Artist Cauleen Smith, whose films and installations examine Black identity, histories of the African diaspora, feminism, Afrofuturism, and other topics, has won the Studio Museum in Harlem’s annual Joyce Alexander Wein Artist Prize, which comes with $50,000. Previous winners of the prize, which was established in 2006 and is named after a longtime trustee of the museum, include Derrick Adams, Simone Leigh, and Diedrick Brackens.
Thelma Golden, the Studio Museum’s director and chief curator, said of Smith in a statement, “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, who is based in Los Angeles, has described her practice as a consideration and reflection of “the everyday possibilities of the imagination,” and her art has been informed by 20th-century experimental film and science fiction. Her work is now on view at the Whitney Museum in New York as part of her first solo exhibition in the city, titled “Mutualities,” and at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art in the two-person exhibition “Future Histories: Theaster Gates and Cauleen Smith.” She has previously had presentations at the the Studio Museum, the Whitney Museum in New York as part of the 2017 biennial, MASS MoCA in North Adams, Massachusetts, the Rotterdam International Film Festival, the Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago, and other institutions.
“Over the years I’ve made a lot work about the police and capitalism, but I want to be present for what’s happening right now,” Smith told Art in America this past summer. “Art is for creating another space that isn’t about power, but rather about intimacy, fragility, and humanity.”