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Recipients of the 2012 Awards for Distinction

posted by Christopher Howard — Jan 18, 2012

CAA has announced the recipients of the 2012 Awards for Distinction, which honor the outstanding achievements and accomplishments of individual artists, art historians, authors, conservators, curators, and critics whose efforts transcend their individual disciplines and contribute to the profession as a whole and to the world at large.

CAA will formally recognize the recipients at a special awards ceremony during the 100th Annual Conference in Los Angeles, on Thursday afternoon, February 23, 2012, 12:30–2:00 PM, at the Los Angeles Convention Center. Led by Barbara Nesin, president of the CAA Board of Directors, the awards ceremony will take place in West Hall Meeting Room 502AB, Level 2; it is free and open to the public. The Los Angeles Convention Center is located downtown, at 1201 South Figueroa Street adjacent to the Staples Center.

The 2012 Annual Conference—presenting scholarly sessions, panel discussions, professional-development workshops, a Book and Trade Fair, and more—is the largest gathering of artists, art historians, students, and arts professionals in the United States.

David Hammons, Distinguished Artist Award for Lifetime Achievement

The innovative, far-ranging work of David Hammons is central to the history of postwar art in all its complexities. For the past five decades, Hammons has ingeniously blurred boundaries separating sculpture, Conceptual art, performance, and installation. Through a restless hybridization of practices, he has explored many timely and urgent contemporary issues, commenting on the civil rights movement, racial stereotyping, institutional exclusion, and the commodification of artistic identity. Hammons is not only one of the great political artists of our time, but also a crafter of careful assemblage and canny composition, creating irreverent, sometimes scathing works that are as formally riveting as they are incisive.

Adrian Piper, Artist Award for Distinguished Body of Work

Since the late 1960s, the provocative and often challenging work of Adrian Piper has profoundly influenced the language and form of Conceptual art. Her 2010 exhibition Past Time: Selected Works 1973–1995, presented at Elizabeth Dee Gallery in New York, showcased several bodies of work that dealt with dissent in varying forms and represented a period of time widely considered as her most influential. Piper’s artistic practice flirts with the syntax of Minimalism and infuses it with explicitly political content, addressing issues of race, gender, and identity politics. Additionally, her work has been shaped by studies in philosophy, a subject on which she has lectured since earning a doctorate in the discipline thirty years ago. A keen interlocutor of mass culture, Piper has produced art and writing that makes us question our constantly shifting contemporary social landscape.

Lucy R. Lippard, Distinguished Feminist Award

For more than five decades, the critic, activist, and curator Lucy R. Lippard has been a consistent, passionate, and influential advocate of feminist art. A prolific author first honored by CAA in 1975 with the Frank Jewett Mather Award, she is known for her concise, accessible, and lucid prose that brings feminist perspectives to bear on a wide scope of art and activism—from Eva Hesse (1976) to The Pink Glass Swan: Selected Essays on Feminist Art (1995). Lippard’s curatorial efforts—such as c. 7,500 (1973), the groundbreaking all-woman exhibition of Conceptual art—have also been vital to the feminist art movement and offered some of the earliest considerations of global feminisms. Throughout her life, she has modeled a complex, ever-changing point of view as it intersects with progressive notions of art and politics.

Allan Sekula, Distinguished Lifetime Achievement Award for Writing on Art

Allan Sekula has devoted his life as an artist to writing, photography, installation, and film. While his multidisciplinary approach to problems of representation and politics has earned him accolades as an artist, his writings have helped students, scholars, and the public to think critically about interventions in the political and social realities of our world. The essays collected in his first book, Photography against the Grain: Essays and Photo Works 1973–83 (1984), significantly altered the way in which the documentary function of photography was conceptualized. His more recent volumes—such as Fish Story (1995), Titanic’s Wake (2003), and Performance under Working Conditions (2003)—mobilize us through his vision and words to carefully consider the effects of capitalism, globalization, information formats, and the dematerialization of image and word.

David Antin, Frank Jewett Mather Award

David Antin has been a singular, combative voice in art criticism since the mid 1960s. His Radical Coherency: Selected Essays on Art and Literature 1966 to 2005 (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2011) demonstrates his sustained critical commitment, constant formal experimentation, and a style of thought and expression that is unique to both the visual arts and poetry. The essays and “talking poems” in Radical Coherency display a no-nonsense, skeptical intelligence squaring off firsthand with the work of artists—many of them his contemporaries—who were bent on radically transforming art, from Marcel Duchamp and Andy Warhol to the artists of the Los Angeles County Museum of Art’s 1971 exhibition Art and Technology.

Alexander Nagel, Charles Rufus Morey Book Award

Alexander Nagel’s The Controversy of Renaissance Art (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2011) is a compelling reexamination of the key paradoxes that define this era and the works associated with it. Guided in part by sixteenth-century religious history and the writings of historians of that era, Nagel positions sixteenth-century art making in the realm of the experimental, a vantage also in concert with the efforts of the religious reformers concerned with ritual and devotional practices usually associated with the Middle Ages. A breakthrough volume that makes significant contributions to scholarship on sixteenth-century Italian art, Nagel’s book compels art historians more generally to reconsider “standard” interpretations of many canonical monuments of the periods in which they are working.

Maryan W. Ainsworth, Stijn Alsteens, and Nadine M. Orenstein, Alfred H. Barr Jr. Award

Man, Myth, and Sensual Pleasures: Jan Gossart’s Renaissance (New York: Metropolitan Museum of Art, in association with Yale University Press, 2010) is a “summa” of Maryan Ainsworth’s decades-long exploration of the artistic legacy of this place and time. Using a variety of methods—technical analysis, connoisseurship, archival research, biography, iconography, and sustained attention to each object—she and the other authors place Gossart at the center of a rich world of intertwined relationships. Together they reveal the artist’s groundbreaking engagement with Rome and antiquity, his intent study of architecture and sculpture, his carefully crafted experimentation in a variety of media, and his amazing versatility as a painter of religious scenes, mythological subjects, and innovative portraits over a long career. The book is also significant for the insightful way in which it situates Gossart among his contemporaries, including the painters Albrecht Dürer and Lucas Cranach, the sculptor Conrad Meit, and the patron and connoisseur Philip of Burgundy.

Roy Flukinger, Alfred H. Barr Jr. Award for Smaller Museums, Libraries, Collections, and Exhibitions

With The Gernsheim Collection (Austin: Harry Ransom Center, University of Texas Press, 2010), Roy Flukinger has crafted an exceptional catalogue of the Helmut and Alison Gernsheim Collection, one of the earliest and most comprehensive collections of photography in the world. One hundred and twenty-six items are beautifully illustrated and analyzed in readable, absorbing prose that traces the story of the couple’s achievements as sleuths, gatherers, connoisseurs, photographers, devotees, and champions, while at the same time recognizing and examining their (sometimes controversial) role as architects of the study of photography. Contributions by Alison Nordstrom and Mark Haworth-Booth illuminate the role this collection has played in the history of photography as well as the Gernsheims’ commitment to the medium as a form of fine art. In this way, the book considers the process (in addition to the underlying principles, assumptions, and implications) of canon formulation in an emerging discipline.

Jacki Apple, Distinguished Teaching of Art Award

For the past twenty-eight years, Jacki Apple has provided students at the Art Center College of Design in Pasadena, California, with a dynamic, inspiring, and evolving model of the possibilities and rewards of an interdisciplinary practice. An artist, writer, and producer, she has produced work in multiple modes—performance, installation, drawing, book art, photography, film, radio, text, and audio—and presciently engages the opportunities afforded by new technologies. Praised by students and colleagues alike for her intelligence, generosity, enthusiasm, and critical discernment, Apple adeptly bridges various disciplines using a wide scope of knowledge about contemporary culture and technology and a depth of understanding about the history and practice of the visual and performing arts. A gifted communicator, Apple is exceptionally effective in encouraging students to think for themselves.

Gabriel P. Weisberg, Distinguished Teaching of Art History Award

Gabriel P. Weisberg’s distinguished teaching record—which includes faculty positions at the University of New Mexico, the University of Cincinnati, the University of Pittsburgh, Case Western Reserve University, and the University of Minnesota, where he is currently a professor in the Department of Art History—spans nearly half a century. His students, both graduate and undergraduate, praise his presentation of art as a dynamic interplay among culture, aesthetics, and human experience, revealed through direct examination of works of art in the context of primary historical documentation. Weisberg’s varied and distinguished background as a historian, curator, and administrator seamlessly integrates academic and museum realms, and his scholarship has shaped the discipline of nineteenth-century art history in a profound way.

Francesca G. Bewer, CAA/Heritage Preservation Award for Distinction in Scholarship and Conservation

Francesca G. Bewer, research curator in the Harvard Art Museums’ Straus Center for Conservation and Technical Studies, is an exemplary technical art historian. An expert in the materials and techniques of European Renaissance and Baroque bronze sculpture, she trained as both an art historian, at University College London, and as a conservator, at Palazzo Spinelli in Florence. A highly valued teacher and lecturer, Bewer has published a steady stream of superb texts in conservation and art-historical journals, exhibition catalogues, and monographs. She also recently authored a book on the history of conservation, A Laboratory for Art: Harvard’s Fogg Museum and the Emergence of Conservation in America, 1900–1950 (Cambridge, MA: Harvard Art Museum; New Haven: Yale University Press, 2010).

Rebecca Molholt, Arthur Kingsley Porter Prize

Rebecca Molholt’s article “Roman Labyrinth Mosaics and the Experience of Motion,” published in the September 2011 issue of The Art Bulletin, is an imaginative study of seven North African mosaics that were once floors in Roman bathhouses. She introduces a fresh methodology for their assessment, building on a distinction that Walter Benjamin drew between “vertical and horizontal forms of viewing.” Moholt argues that mosaics have long been read as if they were vertical easel paintings rather than understood as “materials underfoot,” which are experienced while kinetically moving over their horizontal surfaces. She uncovers a metaphoric reading of these mosaics that relates the labyrinths, their subject matter, and architectural context—the Roman bath—to athleticism and heroism.

Art Journal Award

An article by the online journal Triple Canopy, authored primarily by Colby Chamberlain of Columbia University, has won the 2012 Art Journal Award. The text, called “The Binder and the Server,” appears in the Winter 2011 issue.


For more information on the 2012 Awards for Distinction, please contact Lauren Stark, CAA manager of programs. Visit the Awards section of the CAA website to read about all past recipients.

CAA announced the shortlists for the 2012 Charles Rufus Morey Book Award and the two Alfred H. Barr Jr. Awards on December 2, 2011.