City Life Org – Ralph Lemon Receives 2022 Whitney’s Bucksbaum Award


Ralph Lemon, Untitled, 2021. Oil and acrylic on paper, 26 × 40 in. (66.1 × 101.6cm). Image courtesy of the artist

The Whitney Museum of American Art announces Ralph Lemon as the recipient of the 2022 Bucksbaum Prize. Lemon was chosen among sixty-three intergenerational artists and collectives working across disciplines and media in Whitney Biennial 2022: Quiet as preserved.

An interdisciplinary artist, who works primarily in performance, Ralph Lemon has produced drawings throughout his creative life. He described the purpose of this work, which has been constant and mostly private, as “cartography akin to an anthropological practice”, involving research and artistic creation in places like Japan, Haiti, the Côte d’ Ivory and, for many years, the Mississippi Delta. For the Biennale, he develops a presentation choreography, exhibiting hundreds of drawings over or over twenty-five years old in five ephemeral variations that take place monthly during the exhibition. The themes of Lemon’s work range from elaborate visual meditations and the nature of the artistic process itself to experiences refracting Black American culture, symbols, icons, music and joy.

“Ralph Lemon’s talent and range over a career dedicated to performance, drawing, education, and the pursuit of an imaginative creative process make him one of America’s most compelling artists working today,” said Adam D. Weinberg, Alice Pratt Brown director of Alice Pratt Brown. the Whitney. “I am thrilled that he is receiving the Bucksbaum Award, which was started by our longtime trustee Melva Bucksbaum and celebrates excellence in living artists.”

“With the Bucksbaum Prize, the Whitney seeks to honor an artist with the promise of making a lasting contribution to the history of American art. In the case of Ralph Lemon, it has happened before,” said Scott Rothkopf, Nancy Family Chief Curator and Steve Crown of the Whitney. “His work has changed the paradigms around performance, sculpture, drawing, etc., as well as the distinctions between them, all with rigor, ethics, humor and heart.”

Bucksbaum’s six-member jury included Weinberg, Rothkopf, 2022 Whitney Biennial co-curators David Breslin, DeMartini family curator and director of curatorial initiatives at the Whitney and Adrienne Edwards, Engel 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), patron of the arts, collector and trustee of Whitney from 1996 until her death, initiated the Bucksbaum Prize in 2000. The Bucksbaum Prize is awarded every biennial year in recognition of an artist, featured in the Biennale, whose work demonstrates a singular combination of talent and imagination. The selected artist is considered by jurors to have the potential to make a lasting impact on American art history, based on the excellence of their past work, as well as their current work at the Biennale . The prize is accompanied by a check for $100,000. McClodden is the tenth Bucksbaum Fellow to be named since the award’s inception.

Bucksbaum’s ten previous 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 be participating 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 Prize is provided by an endowment from the Martin Bucksbaum Family Foundation.

About Ralph Lemon

Ralph Lemon is a choreographer, writer, visual artist and curator based in New York, NY. He is currently artistic director of Cross Performance, a company dedicated to the creation of intercultural and interdisciplinary performances and presentations. His most recent works include Chorus (2015), Scaffolding room (2015), four walls (2012), and How can you stay in the house all day and not go anywhere? (2008-2010). Lemon’s works, live performances, films and visual arts have toured the United States. His solo visual art exhibitions include Chorus at the Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam, Holland and at the Underground Museum, Los Angeles (2017/2018), 1856 Cessna Road at the Studio Museum in Harlem, NYC (2012); How can you stay In the house all day and not going anywhere?Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, San Francisco (2010); (the efflorescence of) WalterContemporary Art Center, New Orleans (2008), The kitchenNYC (2007) and Walker Art Center, Minneapolis (2006); The geography trilogy, Zilkha Gallery at Wesleyan University, Middletown, CT (2001); and Temples, Margaret Bodell Gallery, NYC (2000). Collective exhibitions include: Move: You choreograph, Hayward Gallery, London, UK, and The record: contemporary art and vinyl, Nasher Museum at Duke University, Durham, North Carolina. His works are in the collections of the Walker Art Center, the Studio Museum in Harlem, and the Whitney Museum of American Art.

In 2012, Lemon received one of the first Doris Duke Performing Artist Awards; he was also one of the first artists to be awarded the United States Artists Fellowship (2006). He is the recipient of three “Bessie” awards (1986, 2005, 2016); two prizes from the Foundation for Contemporary Art (1986, 2012); a 2009 Guggenheim Fellowship; a fellowship from the Bellagio Center for Studies in 2004; and the 1999 CalArts Alpert Award.

Among his many teaching positions, Lemon was an IDA Fellow at Stanford University (2009); artist-in-residence at Temple University (2005-06); Miller Endowment Visiting Artist at the Krannert Center (2004); Fellow of the Humanities Council and Program in Theater & Dance at Princeton University (2002); and associate artist at the Yale Repertory Theater (1996-2000). For the fall semester of 2011, he was guest critic at Yale University School of Art, Sculpture Dept. Value Talks. In 2015, Lemon was a Mellon Foundation Visiting Scholar at Columbia University, and in 2017 he was Professor of Theater Arts Practice and Performance Studies at Brown University. He was the 2018 Josep Lluis Sert Practitioner at Harvard University’s Carpenter Center for Visual Arts. In 2019 he was Sachs Visiting Professor at the University of Pennsylvania. Lemon is currently a visual arts mentor at Columbia University School of the Arts.

In 2015, Lemon received the National Medal of Arts from President Barack Obama. He is a 2018 recipient of the Heinz Family Foundation Award, a 2019 recipient of the Francis J. Greenberger Award, a 2020 recipient of a fellowship from the American Academy in Berlin, a fellowship from the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur in 2020, and he was elected a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 2021.


The Whitney Museum of American Art, founded in 1930 by artist and philanthropist Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney (1875-1942), houses the most important collection of American art from the 20th and 21st centuries. Ms. Whitney, an early and ardent supporter of modern American art, nurtured groundbreaking artists when the public was still largely preoccupied with the Old Masters. From his vision was born the Whitney Museum of American Art, which has championed America’s most innovative art for ninety years. The core of the Whitney’s mission is to collect, preserve, interpret and exhibit American art of our time and to serve a wide variety of audiences to celebrate the complexity and diversity of art and culture in the United States. . Through this mission and an unwavering commitment to artists, the Whitney has long been a powerful force for modern and contemporary art and continues to help define what is innovative and influential in American art. today.


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