Installation view of Mel Chin: All Over the Place (courtesy the Queens Museum, photo by Hai Zhang)

Artists Mel Chin, Jeffery Gibson, Cameron Rowland, and Sarah Michelson are among the 26 winners of the 2019 MacArthur “Genius” grant, announced today. This year’s fellowships mark an increase in the number of artists receiving the prize. The prestigious prize comes with a no-strings-attached award of $625,000, doled out over five years.

The MacArthur fellowships, awarded annually by the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, celebrate “extraordinary originality and dedication.” Awardees for the coveted prize are selected in a famously opaque nomination-only process, meaning there is no application process. Finalists are then judged by an anonymous jury. Winners are given notice only on the day of the announcement. Gibson, a Brooklyn-based painter and sculptor whose work was featured in this year’s Whitney Biennial, told the Washington Post’s Travis DeShong that he had almost missed the foundation’s congratulatory call because his phone died while driving through Hudson Valley in Upstate New York. “We rushed to the next town, and I charged my phone enough to call them back,” Gibson said. “I finished the call and sat there dumbfounded. I’m familiar with MacArthur, but I never even knew how it worked.”

Jeffrey Gibson’s “PEOPLE LIKE US” (2019) (photo by Hrag Vartanian/Hyperallergic)

Chin, 67, is the oldest of the awardees. The multidisciplinary artist is known for his category-binding works on social, technological, and environmental issues. “Chin is so good at remixing technological apparatuses to demonstrate the received wisdom on which they are based (plus the pitfalls and limitations of those ideas) that a viewer might easily be mesmerized by his supple and elegant facture,” wrote Hyperallergic’s critic Seph Rodney in a review of Chin’s exhibition Mel Chin: All Over the Place at the Queens Museum in 2018.

Rowland, who recently turned 30, is the youngest of the fellows. The conceptual artist is best known for his Duchampian use of found objects to deliver social commentary. In his 2019 exhibition D37 at the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles, Rowland used readymade objects (leaf blower, 19th-century tax receipts, a stroller, bikes) to underscore the long history of systematic racism against Black Americans.

Graphic novelist, cartoonist, and educator Lynda Barry won the prize for her decades-long career. Barry is acclaimed for her weekly comic strip Ernie Pook’s Comeek,” which was published in alternative newspapers, and for graphic novels such as The Good Times Are Killing Me(1988) and One! Hundred! Demons! (2002). She is now an associate professor at the University of Wisconsin–Madison.

Choreographer Sarah Michelson was awarded the prize for “expanding the scope of contemporary dance in works that extend and subvert classical, modern, and postmodern traditions and make evident the physical realities of dancers’ performance.” Her 2012 performance at the Whitney Museum, Devotion Study #1: The American Dancer, occupied the entire fourth floor of the museum.

See the full list of the 2019 MacArthur “Genius” fellows 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, Massachusetts)
  • Lisa Daugaard, criminal justice reformer, (Seattle, Washington)
  • Annie Dorsen, theater artist, (Brooklyn, New York)
  • Andrea Dutton, geochemist and paleoclimatologist, (Madison, Wisconsin)
  • Jeffrey Gibson, visual artist (Annandale-on-Hudson, New York)
  • Mary Halvorson, guitarist and composer, (New York, New York)
  • Saidiya Hartman, literary scholar and cultural historian, (New York, New York)
  • Walter Hood, landscape and public artist, (Oakland, California)
  • 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, California)
  • Sarah Michelson, choreographer, (New York, New York)
  • Jeffrey Alan Miller, literary scholar, (Montclair, New Jersey)
  • Jeffy X. Mitrovica, theoretical geophysicist, (Cambridge, Massachusetts)
  • Emmanuel Pratt, urban designer, (Chicago, Illinois)
  • Cameron Rowland, artist, (Queens, New York)
  • Vanessa Ruta, neuroscientist, (New York, 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, Pennsylvania)

Hakim Bishara is a Senior Editor at Hyperallergic. He is a recipient of the 2019 Andy Warhol Foundation and Creative Capital Arts Writers Grant and he holds an MFA in Art Writing from the School of Visual...