Doctorow Prize for Contemporary Painting: Revisiting 2013 and Tala Madani

We’ll never forget Tala Madani’s signature style, which incorporates loose and expressive brushwork, the satire of political cartoons, and the palette of American abstraction. The result, as exemplified by the painterly video animations that we encountered in Madani’s 2013-2014 solo show at UMOCA, playfully deconstructs western tropes in order to discuss global concerns about racial and gender differences.


Since we awarded the Tehran-born, LA-based artist with the prestigious 2013 Catherine Doctorow Prize for Contemporary Painting, Madani has been featured in several group exhibitions and has also presented solo exhibitions throughout the US and Europe. Her recent exhibition at the esteemed David Kordansky Gallery in LA, Smiley has no nose, features Madani’s hallmark part-grotesque, part-gleeful infantile men in compromising positions, subverting ideas of masculinity with her vivid visual language. Not to mention, Madani’s representing gallery, Pilar Corrias, presented Madani’s work at Art Basel Hong Kong earlier this March; she was featured in the Taipei Biennial 2014; and also in 2014, Madani presented her first solo UK show at Nottingham Contemporary, as well as solo shows at the Pilar Corrias Gallery and at Spain’s Centro Andaluz de Arte Contemporáneo.

Photo by José Galiana

Photo by José Galiana


As we gear up for Patterns of Resistance, our upcoming exhibition featuring 2015 Doctorow Prize winner Firelei Báez, we’re thrilled to see contemporary painters like Báez and Madani—both of whom incorporate rigorous studio practices and political undertones in their work—continue to thrive.


Here’s a fantastic excerpt from a 2010 interview with Madani by T Magazine, the New York Times Style Magazine, about painting in a contemporary scope:


NYT: Are you interested in painting as it’s contextualized by art history, in working with or against the historical grain of the medium?

Madani: I think it’s best to be informed of everything, not just of painting but of sculpture, performance — all different kinds of work — to be your own best audience, so that your own work can surprise you. If you’re aware of everything going on, and your work still surprises you, then hopefully it’s moving somewhere fresh and it can add to visual language that is already so abundant.

I really don’t consciously think of trying to create a historical opening for my work. I think you just have to find the best form for your ideas. For me, again, painting comes from the fact that I need an abstract space for my ideas, because the physical space where I live is not conducive to what I want to do. The square becomes the variable space where any action is possible.


UMOCA and the Jarvis and Constance Doctorow Family Foundation give out this prize every two years to an emerging or mid-career painter whose work expresses a great range of talent and forward thinking within a contemporary idiom. The prize is named in honor of Catherine Doctorow, a prolific painter in the 1950s and 1960s.

The prize includes a cash award of $15,000 and a solo exhibition at UMOCA. The winner is selected by a jury of art experts, who looked at nominations submitted by leading curators, critics, gallerists, historians and teachers from all over the country.

> View the Upcoming Doctorow Exhibition