ARTFORUM, September 25, 2019

Twenty-six individuals—including artists, writers, philosophers, educators, scientists, urban designers, and criminal justice reformers—have been awarded MacArthur Fellowships, also known as the “genius grants,” for their “extraordinary originality and dedication in their creative pursuits.” Administered by the MacArthur Foundation, the fellowships come with an unrestricted award of $625,000.

Among the cultural producers included in this year’s cohort are visual artists Mel Chin, who uses his practice to raise awareness of social and environmental concerns; Jeffrey Gibson, who draws from indigenous North American traditions, queer histories, and contemporary references in his work; and Cameron Rowland, who creates displays of physical objects that make visible the institutions, systems, and policies that perpetuate systemic racism and economic inequality.

“Cultural responsibility used to feel limiting to me, but I now think that had to do with popular, and narrow, definitions of tradition and history,” Gibson, whose sculptural garments are on view in the Whitney Biennial until October 27, told Artforum last year. “As I’ve gotten older, I’ve embraced responsibility. Not everybody has something in their past that draws their attention to what it’s like to be a queer person in central Mississippi. There’s something valuable about the responsibility to speak in whatever way you can.”

Theater director Annie Dorsen, guitarist and composer Mary Halvorson, choreographer Sarah Michelson, and landscape and public artist Walter Hood also received fellowships. For the January 2014 issue of this magazine, David Velasco, Artforum’s editor in chief and the author of Sarah Michelson: Modern Dance (MoMA, 2017), wrote on Michelson’s oeuvre: “In 2005 a friend took me to P.S.122 to see a dance by Sarah Michelson. I sat, absorbed by the four dancers pouring across the stage and the world that opened up in front of me. The performance began with a blare of saxophones and ended like nothing I’d ever seen, with a shadow dance that disembarked from the first dance, with no ritualistic closure of a bow. Afterward, I remember walking to the box office to buy two tickets so I could bring a friend to see it with me the next night. And since then not a single day has passed that I have not thought about her and her dancing.”

The fellows are chosen based on their demonstrated innovation and creativity in their respective crafts and their potential to make important contributions to society. Last year’s recipients included Julie Ault, Titus Kaphar, and Wu Tsang.

A full list of the MacArthur Fellows is as follows:

Elizabeth Anderson

Sujatha Baliga
Attorney and restorative justice practitioner

Lynda Barry
Graphic novelist, cartoonist and educator

Mel Chin

Danielle Citron
Legal scholar

Lisa Daugaard
Criminal justice reformer

Annie Dorsen
Theater artist

Andrea Dutton
Geochemist and paleoclimatologist

Jeffrey Gibson
Visual artist

Mary Halvorson
Guitarist and composer

Saidiya Hartman
Literary scholar and cultural historian

Walter Hood
Landscape and public artist

Stacy Jupiter
Marine scientist

Zachary Lippman
Plant biologist

Valeria Luiselli

Kelly Lytle Hernandez

Sarah Michelson

Jeffrey Alan Miller
Literary scholar

Jerry X. Mitrovica
Theoretical geophysicist

Emmanuel Pratt
Urban designer

Cameron Rowland

Vanessa Ruta

Joshua Tenenbaum
Cognitive scientist

Jenny Tung
Evolutionary anthropologist and geneticist

Ocean Vuong
Poet and fiction writer

Emily Wilson
Classicist and translator

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