The MacArthur Foundation has announced the 25 recipients of its annual Fellows Program. Colloquially known as the “MacArthur Genius Grant,” the prize, begun in 1981 and awarded to a diverse cohort of artists, writers, activists, scientists, musicians, and more, offers each fellow an unrestricted grant of $625,000, which is given out over the course of five years.
“Working in diverse fields, from the arts and sciences to public health and civil liberties,” MacArthur Fellows Program managing director Cecilia Conrad said in a statement, “these 25 MacArthur Fellows are solving long-standing scientific and mathematical problems, pushing art forms into new and emerging territories, and addressing the urgent needs of under-resourced communities.
“Their exceptional creativity inspires hope in us all,” Conrad added.
Kaphar works primarily in painting, producing works that look at the interwoven relationship between history and race, partly as a reflection on what is kept out of the art-historical canon. He uses the notion of layering as a literal directive to poetic ends, sometimes cutting into his canvases to expose painted images that would have been concealed from the viewer. He also created installations such as The Vesper Project (2013), which tells the fictional story of a 19th-century mixed-race family who, though legally black at the time, was able to pass as white. In 2019, Kaphar will open a space called NXTHVN in New Haven, Connecticut, that will provide recently graduated M.F.A. students with residencies. With Ken Gonzalez-Day, he is currently the subject of a two-person exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery in Washington, D.C.