Zane-talk about their work and artistic process. Free with museum admission. Tickets available first-come, first-served one hour before the program.

About the Foster Prize
The James and Audrey Foster Prize is key to the ICA's efforts to nurture and recognize Boston-area artists of exceptional promise.  The program creates a significant opportunity for four locally-based artists to exhibit their work in a leading contemporary art museum, and offers a substantial financial award of $25,000 to the winner and $1,500 to the finalists. The ICA looks to a broad network of local and national colleagues to identify eligible artists for the prize. They are asked to look for work that demonstrates innovation, conceptual strength, and skillful execution by artists who live or work within Greater Boston. 

Recipients of the Foster Prize to date include Ambreen Butt (1999), Laylah Ali (2000), Taylor Davis (2001), Alice Swinden Carter (2002), Douglas R. Weathersby (2003), Kanishka Raja (2004), and Kelly Sherman (2006). Works by Ali, Butt, Davis, and Sherman have entered the ICA Collection, as well as by Rachel Perry Welty, a 2006 prize finalist. The James and Audrey Foster Artist Prize program is organized by ICA Curator Carole Anne Meehan.

About the ICA
An influential forum for multi-disciplinary arts, the Institute of Contemporary Art has been at the leading edge of art in Boston for seventy years. Like its iconic building on Boston's waterfront, the ICA offers new ways of engaging with the world around us. Its exhibitions and programs provide access to contemporary art, artists, and the creative process, inviting audiences of all ages and backgrounds to participate in the excitement of new art and ideas.  The ICA, located at 100 Northern Avenue, is open Tuesday and Wednesday, 10 am - 5 pm; Thursday and Friday, 10 am - 9 pm; and Saturday and Sunday, 10 am - 5 pm.  Admission is $12 adults, $10 seniors and students, and free for members and children 17 and under. Free admission on Target Free Thursday Nights, 5 - 9 pm. For more information, call 617-478-3100 or visit our Web site at


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