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From Fledgling to Top of the Art World

Young sculptor, alum Cameron Crawford to participate in Whitney Biennial

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January 11, 2012 | by Wendy Leopold
Cameron Crawford

Cameron Crawford (left) received the Edes Prize for Emerging Artists in 2011.

EVANSTON, Ill. --- Cameron Crawford -- who little more than six months ago received a master’s of fine arts degree from Northwestern University -- has been invited to participate in the 2012 Whitney Biennial, the most prestigious ongoing art exhibition in the United States.

Less than a year ago, Crawford won a $30,000 Edes Foundation Prize for Emerging Artists. Today, at 28 he is perhaps the youngest of the 51 invited artists who will contribute to the famed art show running from March 1 through May 27 at New York’s Whitney Museum of American Art.

“Cameron will surely be among the least known participants,” said artist and Northwestern Professor Steve Reinke, who knows Crawford and his work well. “But that may change when the 2012 show ends. The Whitney Biennial, after all, is a very big deal.”

Crawford -- who creates large-scale sculptures and installations -- spent the summer in Chicago as a custom finish carpenter before moving to New York. When invited to interview with the 2012 Biennial curators, he felt “shock and terror,” a reaction he said he experienced a second time on learning of his selection.

“We expected great things of Cameron, though something this big and this fast was quite unexpected,” said Reinke, who teaches art theory and practice in Northwestern’s Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences. “I might have put money on the 2018 Biennial for him.”

Crawford called many of the 2012 biennial artists “household names of contemporary art.” “To be included on the list is unbelievable to me,” he said. “This would never have happened without Northwestern. The biennial curators saw some of the work I made there, and a piece I made as a Northwestern student will most likely be among my biennial works.”

“Cameron has a singular idiosyncratic vision,” said Reinke. “There’s something about the rigor with which he uses materials and the sheer tenacity of his work’s fetishistic qualities that make it difficult to turn away from. It’s work that demands and rewards attention. And, he also can talk about it -- and most things -- brilliantly, and with a surprising and generous humor.”

The list of 2012 Biennial invitees includes many established and well-known names in art circles, including filmmakers Werner Herzog and George Kuchar, performance artists Andrea Fraser and Tony Oursler and American contemporary artist Mike Kelly.