The Hammer Museum thrilled four Los Angeles artists with the announcement Tuesday that they had won the 2014 Made in L.A. Mohn Awards.
The top prize -- the juried Mohn Award, which honors artistic excellence with $100,000 funded by philanthropists and art lovers Jarl and Pamela Mohn -- went to the Los Angeles Museum of Art, which is a micro-gallery and art installation created by Alice Könitz, 43.
The juried Career Achievement Award, which celebrates “brilliance and resilience” with a $25,000 prize, went to the married couple Michael and Magdalena Frimkess, 77 and 84, respectively. Together they create delicate ceramics that he throws and she paints.
The Public Recognition Award, which is decided through a public vote and comes with a $25,000 prize, went to Jennifer Moon, 41, whose work is a multimedia mixture of fantasy and autobiography with a revolutionary bent.
Together, these artists form a snapshot of the exciting state of contemporary art in Los Angeles, said the Hammer’s chief curator, Connie Butler.
“The Frimkesses represent a long history of the ceramics tradition here,” she said. “Jennifer Moon is a product of the great and rich art schools here, and Alice is an immigrant, which is an important part of the Los Angeles experience in the contemporary art world.”
Könitz also represents the iconoclastic thinking of artists turning to collectives in increasing numbers to buck the perceived chokehold of traditional institutions.
The Los Angeles Museum of Art was created to house the work of other artists, and it had lived in an empty outdoor space in Eagle Rock next to Könitz’s studio. It was only 9 by 12 1/2 feet. It had removable walls and looked a little bit like a lean-to in a shanty town.
“Alice not only makes individual sculptures and artworks, but she has also developed this other way of collaborating with artists,” Butler said. “That’s a through-line in this exhibition and in L.A. -- artists finding ways to work outside of the market, to collaborate and make communities. That’s really what LAMOA is.”
Könitz was stunned by her award. She hadn’t fully processed her win.
“I just lost my studio where the museum was anchored in Eagle Rock, so I need to find a new location for it,” she said. “I like the idea of expanding the museum, to adapt it to make different institutions.”
The Frimkesses are also looking for a new studio, said Michael, who suffers from multiple sclerosis. The couple has lived in Venice since the early 1970s, which he says were their most productive years. They had a great studio and then lost it, he said. For the last 30 years, Michael has been struggling to build a new one. He hopes the award money will finally make that possible.
“She deserves the award, not me,” Michael said of his wife and collaborator, Magdalena. “She never quit, she kept going. When I couldn’t find a place to get the clay fired, she would find one. Then she found a following that got us all the way to the Hammer Museum.”
As for Moon, she said the Public Recognition Award is suited to her.
“A lot of my work is about revolution,” she said, “and the fact that the public engaged with my work might mean that they are actually ready for revolution."
The awards were announced in conjunction with the museum’s Made in L.A. biennial, which runs until Sept. 7.
For the record: An earlier version of this post referred to the Made in L.A. Awards. They are the Made in L.A. Mohn Awards.