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Entertainment & Arts

‘It’s a big deal': $100,000 Mohn prize for Hammer’s Made in L.A. biennial goes to dancer Adam Linder

Klein Paradiso by Adam Linder
A scene from “Klein Paradiso,” a performance choreographed by Adam Linder at the Hammer Museum.
(Shahryar Nashat)

The Hammer Museum’s $100,000 Mohn Award, granted for artistic excellence to a Los Angeles artist featured in the museum’s biennial, “Made in L.A. 2016: a, the, though, only,” has been announced and it’s not going to a painter, sculptor or installationist. Instead, the award has gone to a dancer. 

Adam Linder, an Australia-born, L.A.-based dancer and choreographer, whose “Klein Paradiso” pokes a stick at the abstract (his dancers take to the stage in costumes that match the design of the scenery), has taken the biennial’s generous top prize. 

For the record:
10:30 AM, Aug. 16, 2016

This article incorrectly states the title of the Adam Linder dance piece that won the Hammer Museum’s Mohn Award as “Klein Paradiso.” The correct title is “Kein Paradiso.”

“It’s a big deal,” the performer says via Skype from Berlin, where he’s preparing for another show. “[Dance] is definitely not at the top of the disciplinary pinnacle in [museums]. ... But I think performance and dance have had a resurgent invitation into the visual arts and museological practice in the last decade to two decades.”

“It’s exciting for us to see a dance chosen for the Mohn Award,” Hammer director Ann Philbin says in a statement. “Adam’s work was a standout for its nuanced choreography and evocative visual and sound design.”

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As part of the award, Linder will also have a monographic book produced about his work.

Composer Wadada Leo Smith creates wild musical scores that are now on view at the Hammer.
Composer Wadada Leo Smith creates wild musical scores that are now on view at the Hammer.
(Scott Groller )

In addition to the $100,000 artistic excellence prize, the Made in L.A. 2016 Mohn Awards include two $25,000 prizes.

The first, for career achievement, goes to composer Wadada Leo Smith, whose inventive musical notations also function as works of geometric abstraction.

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The second, a public recognition award, goes to Compton-based sculptor Kenzi Shiokava, whose towering wood totems lord over an entire gallery at the Hammer.

Sculptor Kenzi Shiokava in his Compton studio.
Sculptor Kenzi Shiokava in his Compton studio.
(Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times )

Linder and Smith’s awards were determined by an independent jury consisting of José Luis Blondet, curator of special initiatives at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art; Mika Yoshitake, associate curator at the Hirshhorn Museum in Washington, D.C., and Ingrid Schaffner, curator of the 2018 Carnegie International exhibition at the Carnegie Museum of Art in Pittsburgh. Shiokava’s award was chosen by a public vote, open to all visitors of the Hammer’s Made in L.A. show.

The Mohn Awards, funded by Jarl and Pamela Mohn, are now in their third iteration at the Hammer Museum, handed out in conjunction with every Made in L.A. biennial exhibition.

Jarl Mohn is best known as CEO of National Public Radio, and locally for his support of Southern California Public Radio and KPCC-FM (89.3). But he and his wife Pamela are also art collectors and patrons. Their funding of the prizes, Jarl Mohn says, is an attempt to support a handful of emerging artists from Los Angeles with something that is “meaningful and impactful.” 

The Mohns were inspired by the Pacific Standard Time series of exhibitions, funded by the Getty Foundation, which have brought local arts organizations together to explore subjects such as the history of art in California or the region’s role as a hotbed for cutting-edge architecture.

“I was so impressed by what the institutions had done in Southern California, that everyone would work together,” Jarl Mohn says. “It was a gift to the artistic community and that nudged me.”

Alice Könitz, creator of the Los Angeles Museum of Art, a backyard micro gallery, won the $100,000 Mohn Award in 2014. She says it was a life-changer.

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“It has been an enormous financial support that helped me continue my work and be able to devote almost all my time to making art,” she states via email. “I do believe that the award contributed to getting international and local attention for my work.”

Linder says the money will be a boon to his work in myriad ways.

“It can go into the production of a new work or it can mean that rather than take on 10 different projects, I can focus energy on fewer,” he says. “My work, what it entails is people power. This entails being able to employ dancers. That is very costly.”

The 33-year-old artist is almost a little overwhelmed at the possibilities. “To be honest,” he says, “it’s too soon to say how concretely I would use it.”

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Made in L.A. 2016: a, the, though, only

Where: Hammer Museum, 10899 Wilshire Blvd., Westwood, Los Angeles

When: Through Aug. 28

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Info: hammer.ucla.edu

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