May 24, 2021
Live on Zoom
In celebration of the fifteenth recipient of The Studio Museum in Harlem’s prestigious Joyce Alexander Wein Artist Prize, Cauleen Smith, join us for a conversation between Smith and scholar Saidiya Hartman around their sources of inspiration and the ways that today’s media captures and relays scenes of protest, rebellion, and Black life.
“Cauleen’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 plentitude, rich in its exploration of human complexities.”
– Thelma Golden, Studio Museum Director and Chief Curator
This program will be streamed live on Zoom and will feature live CART captioning.
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Cauleen Smith was born in Riverside, California, and educated at San Francisco State University (BA) and the UCLA School of Theater, Film, and Television (MFA), Smith lives and works in Los Angeles and serves on the faculty of the California Institute of the Arts. Her current solo exhibition Give It or Leave It is at LACMA until October 2021. In addition to past solo exhibitions at MASS MoCA and the Whitney, she has received single-artist shows at the Art Institute of Chicago, the Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago, and ICA Philadelphia. Her short films, a feature film, an installation, and a performance work were showcased in 2019 at the Rotterdam International Film Festival. Her 2018 work Sojourner is currently featured in the exhibition Future Histories: Theaster Gates and Cauleen Smith at SFMOMA. In 2016, Cauleen Smith was the inaugural recipient of the Ellsworth Kelly Award from the Foundation for Contemporary Art. Other honors include the 2016 Herb Alpert Award for Film/Video, a Rockefeller Media Arts Award, a Creative Capital Award, an Artadia Award, a United States Artists Fellowship, a Chicago 3Arts Grant, and residencies at the Robert Rauschenberg Foundation and Artpace.
Saidiya Hartman is a scholar of African American literature and cultural history whose works explore the afterlife of slavery in modern American society and bear witness to lives, traumas, and fleeting moments of beauty that historical archives have omitted or obscured. She weaves findings from her meticulous historical research into narratives that retrieve from oblivion stories of nameless and sparsely documented historical actors, such as female captives on slave ships and the inhabitants of slums at the turn of the twentieth century. Hartman is the author of Wayward Lives, Beautiful Experiments (2019), Lose Your Mother: A Journey Along the Atlantic Slave Route (2007), and Scenes of Subjection (1997). A MacArthur “Genius” Fellow, she has been a Guggenheim Fellow, Cullman Fellow, and Fulbright Scholar. She has published articles in journals such as South Atlantic Quarterly, Brick, Small Axe, Callaloo, The New Yorker and The Paris Review. She is a professor at Columbia University and lives in New York.
The Joyce Alexander Wein Artist Prize, one of the most significant awards given to individual artists in the United States today, was established in 2006 by jazz impresario, musician and philanthropist George Wein to honor his late wife, Joyce Alexander (1928–2005), a long-time Trustee of the Studio Museum and a woman whose life embodied a commitment to the power and possibilities of art and culture. The annual $50,000 prize recognizes and honors the artistic achievements of an African-American artist who demonstrates great innovation, promise and creativity.
Previous winners include Torkwase Dyson (2019), Diedrick Brackens (2018), Simone Leigh (2017), Derrick Adams (2016), Njideka Akunyili Crosby (2015), Samuel Levi Jones (2014), Gary Simmons (2013), Jennie C. Jones (2012), Leonardo Drew (2011), Leslie Hewitt (2010), Glenn Ligon (2009), Nadine Robinson (2008), Trenton Doyle Hancock (2007) and Lorna Simpson (2006).
Is utopia attainable? Artist Cauleen Smith discusses her film Sojourner (2018), which explores what a feminist, Afrofuturist, and radically generous community might look like.
Siddhartha Mitter on the art of Cauleen Smith
Smith’s politics are serious, but even more fundamental to her outlook is an ethic of care, both of oneself and of others.
March 25‐June 25, 2021 The Institute of Fine Arts, New York University
Cauleen Smith, H-E-L-L-O: To Do All At Once showcases H-E-L-L-O (2014), a short film set in the physical and psychic imaginary of post-Katrina New Orleans.
Joe McPhee & Cauleen Smith
Joe McPhee and Cauleen Smith in conversation with John Corbett.
by Travis Diehl
The following is an edited transcript of a conversation that took place in June 2019 in Smith’s studio, a shared compound in the Lincoln Heights neighborhood of Los Angeles.
Cauleen Smith responds to Covid-19 and its multiple aftermaths.
Support for The Studio Museum in Harlem’s digital programs has been provided by the Helen Frankenthaler Foundation’s Frankenthaler Digital Initiative, the Open Society Foundations, and Art Bridges. inHarlem public programming is made possible thanks to Citi; the Stavros Niarchos Foundation; and Rockefeller Brothers Fund.
Additional support is generously provided by The New York City Department of Cultural Affairs; The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation; New York State Council on the Arts with the support of Governor Andrew Cuomo and the New York State Legislature, and the New York City Council.