Cuban-American artist Coco Fusco will use the $30,000 Greenfield Prize to make a documentary film about Cuban artist Juan Carlos Cremato, whose work has been suppressed in his native country, Susan Rife of The Herald Tribune reports.
The 2016 prize, which is administered by the Hermitage Artist Retreat in Englewood, was announced Tuesday evening. It is presented each year, rotating among the disciplines of music, playwriting and visual art.
“I’m a happy lady today,” Fusco said Wednesday morning after she received the Tuesday night phone call, traditionally made by Hermitage supporters during a festive cocktail celebration. And as is becoming traditional, the call rolled to her voice mail twice before she called back.
Fusco has an extensive background in various artistic disciplines, including performance art, video art, several books and numerous awards, including fellowships from the Cintas, Guggenheim, Fullbright and U.S. Artists organizations. Her work has been shown around the world, including at the Venice Biennale, Whitney Biennial, Sydney Biennale, Johannesburg Biennial, Kwangju Biennale, Shanghai Biennale and many others.
She holds degrees in semiotics from Brown University, modern thought and literature from Stanford and art and visual culture from Middlesex University.
Franklin Sirmans was one of three jurors who chose Fusco from a list that began with about 20 artists and was narrowed to four finalists.
Their decision was unanimous on the first vote, said Sirmans, who is director of the Perez Art Museum in Miami.
“We all felt like, for what the prize is about and our desire to talk about this moment in time, Coco was the perfect person, for various reasons. Looking at the prize and thinking about its relationship to the moment, not just picking somebody out of the hat but somebody who’s been making important work for a while.
Fusco will have two years to complete the work, which then will be presented at the Ringling Museum of Art.
Matthew McLendon, curator of modern and contemporary art at the Ringling, could not be more enthusiastic. A nonvoting member of the committee that nominated possible recipients, he will work with Fusco throughout that period.
“Coco Fusco is such an important artist. Her performance work exploring the role of women in society as well as post¬colonialism are foundational for any discussion of serious, socially engaged work of the last two decades,” he said. “The project she has proposed for the Greenfield Prize is both timely and timeless in its engagement with censorship and the struggles between dominant, official culture and those artists working at the margins critiquing that culture. As relations between the United States and Cuba enter into a state of change, I cannot think of a better voice to be given this opportunity through The Greenfield Prize. Personally, I have long admired Fusco and I am thrilled that we will premiere her latest work at The Ringling.”
Fusco’s proposal for the Greenfield Prize is “to make a film in Cuba, which is a place where I have worked a lot in the last few years, and do a piece about an artist there who staged an Ionesco play, ‘Exit the King,’ and the state decided he was trying to allude to the Castro brothers,” she said. “He’s in his 60s, and suddenly he finds his work cut off. We wanted to use this case to explore that history” of artistic repression in Cuba.
Juan Carlos Cremata is a well-known filmmaker and theater director in Cuba whose film “Viva Cuba” won the grand prize for children’s cinema at the 2005 Cannes International Film Festival, among dozens of other prizes.
“I had already done these other pieces about the relationship between intellectuals and the state, and then this happens with Cremata, and both of us want to tell his story,” Fusco said. “Both of us feel very strongly that the best response to that kind of action is to turn that material into a film.”
Fusco was recently named the Andrew Banks Endowed Professor of Art at the University of Florida.