Cauleen Smith was named the recipient of the 2020 Joyce Alexander Wein Artist Prize.

Justin Kamp
Oct 28, 2020 9:31PM, via The Studio Museum in Harlem

Cauleen Smith at the Whitney Museum's annual Studio Party in 2017. Photo by Paul Bruinooge/Patrick McMullan via Getty Images.

The Los Angeles–based multidisciplinary artist Cauleen Smith won the 15th annual Joyce Alexander Wein Artist Prize. The prize, which was established in 2006 by jazz musician George Wein in honor of his late wife, is given yearly to an African-American artist who “demonstrates great innovation, promise, and creativity,” according to a press release. The prize is presented in conjunction with the Studio Museum in Harlem’s annual Gala campaign, and carries a cash prize of $50,000. Previous winners include Diedrick Brackens, Simone Leigh, and Derrick Adams.

Thelma Golden, director and chief curator of the Studio Museum, said in a statement:

Cauleen Smith’s endlessly generative imagination embraces and transforms multitudes, from the ceremony of church banners to the visions of science fiction, from structuralist theory to the music of Alice Coltrane and Sun Ra, from the words and visions of Rebecca Cox Jackson to the revolutionary tradition of Third World cinema. Although she has described her subjects as ‘the fragile, the forgotten, the flawed, and the fugitive,’ the effect of her work is overwhelmingly one of plenitude, rich in its exploration of human complexities.

Smith’s practice incorporates film and installation into works that explore “the everyday possibilities of the imagination,” according to a statement from the artist. Her solo New York institutional debut, “Mutualities,” is currently on view at the Whitney Museum and follows her prior presentation at the Whitney Biennial in 2017. Her exhibition, “We Already Have What We Need” at MASS MoCA was on view until this past March; a portion of the exhibit will travel to the Contemporary Arts Museum Houston in 2021. Smith will also be participating in a public art project this November created in collaboration with the London-based art space The Showroom along with CIRCA, a platform dedicated to showcasing digital art. Her work COVID MANIFESTO (2020) will be displayed on screens above London’s Piccadilly Circus every night for two minutes.

Justin Kamp