Four artists are among this year’s winners of the MacArthur “genius” fellowships, a vaunted group of awards that each come with $800,000 to be paid out over the course of five years: María Magdalena Campos-Pons, Raven Chacon, Carolyn Lazard, and Dyani White Hawk.
The four artists include alumni of last year’s Venice Biennale and Whitney Biennial, as well as a winner of a 2022 Pulitzer Prize and a subject of a New York survey that will next year travel the nation.
While the MacArthur “genius” fellowships do not only go to those in the art world, they are among the biggest awards that artists in the US can receive. No dedicated art award in this country has such a large cash purse.
Campos-Pons, whose work can currently be seen in a wide-ranging exhibition at the Brooklyn Museum, has produced photographs, video installations, performances, and more that are rooted in her experience as a Cuban-born artist now based in the US. She has invoked forms of violence, both past and present, that pertain to both countries, and has dealt with subjects ranging from forms of labor undertaken by women to the history of the sugar trade and its ties to slavery. Much of her art deals with her Afro-Cuban heritage and the Lucumí religion.
Chacon, a Diné-American artist who also works as a composer, became the first Native American ever to win the Pulitzer Prize for Music last year. Many of his works deal with the relationship between sound, memory, and place; some have been performed live, while others have been presented as drawings, videos, or documentation that he can figure in gallery exhibitions. His work appeared in the 2022 Whitney Biennial and is currently being presented in “Indian Theater,” a show at Bard College’s museum in Upstate New York that deals with the notion of performance as it manifests in work by Native American and First Nations artists.
Lazard, whose work appeared in the 2022 Venice Biennale, makes films and sculptures that deal with accessibility and forms of labor. Many of these pieces are pared down, evoking the visual languages of Minimalism and structuralist filmmaking while also occasionally turning a focus on disability. “I find myself interested in the labor that facilitates our staying alive and that labor is care and care work,” Lazard told ARTnews earlier this year, as an Institute of Contemporary Art Philadelphia exhibition was on view.
White Hawk (Sicangu Lakota) is known for beaded paintings that draw equally on the look of Western abstract painting and Native American craft. In so doing, White Hawk asserts that abstraction’s originators were not the white men often credited with inventing the tradition in history books. Some of her works appeared alongside Chacon’s in both the 2022 Whitney Biennial and “Indian Theater.”