Meet Titus Kaphar and the Two Other Artists Who Received This Year’s MacArthur ‘Genius’ Grants

Among the 2018 class are a storied artist-activist, a painter whose work has graced the cover of 'Time,' and a filmmaker focused on queer communities of color.

Julie Ault, Titus Kaphar, and Wu Tsang. Photos courtesy of John D. & Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation.

Artist and curator Julia Ault, painter Titus Kaphar, and filmmaker and performance artist Wu Tsang have been named among the latest group of “genius” grant winners from the John D. & Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation. The “no strings attached” grant of $625,000 is paid out in quarterly installments over a period of five years.

According to the MacArthur Foundation website, the fellows are determined based on three criteria: exceptional creativity; promise for important future advances based on past accomplishments; and potential for the grant to facilitate subsequent creative work.

Julie Ault, at the Museum Tamayo, in Mexico City. Courtesy of John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation.

Ault, 61, who resides in New York, is cited for redefining the role of the artwork and the artist by melding artistic, curatorial, archival, editorial, and activist practices into a new form of cultural production. Her work emphasizes the connections between cultural production and politics, while often using historical inquiry.

Among her recent projects are Afterlife: a constellation, which was shown at the 2014 Whitney Biennial, and the collaboration Macho Man Tell It To My Heart: Collected by Julie Ault, shown at Artists Space in New York in 2013. In 1979, Ault co-founded Group Material, a collective which examined the relationship between art, activism, and politics before disbanding in 1996.

Titus Kaphar, a painter and sculptor at his studio in New haven, CT. Courtesy of John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation.

Kaphar, 42, who resides in New Haven, Connecticut and shows with Jack Shainman Gallery, stresses the lack of representation of people of color in the canon of Western art, with paintings that skillfully “desconstruct the literal and visual structure of the artwork,” according to MacArthur Foundation description.

Titus Kaphar, Yet Another Fight for Rememberance (2014)

Titus Kaphar, Yet Another Fight for Rememberance (2014)
Image: Courtesy Jack Shainman Gallery

Kaphar entered the wider public consciousness when his painting referencing the protests in Ferguson, Missouri, Yet Another Fight for Remembrance, appeared on the cover of Time magazine in 2014. Nevertheless, he has said that despite the perception that his works are “very social or political,” he sees them as personal.

Germany Berlin American artist Wu Tsang during her stay at the Martin-Gropius-Bau. Photo by: Karsten Thielker MacArthur Foundation, Courtesy of John D. & Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation.

Tsang, 36, is cited by the MacArthur Foundation for creating new conceptual and visual vocabularies that explore hidden histories and marginalized narratives. The artist’s best-known work focuses on “the coming together of two very different groups of people,” young queer artists of color and the long-time patrons of a bar, the Silver Platter, located near MacArthur Park in Los Angeles, around a regular event, “Wildness,” that Tsang threw there.

Tsang has been featured in the 2012 Whitney Biennial as well as in the Hammer Museum’s 2014 “Made in L.A.” biennial.


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