Ralph Lemon, Untitled, 2021. Oil and acrylic on paper, 26 × 40 in. (66.1 × 101.6 cm).
Image courtesy the artist.
NEW YORK, September 22, 2022—The Whitney Museum of American Art announces that Ralph Lemon is the recipient of the 2022 Bucksbaum Award. Lemon was chosen from the sixty-three intergenerational artists and collectives working across disciplines and media in Whitney Biennial 2022: Quiet as It’s Kept.
An interdisciplinary artist, who works primarily in performance, Ralph Lemon has made drawings throughout most of his creative life. He has described the purpose of these works, which have been constant and mostly private, as “a mapping akin to an anthropological practice,” involving research and art making in places such as Japan, Haiti, Côte d’Ivoire and, for many years, the Mississippi Delta. For the Biennial, he developed a choreography of presentation, exhibiting hundreds of drawings from over or more than twenty-five years in five transient variations that unfolded monthly over the course of the exhibition. Themes in Lemon’s work range from elaborate visual meditations and the nature of the artistic process itself to experiments refracting Black American culture, symbols, cons, music, and joy.
“Ralph Lemon’s talent and range over a career dedicated to performance, drawing, educating, and the pursuit of an imaginative creative process make him one of the most compelling American artists working today,” said Adam D. Weinberg, the Alice Pratt Brown Director of the Whitney. “I am thrilled that he is receiving the Bucksbaum Award, which was initiated by our long time trustee Melva Bucksbaum, and celebrates the excellence of living artists.”
“With the Bucksbaum Prize, the Whitney seeks to honor an artist with the promise to make a lasting contribution to the history of American art. In Ralph Lemon’s case that has already happened,” said Scott Rothkopf, the Nancy and Steve Crown Family Chief Curator of the Whitney. “His body of work has shifted paradigms around performance, sculpture, drawing, and more, as well as the distinctions among them—all with rigor, ethics, humor, and heart.”
The six-member Bucksbaum jury included Weinberg, Rothkopf, the Whitney Biennial 2022 co-curators David Breslin, DeMartini Family Curator and Director of Curatorial Initiatives at the Whitney and Adrienne Edwards, Engell Speyer Family Curator and Director of Curatorial Affairs at the Whitney, Huey Copeland, BFC Presidential Associate Professor, University of Pennsylvania, and Meg Onli, Curator and Writer.
Melva Bucksbaum (1933–2015), a patron of the arts, collector, and Whitney trustee from 1996 until her death, launched The Bucksbaum Award in 2000. The Bucksbaum Award is given in each Biennial year in recognition of an artist, featured in the Biennial, whose work demonstrates a singular combination of talent and imagination. The selected artist is considered by the jurors to have the potential to make a lasting impact on the history of American art, based on the excellence of their past work, as well as of their present work in the Biennial. The award is accompanied by a check for $100,000. McClodden is the tenth Bucksbaum laureate to be named since the Award was introduced.
The ten previous Bucksbaum recipients are Paul Pfeiffer (2000), Irit Batsry (2002), Raymond Pettibon (2004), Mark Bradford (2006), Omer Fast (2008), Michael Asher (2010), Sarah Michelson (2012), Zoe Leonard (2014), Pope.L (2017), and Tiona Nekkia McClodden (2019).
Lemon will participate in a special project at the Museum that will take place in the coming months. More information will be available on the Museum’s website as details are confirmed.
Funding for the Bucksbaum Award is provided by an endowment from the Martin Bucksbaum Family Foundation.