Once a year, the deCordova Sculpture Park and Museum celebrates the achievement and potential of an artist who has both shown a significant level of creativity and vision in their works and demonstrated potential and growth as an artist within the past year by awarding that artist the Rappaport Prize, an award of $25,000 given to established contemporary artists with strong connections to New England.
Established in 1950 and located 20 miles west of Boston, deCordova Sculpture Park and Museum dedicates itself to fostering the creation and exploration of contemporary sculptures and art though its slate of rotating exhibitions, innovative learning opportunities, a constantly changing 30-acre landscape of large-scale, public, modern, and contemporary sculptures, and site-specific installations.
This year the prestigious award was presented to Matt Saunders, currently assistant professor of visual and environmental studies at Harvard University. Saunders received his Bachelor of Arts from Harvard University and his Master of Fine Arts from Yale University. His works have been featured in the Guggenheim Museum in New York, the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, the Museum of Modern Art in New York, the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, and the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York.
Saunders has a global presence as well, having been featured in exhibitions around the world, including the Renaissance Society, Chicago; Tate Liverpool, England; and the 2011 Sharjah Biennial.
Saunders has also been a recipient of the Louis Comfort Tiffany Foundation Award in 2009 and the Prix Jean-François Prat in 2013.
Saunders’ work revolves around moving one form to another. He creates large-scale photographs without a camera through hand-painting photographic negatives onto linen. In his animated films, Saunders continues this trend by merging his drawings and moving images together that elicit a stop motion-esque presentation that is almost ghostly in its appearance.
His relationship with deCordova runs deeper than just the Rappaport Prize. Saunders studied under Jennifer Gross, the current chief curator of deCordova, at Yale. Saunders also made a habit of frequently visiting deCordova during his Harvard days 20 years ago. “It was one of the first places I found for artists in the city, and I naturally flocked there,” he said. “It was transformative for me.”
In 2012, Saunders’ work was exhibited in the 2012 deCordova Biennial as well.
Potential recipients are not made aware during the process of choosing the winner. Candidates are nominated by a small committee and are quietly eliminated until one is left, and that one is called and told of the award.
“Jennifer called me out of the blue to tell me I’d won,” said Saunders, “but it was a good phone call to get.”
Having spent many years in Berlin, Saunders spoke of the ease with which he was able to make his work there. Having reliable equipment in Berlin allowed him the opportunity to make consistent work, a benefit he currently does not have in Massachusetts.
“I found myself going back to Berlin to work, but with the prize money I was able to get ahold of the necessary equipment.”
Saunders will be giving a lecture on the Rappaport Prize on Wednesday, Nov 6, 6:30 pm at Tower Auditorium, Massachusetts College of Art and Design
DECORDOVA SCULPTURE PARK AND MUSEUM. 51 SANDY POND RD., LINCOLN. 781-259-8355. DECORDOVA.ORG.