Best Visual Artist - 2010
Russ Pope's paintings scare us. Not that there's anything wrong with that. Amid squares and streaks of odd, generic color—the bio on his website says it's rejected Home Depot paint—Pope's oblong figures, often just heads or torsos, their faces wrenched in some personal anxiousness, sorrow or rage, speak to the kind of dread that many of us feel but leave unstated. The thick, dark, black outlining on the paintings not only lends the work a punk sensibility, but also hems the characters in, underscoring their limited ability to escape. He leaves subtle hints in some of his paintings that the source of that simmering helplessness is economic or familial, but it feels far more existential. The sickness is in the soul . . . and how do you get away from that? In Pope's world, we're not sure you can.