Visual Arts Mentor Ralph Lemon Wins 2020 MacArthur ‘Genius’ Grant

BY Brittany Nguyen, October 9, 2020

The MacArthur fellowships are awarded annually by the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation for “extraordinary originality and dedication in their creative pursuits.” This year, Visual Arts Mentor Ralph Lemon is one of the select few to receive a MacArthur ‘Genius’ Grant. Each recipient will receive a “no-strings-attached” award of $625,000, disbursed over five years by the MacArthur Foundation. 


“The MacArthur Fellows Program is intended to encourage people of outstanding talent to pursue their own creative, intellectual, and professional inclinations. In keeping with this purpose, the Foundation awards fellowships directly to individuals rather than through institutions. Recipients may be writers, scientists, artists, social scientists, humanists, teachers, entrepreneurs, or those in other fields, with or without institutional affiliations. They may use their fellowship to advance their expertise, engage in bold new work, or, if they wish, to change fields or alter the direction of their careers,” The MacArthur Foundation outlines. 


The three criteria for selection of Fellows are: exceptional creativity, promise for important future advances based on a track record of significant accomplishments, and potential for the Fellowship to facilitate subsequent creative work.

“I am thinking around performance, the stage, the museum or gallery, visual art, video, film, writing... active contemplation and how I would like to be able to live in and between these particular forms (perceived medium landscapes) as organically as possible, banishing any hierarchy,” Lemon said in a statement to the Foundation for Contemporary Arts. “I contemplate what it is I can't do, what's not possible, in this ongoing conversation I have with the body—as place, memory, culture—and as vehicle for cultural language. My artistic process entails a vigorous collision of creative cultures and inspired conversations that dictate how the work is constructed, and how it might be shared with a public audience. A principal question to this process is: how can an intensive artistic research and immediate art-making practice translate to the staged realm of the spectator? This ongoing struggle between process and production creates a tension that is a vital element in all of my artistic work.” 


Lemon is a dancer, choreographer, writer, visual artist, and curator who creates cross-disciplinary performances based in New York. He is the founder and Artistic Director of Cross Performance Inc. His most recent works include Scaffold Room (2015), Four Walls (2012), and How Can You Stay in The House All Day And Not Go Anywhere? (2008-2010), and works with live performance, film and visual art that toured throughout the US. The immersive visual art installation, "Meditation," which was part of How Can You Stay, was acquired for the permanent collection of the Walker Arts Center in 2012. In January 2011, a re-imagined section of How Can You Stay was performed at the Museum of Modern Art in New York City in conjunction with On Line: Drawing Through the Twentieth Century