Through his work as an award-winning writer and a professor of art history at Northwestern University, Copeland has advanced scholarship of modern and contemporary art of the African Diaspora and intersections of race, class, gender and sexuality in Western visual culture.
The Driskell Prize, named for the renowned African-American artist and art scholar, was founded by the High in 2005 as the first national award to celebrate an early- or mid-career scholar or artist whose work makes an original and important contribution to the field of African-American art or art history. Copeland will receive the $25,000 cash award and be honored at the 15th annual Driskell Prize Dinner at the High in April. Proceeds from the dinner support the David C. Driskell African American Art Acquisition Restricted and Endowment funds. Since their inception, the funds have supported the acquisition of 50 works by African-American artists for the High’s collection.
“Dr. Copeland’s extensive accomplishments as an art historian and educator make him a deserving recipient of this year’s Driskell Prize,” said Rand Suffolk, Nancy and Holcombe T. Green, Jr., director of the High. “We are honored to support his work, which inspires the next generation of scholars and grows appreciation and awareness of the important role of African-American contemporary art in the broader art-historical canon.”
The selection process for the 2019 recipient of the Driskell Prize began with a call for nominations from a national pool of artists, curators, teachers, collectors and art historians. Copeland was chosen from among these nominations by review committee members assembled by the High: 2005 Driskell Prize recipient Dr. Kellie Jones; Dr. Richard Powell, professor of art and art history at Duke University; and the High’s Wieland Family Curator of Modern and Contemporary Art, Michael Rooks.
Copeland is a tenured associate professor and Arthur Andersen teaching and research professor at Northwestern University, where he has taught for nearly 15 years. In addition to his role in the department of art history, he serves as affiliated faculty in African-American studies, art theory and practice, critical theory, gender and sexuality studies, and performance studies.
Copeland has published extensively, contributing essays to numerous international exhibition catalogues, including the award-winning “Modern Women: Women Artists at The Museum of Modern Art,” edited by Cornelia Butler and Alexandra Schwartz. He serves as a contributing editor of Artforum, and his articles have appeared in other major publications and scholarly journals, including Art Journal, Callaloo, Nka, October, Representations, and Small Axe.
Notable among Copeland’s publications is “Bound to Appear: Art, Slavery, and the Site of Blackness in Multicultural America,” funded by a Creative Capital/Warhol Foundation Arts Writers Program Grant and published by the University of Chicago Press. Focused on the work of Renée Green, Glenn Ligon, Lorna Simpson and Fred Wilson, the book considers how slavery shaped American art in the last decades of the 20th century to argue for a reorientation of modern and contemporary art history where the subject of race is concerned. At present, Copeland is working on two complementary book projects: “In the Shadow of the Negress: Modern Artistic Practice in the Transatlantic World,” which explores the role played by fictions of black womanhood in Western art from the late 18th century to the present, and “Touched by the Mother: On Black Men, Artistic Practice, and Other Feminist Horizons, 1966–2016,” which brings together many of his new and previously published writings.