The Komal Shah and Gaurav Garg Artist Conversation Series
Stanford University is the home of interdisciplinary thinking that catalyzes innovation. Artists on the Future is a conversation series that pairs world-famous artists with cultural thought leaders from various fields to talk about issues vital to our society. These public events bring those working at the highest levels of human expression, creative thinking, and aesthetic impact into our deepest national conversations.
The Office of the Vice President for the Arts at Stanford University presents one conversation per academic quarter. The program is free and open to both members of the Stanford community and the public.
This program is generously supported by Komal Shah and Gaurav Garg.
Amy Sherald and Calida Rawles in conversation
Moderated by Associate Vice President for Campus Engagement Matthew Tiews
Born in Columbus, Georgia, and now based in the New York City area, Amy Sherald documents contemporary African American experience in the United States through arresting, otherworldly figurative paintings. Sherald engages with the history of photography and portraiture, inviting viewers to participate in a more complex debate about accepted notions of race and representation, and to situate Black heritage centrally in American art.
Sherald received her MFA in painting from Maryland Institute College of Art and BA in painting from Clark-Atlanta University. Sherald was the first woman and first African-American to ever receive the grand prize in the 2016 Outwin Boochever Portrait Competition from the National Portrait Gallery in Washington D.C.; she also received the 2017 Anonymous Was A Woman award and the 2019 Smithsonian Ingenuity Award. In 2018, Sherald was selected by First Lady Michelle Obama to paint her portrait as an official commission for the National Portrait Gallery. Sherald’s work is held in public collections such as the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, NY; the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Los Angeles, CA; Museum of Fine Arts Boston, Boston, MA; the Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art, Bentonville, AR; Embassy of the United States, Dakar, Senegal; Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture, Washington, DC; Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery, Washington, DC; and Nasher Museum of Art, Durham, NC.
The paintings of Calida Rawles (b. 1976, Wilmington, DE; lives and works in Los Angeles, CA) merge hyper-realism with poetic abstraction. Situating her subjects in dynamic spaces, her recent work employs water as a vital, organic, and historically charged space. For Rawles, water signifies both physical and spiritual healing as well as historical trauma and racial exclusion. She uses this complicated duality as a means to envision a new space for Black healing and to reimagine her subjects beyond racialized tropes.
Rawles received a B.A. from Spelman College, Atlanta, GA (1998) and an M.A. from New York University, New York, NY (2000). Solo exhibitions have been organized at Lehmann Maupin, New York, NY (2021); Various Small Fires, Los Angeles, CA (2020). Her work has been featured in numerous group exhibitions including A Shared Body, FSU Museum, Tallahassee FL (2021); Art Finds a Way, Norton Museum of Art, West Palm Beach, FL (2021); View From Here, Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Los Angeles, CA (2020). Rawles created the cover art for Ta-Nehisi Coates’s novel, “The Water Dancer,” and her work is in numerous public and private collections, including the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, CA, Perez Art Museum Miami, Dallas Museum of Art, and the Studio Museum in Harlem, New York, NY.
Catherine Opie and Rebecca Solnit in conversation
Moderated by interim Senior Associate Vice President for the Arts, Matthew Tiews
Catherine Opie (b. 1961, Sandusky, OH) is an artist working with photography, film, collage, and ceramics. She was a 2019 Guggenheim Fellow recipient and the Robert Mapplethorpe Resident in Photography at the American Academy in Rome for 2021. Opie’s work has been exhibited extensively throughout the United States and abroad and is held in over 50 major collections throughout the world. Her first monograph, Catherine Opie, was recently published by Phaidon. Opie received a B.F.A. from the San Francisco Art Institute, and an M.F.A. from the California Institute of the Arts in 1988, and lives and works in Los Angeles. She holds the Lynda and Stewart Resnick Endowed Chair in Art at UCLA where she is also Chair of the Department of Art.
Writer, historian, and activist Rebecca Solnit is the author of more than twenty books on feminism, western and urban history, popular power, social change and insurrection, wandering and walking, hope and catastrophe. Her books include Orwell’s Roses, Recollections of My Nonexistence, Hope in the Dark; Men Explain Things to Me; and A Paradise Built in Hell: The Extraordinary Communities that Arise in Disaster. A product of the California public education system from kindergarten to graduate school, she writes regularly for the Guardian and serves on the board of the climate group Oil Change International.
Teresita Fernández and Sir David Adjaye in conversation
Moderated by interim Senior Associate Vice President for the Arts, Matthew Tiews
Teresita Fernández’s work is characterized by interactive self-reflection and conceptual wayfinding. Her immersive, monumental works are inspired by a rethinking of landscape and place, as well as by diverse historical and cultural references. Often using images from the natural world, Fernández’s work emphasizes the stacked connections between place, people, and materials–using gold, graphite, iron-ore, and other minerals that reveal loaded historical ties to colonization and the violence embedded in the landscape. Her practice engages in a quiet unraveling of power, land, visibility, and erasure that prompts an intimate experience for viewers.
Fernández is a 2005 MacArthur Foundation Fellow and the recipient of numerous awards including a Guggenheim Fellowship, an NEA Artist's Grant, and a Louis Comfort Tiffany Biennial Award. Appointed by President Obama, she is the first Latina to serve on the U.S. Commission of Fine Arts, a 100-year-old federal panel that advises the President and Congress on national matters of design and aesthetics.
Fernández’s works have been exhibited both nationally and internationally at The Museum of Modern Art, New York; the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art; The Museum of Fine Arts, Boston; The Smithsonian Museum of American Art; MASS MoCA; and Castello di Rivoli, Turin, among others. She lives and works in Brooklyn, New York.
photo by Natalia Mantini, courtesy of the artist and Lehmann Maupin, New York, Hong Kong, Seoul, and London
SIR DAVID ADJAYE
Sir David Adjaye OBE is a Ghanaian-British architect who has received international acclaim for his impact on the field. In 2000, he founded Adjaye Associates, which today operates globally, with studios in Accra, London, and New York and projects spanning across the globe. Adjaye’s largest project to date, The National Museum of African American History & Culture in Washington, DC opened on the National Mall in Washington DC in 2016 and was named Cultural Event of the Year by The New York Times. In 2017, Adjaye was recognized as one of the 100 most influential people of the year by TIME Magazine.
Most recently, Adjaye was announced the winner of the 2021 RIBA Royal Gold Medal. Approved personally by Her Majesty the Queen, the Royal Gold Medal is considered one of the highest honors in British architecture for significant contribution to the field internationally. Sir Adjaye is also the recipient of the World Economic Forum’s 27th Annual Crystal Award, which recognizes his "leadership in serving communities, cities and the environment."
photo courtesy of Chris Schwagga
Shirin Neshat and Abbas Milani in conversation
Moderated by interim Senior Associate Vice President for the Arts, Matthew Tiews
is an Iranian-born artist and filmmaker living in New York. Neshat works with the mediums of photography, video and film to explore themes of gender, identity, politics in Muslim countries, and the relationship between the personal and political.
Neshat has held numerous solo exhibitions at galleries and museums worldwide, including the Museo Correr in Venice, Italy; the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Washington D.C.; Detroit Institute of the Arts; the Serpentine Gallery, London; and most recently a major retrospective of her work was held at The Broad museum, Los Angeles.
Neshat has been the recipient of the Golden Lion Award - the First International Prize at the 48th Venice Biennial (1999), The Davos World Economic Forum’s Crystal Award (2014), and the Praemium Imperiale (2017).
Neshat has directed two feature-length films, Women Without Men (2009), which received the Silver Lion Award for Best Director at the 66th Venice International Film Festival, and Looking For Oum Kulthum (2017). In 2017, Neshat also directed her first opera, AIDA at the Salzburg Music Festival, in Austria.
Shirin Neshat is represented by Gladstone Gallery, New York and Brussels and Goodman Gallery, London, Johannesburg, and Cape Town.
photo courtesy of Rodolfo Martinez
is the Hamid & Christina Moghadam Director of Iranian Studies and Adjunct Professor at the Center on Democracy, Development and Rule of Law at the Freeman Spogli Institute at Stanford University. He has been one of the founding co-directors of the Iran Democracy Project and a research fellow at the Hoover Institution. His expertise is U.S.-Iran relations as well as Iranian cultural, political, and security issues. Until 1986, he taught at Tehran University’s Faculty of Law and Political Science, where he was also a member of the Board of Directors of the university’s Center for International Relations. After moving to the United States, he was for fourteen years the Chair of the Political Science Department at the Notre Dame de Namur University. For eight years, he was a visiting Research Fellow in University of California, Berkeley’s Middle East Center.
photo courtesy of Babak Payami
Njideka Akunyili Crosby and Thelma Golden in conversation
NJIDEKA AKUNYILI CROSBY
creates densely layered figurative compositions that, precise in style, nonetheless conjure the complexity of contemporary experience. Crosby was born in Enugu, Nigeria, in 1983 and currently lives and works in Los Angeles. The artist was awarded an honorary doctorate from Swarthmore College in May 2019. She is also the recipient of a 2017 MacArthur Fellowship and has received a number of awards and grants, including the Prix Canson, 2016; Next Generation honor, New Museum, 2015; Joyce Alexander Wein Artist Prize, 2015; and the James Dicke Contemporary Artist Prize, The Smithsonian American Art Museum, 2014, among others. She was an Artist in Residence at The Studio Museum in Harlem in 2011-2012.
is Director and Chief Curator of The Studio Museum in Harlem, where she began her career in 1987 before joining the Whitney Museum of American Art in 1988. After a decade at the Whitney, she returned to the Studio Museum in 2000 as Deputy Director for Exhibitions and Programs, and was named Director and Chief Curator in 2005. Golden was appointed to the Committee for the Preservation of the White House by President Obama in 2010, and in 2015 joined the Barack Obama Foundation’s Board of Directors. She served as the 2015–16 Chair of New York City’s Cultural Institutions Group and was appointed to the Cultural Affairs Advisory Commission by Mayor Bill de Blasio. Golden received the Audrey Irmas Award for Curatorial Excellence in 2016, a Ford Foundation Art of Change Visiting Fellowship in 2015, and a Henry Crown Fellowship at the Aspen Institute in 2008. She holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in Art History and African-American Studies from Smith College. Born in St. Albans, Queens, Golden currently resides in Harlem.
Lynda Benglis in conversation with Kimberly Drew
lives and works in New York; Santa Fe; Kastellorizo, Greece; and Ahmedabad, India. First recognized in the late 1960s for her poured latex and foam works, Benglis created work that was a perfectly timed retort to the male-dominated fusion of painting and sculpture with the advent of Process Art and Minimalism. Known for her exploration of metaphorical and biomorphic shapes, she is deeply concerned with the physicality of form and how it affects the viewer, using a wide range of materials to render dynamic impressions of mass and surface: soft becomes hard, hard becomes soft, and gestures are frozen.
Photo courtesy of Billie Scheepers.
is a writer, curator, and activist. Drew received her B.A. from Smith College in Art History and African-American Studies, with a concentration in Museum Studies. Drew first experienced the art world as an intern in the Director’s Office of The Studio Museum in Harlem. Her time at the Studio Museum inspired her to start the Tumblr blog Black Contemporary Art, sparking her interest in social media.
Since starting her blog, Drew has worked for Hyperallergic, The Studio Museum in Harlem, Lehmann Maupin, and The Metropolitan Museum of Art. She has delivered lectures and participated in panel discussions nationally and internationally. Her writing has appeared in Vogue, Glamour, W, Teen Vogue, and Lenny Letter. She also serves as a board member for Recess Activities, Inc. Drew recently left her role as the Social Media Manager at The Met to pursue writing full-time. You can follow her at @museummammy on Instagram and Twitter
Dana Schutz in conversation with Hamza Walker
(b. 1976, Livonia, Michigan) lives and works in Brooklyn, NY. Schutz’s paintings depict darkly humorous narratives, hypothetical situations and impossible physical feats, such as swimming while smoking and crying or a manically refracted self- exam. Vibrant and tactile, Schutz's oddly compelling images simultaneously engage the unique capabilities of the medium while conjuring a world both urgent and harrowing.
Schutz has had numerous solo exhibitions both nationally and internationally, and her work has been included in many acclaimed group exhibitions including the Whitney Biennial and the Venice Bienniale. Her work is included in the collections of the Museum of Modern Art, New York; The Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; Solomon R. Guggenheim, New York; The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, Hammer Museum, Los Angeles; Institute of Contemporary Art Boston; Museum of Contemporary Arts, Los Angeles; Museum of Fine Arts, Boston; Museum of Modern Art, New York; Montreal Museum of Fine Arts, Montreal; San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, San Francisco; among many others.
She is represented by Petzel Gallery, New York, Contemporary Fine Arts, Berlin and Thomas Dane Gallery, London
Photo courtesy of the artist and Petzel, New York.
is the Director of LAXART, an independent nonprofit art space in Los Angeles. From 1994–2016, he was the Director of Education and Associate Curator at the Renaissance Society at the University of Chicago, a non-collecting museum devoted to contemporary art. He recently curated the group exhibition Sperm Cult and Sol LeWitt: Page-works 1967-2007 both in 2018.
Lorna Simpson in conversation with Darren Walker
came to prominence in the 1980s with her pioneering approach to conceptual photography. Simpson’s early work – particularly her striking juxtapositions of text and staged images – raised questions about the nature of representation, identity, gender, race and history that continue to drive the artist’s expanding and multi-disciplinary practice today. She deftly explores the medium’s umbilical relation to memory and history, both central themes within her work. Her works have been exhibited at and are in the collections of the Museum of Modern Art, New York; the Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago; the Walker Art Center, Minneapolis; Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; Los Angeles Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles; and Haus der Kunst; Munich amongst others. Important international exhibitions have included the Hugo Boss Prize at the Guggenheim Museum, New York, Documenta XI in Kassel, Germany, and the 56th Venice Biennale, Venice, Italy. Lorna Simpson is represented by Hauser & Wirth.
Photo courtesy of James Wang.
is president of the Ford Foundation, an international social justice philanthropy with a $13 billion endowment and $600 million in annual grant making. For two decades, he has been a leader in the nonprofit and philanthropic sectors. Darren led the philanthropy committee that helped bring a resolution to the city of Detroit’s historic bankruptcy, and chairs the US Alliance on Impact Investing. He co-chairs New York City’s Commission on City Art, Monuments, and Markers, and serves on the Commission on the Future of Riker’s Island Correctional Institution and the UN International Labor Organization Commission on the Future of Work. He also serves on the boards of Carnegie Hall, the High Line and the Committee to Protect Journalists, and is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.