The video and performance artist Michael Smith, known for his funny videos about a hapless character her plays named “Mike” that parody convention pop culture forms like sitcoms and commercials, and, more recently, his adult baby character “Baby IKKI,” who was the subject of a major two-person show at SculptureCenter with the late Mike Kelley in 2009, is one of five recipients of this year’s Alpert Award in the Arts.
Smith, who was born in 1951 in Chicago and has shown at the Whitney, Los Angeles’s MOCA, MoMA and the Pompidou Center, shares this year’s honors with dancer Nora Chipaumire, actor and playwright Eisa Davis, filmmaker Kevin Everson, and musician Myra Melford. Each will receive $75,000.
The awards, which were first given out in 1975, are named for the musician Herb Alpert. In an announcement naming the winners this morning, Alpert Award director Irene Borger said:
Michael Smith was named the winner of the Visual Arts prize for subversively using the visual languages of popular and corporate culture to take on big issues, for pioneering narrative within video art practice, and for rendering the everyday as truly strange. They appreciate his having taken on the role of picaresque hero moving through the world as a Charlie Chaplin of the late 20th century.
Alpert, for his part, said that all this year’s winners “take aesthetic, intellectual and political risks, and challenge worn-out conventions. They’re unafraid of the unknown.”
— Benjamin Sutton