sfai news

April 09, 2009

SFAI Awards Honorary Doctorates at 2009 Commencement

In recognition of their outstanding contributions to global contemporary art, culture, and thought, SFAI will be conferring honorary Doctor of Fine Arts degrees on Graciela Iturbide and Edward Ruscha at SFAI’s 2009 Commencement on Saturday, 16 May 2009, starting at 10:00am on SFAI’s historic 800 Chestnut Street campus.

“Honoring Graciela Iturbide and Ed Ruscha at this year’s Commencement,” SFAI President Chris Bratton noted, “is a distinct privilege for us. Both of these artists have brought a powerful, creative understanding to a rapidly changing world. Their influential work in fact changed how we see that world.”

Iturbide and Ruscha join SFAI’s long and eminent list of honorary DFAs, including, among many others, Thelma Golden, Hans Haacke, Joan Jonas, Kynaston McShine, Suzanne Ghez, Doris Salcedo, Charles Burnett, Pirkle Jones, Alanna Heiss, René Francisco Rodriguez, Elizabeth Murray, David Ireland, Meredith Monk, Ruth Asawa, bell hooks, Annie Leibovitz, Manuel Neri, Bruce Nauman, Wayne Thiebaud, Bruce Conner, David Hockney, Lucy Lippard, Jay DeFeo, Stan Brakhage, Laurie Anderson, Ansel Adams, Clyfford Still, and Richard Diebenkorn.

Born in Mexico City, Mexico, Graciela Iturbide matriculated in 1962 at the Centro Universitario de Estudios Cinematográficos (CUEC), the oldest film school in Latin America and part of the Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México (UNAM). While there, she studied under Manuel Álvarez Bravo, who, in 1970, invited her to be his assistant, and the truth of whose precept—“if the image itself is sufficiently eloquent, it falls to the beholder to work out its meaning”—she has made a career of confirming. While working with Álvarez Bravo, she traveled to Europe, where she met Henri Cartier-Bresson, also a significant influence on her practice. Since 1975, she has presented her work, on an international scale, in more than sixty group exhibitions and in a number of major solo exhibitions, including the recent Danza de la cabrita (The Goat’s Dance) at the J. Paul Getty Museum in Los Angeles (2007–2008). A formative member of such Mexican art organizations as the Salón de la Plástica Mexicana, the Foro de Arte Contemporáneo, and the Consejo Mexicano de Fotografía, she has received a wide array of grants and awards, including the W. Eugene Smith Memorial Fund Grant, a Guggenheim Memorial Foundation Fellowship in the Creative Arts, the Mois de la Photo First Prize (Paris), the Hugo-Erfurth-Preis (Leverkusen, Germany), and, in 2008, the Hasselblad Foundation International Award in Photography. As within the oeuvre of one of her principal inspirations—Tina Modotti—the diverse range of subjects reflected in Iturbide’s photography testifies to her longstanding conviction in, and sociopolitical commitment to, photography’s power to change the way people see, and work within, their world.

Born in 1937 in Omaha, Nebraska (USA), Edward Ruscha moved to Oklahoma City in 1941 and to Los Angeles in 1956, where he attended the Chouinard Art Institute. Consistently focusing his painting, printmaking, photography, and film work on the unique culture, vernacular, and sensibility of his adopted city—in particular, the banalities of urban life as conveyed by mass-media images and information—he had his first solo exhibition in Los Angeles in 1963 at the Ferus Gallery. Beginning in 1983 with SFMOMA, he has been the subject of numerous international museum retrospectives, including exhibitions at the Smithsonian Institution’s Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden in Washington, DC (2000); the Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofá0a in Madrid (2002); the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York City, facets of which traveled to the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles, and then to the National Gallery of Art in Washington, DC (2004); the Museum of Contemporary Art in Sydney, an exhibition which traveled first to the Museo Nazionale delle Arti del XXI Secolo in Rome and next to the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art in Edinburgh (2004); and the Jeu de Paume in Paris (2006). Having received its Hassam, Speicher, Betts, and Symons Purchase Fund Award in 1992, he was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Letters as an academician in the department of art in 2001. In 2002, he published a collection entitled Leave Any Information at the Signal: Writings, Interviews, Bits, Pages. A master painter, printmaker, photographer, and filmmaker whose prolific and multifaceted work has been interpreted as pop, conceptual, and surrealist, Ruscha was—and remains—a definitive forerunner of, and example for, multimedia artists from across the world.