MacArthur ‘Genius’ Grants Go to Mel Chin, Jeffrey Gibson, Cameron Rowland, More — Andrew Russeth

ARTnews, 09.26.2019

Huge news this Wednesday morning that has nothing to do with the House impeachment inquiry: the MacArthur Foundation has named its new class of fellows—the recipients of its so-called “Genius” grants—and among the 26 winners is a rich cast of artists working in a wide variety of mediums. They include Cameron Rowland, Mel Chin, Jeffrey Gibson, and Sarah Michelson. Each will take home $625,000.

The selection process for the MacArthur prizes, which honor creativity and the potential future contributions of awardees, is infamously obscure, involving nominations from experts in art, science, social justice, and other fields that are then reviewed by an anonymous jury. The Washington Post has a great story today about the prizes that includes Gibson discussing how he found out about the news—spoiler alert: there was some phone trouble. He said, “I finished the call and sat there dumbfounded. I’m familiar with MacArthur, but I never even knew how it worked.”

Other art-related picks include Walter Hood, a landscape and public artist who’s currently handling the redesign of the outdoor spaces and gardens at the Oakland Museum of California, and Emily Wilson, a classicist whose recent English translation of The Odyssey—a bracingly spare, crystal-clear, colloquial-minded text—has won wide praise.

The pick of Rowland—an incisive conceptualist whose work has trained a gimlet eye on questions of mass incarceration and the ways in which slavery continues to pervade American life—is especially notable since he turned 30 just last year, making him among the youngest people to take home the prize. (Kara Walker beat him by a bit, having earned the award in her late 20s, in 1997.)

The full list of fellows follows in full below:

– Elizabeth Anderson, philosopher, Ann Arbor, Michigan
– sujatha baliga, attorney and restorative justice practitioner, Oakland, California
– Lynda Barry, graphic novelist, cartoonist, educator, Madison, Wisconsin
– Mel Chin, artist, Egypt, North Carolina
– Danielle Citron, legal scholar, Boston
– Lisa Daugaard, criminal justice reformer, Seattle
– Annie Dorsen, theater artist, Brooklyn
– Andrea Dutton, geochemist and paleoclimatologist, Madison, Wisconsin
– Jeffrey Gibson, visual artist, Annandale-on-Hudson, New York
– Mary Halvorson, guitarist and composer, New York
– Saidiya Hartman, literary scholar and cultural historian, New York
– Walter Hood, landscape and public artist, Oakland
– Stacy Jupiter, marine scientist, Suva, Fiji
– Zachary Lippman, plant biologist, Cold Spring Harbor, New York
– Valeria Luiselli, writer, Annandale-on-Hudson, New York
– Kelly Lytle Hernández, historian, Los Angeles
– Sarah Michelson, choreographer, New York
– Jeffrey Alan Miller, literary scholar, Montclair, New Jersey
– Jerry X. Mitrovica, theoretical geophysicist, Cambridge, Massachusetts
– Emmanuel Pratt, urban designer, Chicago
– Cameron Rowland, artist, Queens
– Vanessa Ruta, neuroscientist, New York
– Joshua Tenenbaum, cognitive scientist, Cambridge, Massachusetts
– Jenny Tung, evolutionary anthropologist and geneticist, Durham, Massachusetts
– Ocean Vuong, poet and fiction writer, Amherst, Massachusetts
– Emily Wilson, classicist and translator, Philadelphia