Wadada sitting and leaning his head on his left hand. Photo by Maarit Kyto Harju, courtesy Braithwaite & Katz Communications.
Wadada Leo Smith Receives $25K Mohn Career Achievement Award

Wadada Leo Smith Receives $25K Mohn Career Achievement Award

Composer and trumpeter Wadada Leo Smith has received the Hammer Museum’s 2016 Mohn Award for Career Achievement “honoring brilliance and resilience.” The $25,000 Award was announced by the museum on August 16 and presented in conjunction with the exhibition Made in L.A. 2016: a, the, through, only, organized by Hammer curator Adam Moshayedi and Hamza Walker, director of education and associate curator, Renaissance Society.

“The jury wants to acknowledge Wadada Leo Smith’s outstanding achievements as a musician, his influential work as a teacher and a mentor for younger artists in Los Angeles, and the decades-long expansion of an inventive, complex and layered system of notation simultaneously interrogating the pictoral and the performative,” stated Juse Luis Blondet, curator, Special Initiatives, Los Angeles County Museum of Art.

“I’m so honored to have won this award,” said Smith.  “I’m so happy that my scores are being viewed as works of art.  That means the world to me.”

Smith, who turns 75 in December 2016, recently received a 2016 Doris Duke Artist Award and received an honorary doctorate from CalArts, where he was honored as Faculty Emeritus. He maintains an active touring and recording schedule. His latest epic recording America’s National Parks—a six-movement suite inspired by the scenic splendor, historic legacy, and political controversies of our nation’s public landscapes and featuring pianist Anthony Davis, bassist John Lindberg, drummer Pheeroan akLaff, and cellist Ashley Walters—will be released October 14, 2016 on Cuneiform Records.  Later this year, TUM Records will release Wadada Leo Smith: Nagwa featuring Smith with guitarists Michael Gregory Jackson, Henry Kaiser, Brandon Ross and Lamar Smith, plus Bill Laswell on electric bass, Pheeroan akLaff on drums, and Adam Rudolph on percussion. Coming on TUM in early 2017 will be Alone: Reflections and Meditations on Monk, a solo recording by Smith. Smith’s 2016 schedule includes performances at the Montreal International Jazz Festival, Berlin Jazz Festival, Molde Jazz Festival, Pittsburgh International LiveJazz Festival, Jazz at Lincoln Center, Vision Festival, Festival Suoni Per il Pipolo, Summer Stage, NYC and the premiere of his opera /cantata Rosa Parks at the FONT Festival.

In May 2012, an extensive conversation with Wadada Leo Smith was published on NewMusicBox. The entire transcript of the conversation is available here.

A conversation with Frank J. Oteri at the Affinia Gardens Hotel in New York City
December 14, 2011—11:00 a.m.
Video presentation and photography by Molly Sheridan
Transcribed by Julia Lu


launch gallery

In addition to the Mohn Award for Career Achievement, there are two other Mohn awards. Dancer and choreographer Adam Linder also received the Mohn Award for Artistic Excellence and Kenzi Shiokava received the Public Recognition Award. These three awards, which total $150,000, are among the largest art prizes dedicated to recognizing the work of emerging and under-recognized artists from the greater Los Angeles region. A jury of professional curators selected the Artistic Excellence and Career Achievement awards while the award for Public Recognition was determined by on-site voting from June 11 through August 14, 2016. The jury included: Ingrid Schaffner, curator, 57th Carnegie International, 2018, Carnegie Museum of Art, Pittsburgh; Mika Yoshitake, associate curator, Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden; and Jose Luis Blondet, curator, Special Initiatives, Los Angeles County Museum of Art. All three awards were once again funded through the generosity of Los Angeles philanthropists and art collectors Jarl and Pamela Mohn and the Mohn Family Foundation as part of Made in L.A., the Hammer’s biennial exhibition series highlighting emerging and under-recognized artists from the Los Angeles region.

(—from the press release)

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