Artist Lauren Halsey is the winner of this year’s Mohn Award, which is given by the Hammer Museum in Los Angeles to a participant in its Made in L.A. biennial. Through the award, Halsey will receive $100,000; the museum is planning a monograph on her work.
For Made in L.A., which was this year curated by Anne Ellegood and Erin Christovale, Halsey produced prototypes for The Crenshaw District Hieroglyph Project, a piece to be installed on Crenshaw Boulevard in Los Angeles’s South Central neighborhood, at the site where an African market once existed. Currently on view at the Hammer are structures resembling columns and a temple made out of gypsum and plywood. Inscribed in the main temple structure is a mix of hieroglyphics, storefront logos, and graffiti tags.
“I wanted to make a work that’s about living histories, that functions as memorial, as celebration, as fun, as aspirations and affirmations,” Halsey told Los Angeles Magazine last month.
In a statement, Ann Philbin, the director of the Hammer, said, “Lauren Halsey’s ambitious sculpture is impressive as a site-specific installation at the Hammer and as a prototype for her upcoming public artwork in the South Central community. The Mohn Award recognizes her distinctive iconography and community-building vision.”
Past winners of the Mohn Award include Adam Linder (2016), Alice Könitz (2014), and Meleko Mokgosi (2012).
The Hammer also announced today that EJ Hill, another participant in the 2018 Made in L.A. biennial, has won its Public Recognition Award, which is chosen by museum visitors and comes with $25,000. Hill is showing the project Excellentia, Mollitia, Victoria, a piece resembling a running track ringed by photographs by Texas Isaiah. The artist himself has been standing on a plinth as part of the work for every hour that the museum is open as a symbol of endurance and victory.
“EJ Hill’s work best embodies, in the most literal sense, a theme we saw echoed throughout the biennial—the incredible human capacity for resilience,” Liz Munsell, a curator of contemporary art at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, said in a statement, who was involved in selecting the juried awards.
Daniel Joseph Martinez won the Hammer’s Career Achievement Award, which likewise comes with $25,000. Best known for I Can’t Imagine Ever Wanting to Be White (a group of museum tags bearing the work’s title that he produced for the 1993 Whitney Biennial), Martinez has produced widely influential art over the past three decades in a variety of mediums that has dealt with power structures, violence, and how aspects of identity can be hidden or revealed. For “Made in L.A. 2018,” Martinez created a series of photographs called “I am Ulrike Meinhof or (someone once told me time is a flat circle),” for which he stood alongside places where the Berlin Wall once existed and held a flag featuring the face of Meinhof, a left-wing militant who was arrested and later found dead in her cell in the 1970s.
In a statement, Pilar Tompkins Rivas, the director of the Vincent Price Art Museum in Los Angeles, who helped decide the juried awards, said, “Daniel Joseph Martinez has had a tremendous impact on several generations of artists in Los Angeles, and has helped to shape the development of the art scene through his involvement in seminal art spaces in the city. . . . He is tremendously deserving of this award, and it is so wonderful to celebrate him at this moment.”
Thomas J. Lax, the associate curator of media and performance art at the Museum of Modern Art in New York, worked with Rivas and Munsell to select Martinez and Halsey for their respective prizes.