The SECA art awards

SECA: Bay Area artistic energy times four

SECA, SECA now. Behold a free-floating netherworld where masked versions of Roseanne Barr and Bill Cosby boogie down together. Stare for one last time into the static of the soon-extinct analog TV to see what patterns emerge. Take an x-ray of Manet. Spy on government secret agents. Peep through the Guardian's viewfinder at the Society for the Encouragement of Contemporary Art's biennial award exhibition devoted to Bay Area creators.

The 21st installment of the SECA Art Awards brings the strongest overall group of awardees in some time, four individuals — Tauba Auerbach, Desirée Holman, Jordan Kantor, and Trevor Paglen — whose contributions form a unified vision that's been missing from the exhibition of late. You might not know it from reading the somewhat contentious artist discussion at the close of the exhibition's booklet (where Auerbach's plainspoken interjections are refreshing), but it's easy to form a chain of symbolic connections that spans from one end of the exhibition to the other.

Holman is this issue's cover star, partly because her recent playful representations of TV's first families have proven refreshingly prescient regarding the national identification with (if not of) Barack Obama. And partly because it's time to put a weird mask on the front of the newspaper. It's a pleasure to present Matt Sussman's take on Holman's drawing-and video installation The Magic Window — no one could better identify the "Soft Pink Missy" beat of its heart. Elsewhere, Kimberly Chun gets systematic with Auerbach, Ari Messer scopes out the camera candor of Kantor's paintings, and I map the photographic investigations of Trevor Paglen. Let's take a look.

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