Art & Culture

Artists Roberto Lugo and Kevin Beasley Receive 2023 Heinz Awards, Recognition Includes $250,000 Prize



Roberto Lugo. | Photo by Joshua Franzos, Courtesy Heinz Foundation

 

THE HEINZ FAMILY FOUNDATION’S annual Heintz Awards celebrate outstanding contributions in the arts, as well as the economy and environment. This year, the five recipients include artists Roberto Lugo and Kevin Beasley. Heintz Award recipients receive a medal and an unrestricted $250,000 cash prize.

A Philadelphia ceramic artist, Lugo’s work reflects his Afro-Latino heritage, hip-hop culture, and racial justice issues. He describes his practice as reimagining traditional European and Asian vessel forms with a 21st century street sensibility. His ornate works feature portraits of contemporary and historic figures. Lugo has paid homage to Alma Thomas, Satchel Paige, Bootsy Collins, Celia Cruz, Chadwick Boseman, Sidney Poitier, Sonia Sanchez, and Supreme Court Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson. He has also put rappers and pit bulls on his work and often immortalizes himself.

Lugo has said he grew up poor in a violent neighborhood, where he expressed himself through graffiti. He moved away and attended community college in Florida, where he was first exposed to pottery, a transformational experience. Subsequently, he earned a BFA from the Kansas City Art Institute and an MFA from Pennsylvania State University. Representing his community is central to Lugo’s practice. He has been known to set up his potting wheel on the sidewalk and introduce the art form to anyone who walks by and wants to learn. He also shares his knowledge in a more formal environment. Lugo is an assistant professor at Temple University’s Tyler School of Art and Architecture in Philadelphia.

Recently, his work was presented in “Roberto Lugo: Hi Def Archives” at the Cincinnati Art Museum and “Roberto Lugo: The Village Potter” at Grounds for Sculpture in Hamilton, N.J. “Roberto Lugo: The Gilded Ghetto,” the artist’s first solo exhibition in New York, is currently on view at R & Company gallery, through Oct. 27.

 


From left, ROBERTO LUGO, “Frederick Douglass and Anna Murray Douglass Vase,” 2021 (glazed ceramic with enamel paint, 30 1⁄2 × 15 1⁄2 × 17 5⁄8 inches / 77.5 × 39.4 × 44.8 cm), | © Roberto Lugo. Smithsonian American Art Museum, Museum purchase in part through the Smithsonian Latino Initiatives Pool, administered by the Smithsonian Latino Center, and the Howard Kottler Endowment for Ceramic Art, 2022.5

 

The Smithsonian American Art Museum recently acquired Lugo’s “Frederick Douglass and Anna Murray Douglass Vase” (2021). The work features a portrait of the vaunted abolitionist on one side and an image of his wife, whose story is far less known, on the reverse. Lugo was also honored by the Smithsonian in May, receiving the 2023 Master of the Medium Award for ceramics from the James Renwick Alliance for Craft.

“Roberto’s powerful and moving body of work is both informed by a life story of struggle and infused with optimism and the vision that art can change how we understand our past and inform how we interpret the events in the world around us,” Teresa Heinz, chairman of the Heinz Family Foundation, said in a statement.

“His prolific work is transforming the art form of ceramics, juxtaposing traditional with new and layering fresh perspectives and storytelling in ways that confront history and direct us toward positive change. We honor Roberto not only for his gifts as an artist, but also for his generous spirit and commitment to helping the next generation of young artists grow and mature in their craft.”

“My work takes the form of creating pottery and engaging with the public to raise awareness about the issues affecting poor Black and Brown communities, including the ones I grew up in. It brings me great joy that my work has been so well-received and that I can continue pursuing my dreams and representing my community in the arts.” — Roberto Lugo

 


Kevin Beasley. | Photo by Joshua Franzos, Courtesy Heinz Foundation

 

NEW YORK-BASED BEASLEY makes conceptual works across sculpture, sound, and performance, incorporating material ephemera such as housecoats, durags, hoodies, and raw cotton in his work and drawing on his family roots in Virginia to explore complex American histories and generational memory. More than a decade ago, when he was still working on his MFA at Yale, Beasley learned his family had recently leased land to local farmers to grow cotton. The discovery would eventually shape the contours of his practice.

“Kevin Beasley: A View of the Landscape,” the artist’s most ambitious presentation to date, opened at the Whitney Museum of American Art in 2018. For his first solo museum exhibition in New York, Beasley installed an enormous cotton gin motor that was active in Maplesville, Ala., from 1940 to 1973. Rather than using it to separate cotton seeds from cotton fiber, he utilized the motor to produce sound, dramatizing the complicated history of the back-breaking labor it represented, providing a moment for contemplation about race, land, opportunity, and subjugation in the exhibition space.

The Whitney exhibition also featured a selection of resin slabs by Beasley. The large-scale works exist at the intersection of painting and sculpture with an array of Virginia-grown cotton, clothing, confetti, guinea fowl feathers, and other culturally significant items encased in the slabs, creating the color, abstract patterns, and figurative forms and landscapes that define the works.

Beasley was a 2013-14 artist in residence at the Studio Museum in Harlem. In 2020, he was shortlisted for the Hugo Boss Prize at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum. After joining Regen Projects in 2021, he had his first show with the gallery last year in Los Angeles (“Kevin Beasley: On Site”). “Kevin Beasley: In an Effort to Keep,” a solo exhibition of the artist was on view a few months ago at Casey Kaplan gallery in New York.

“I have a belief that histories are not only written through language but even more importantly inscribed, collected and gathered through objects, ephemera, and places we encounter. Whether it’s the texture of a weathered surface or the accumulation of stuff, the presence and existence of our activities and ultimately our lives is evidenced by what we leave behind, from footprints to legacy.” — Kevin Beasley

 


KEVIN BEASLEY, “Site XXIX,” 2023 (polyurethane resin, raw Virginia cotton, housedresses, altered housedresses, confetti, t-shirts, altered t-shirts, guinea fowl feathers, fiberglass, 74.5 x 92.5 x 2 inches / 189.23 x 234.95 x 5.08 cm). | © Kevin Beasley. Courtesy the artist and Casey Kaplan, New York, Photo by Jason Wyche

 

“Kevin’s multilayered, interdisciplinary work… [draws] us in to reflect on and better understand the truth of our past and inspiring us to rethink how we together shape what comes next,” Heinz said. “We honor Kevin not only for his impact on the world of contemporary art, but more importantly, for creating works of sculpture, sound, materials and memory that captivate and direct us toward a more just future.”

Heinz established the awards in 1993 to pay tribute to her late husband, Sen. John Heinz (1938-1991). She said he “viewed the arts as a lens through which a society examines its conscience.” CT

 

SEE FULL LIST of 2023 Heinz Award recipients

 

FIND MORE about Roberto Lugo on his website and Instagram

FIND MORE about Kevin Beasley on Instagram

 

BOOKSHELF
Recently published, “Kevin Beasley: A View of a Landscape” is a 300-page monograph and double LP record (produced in collaboration with London-based label Hyperdub). The book includes contributions from Beasley, Andy Battaglia, Adrienne Edwards, Mark Godfrey, Thomas J. Lax, and Tiona Nekkia McClodden, among others. Jlin, Robert Aiki Aubrey Lowe, Kelsey Lu, Jason Moran, Moor Mother, and Okwui Okpokwasili are among those featured on the LP. Fred Moten and Ralph Lemon appear in both formats. The project is published by the Renaissance Society in Chicago, where Beasley was featured in the 2022 group exhibition “Fear of Property.” Also consider, “Kevin Beasley,” the artist’s first monograph. Published to accompany a 2018 exhibition at ICA Boston, the volume features a conversation between Beasley and artist Mark Bradford.

 

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