Paul Stephen Benjamin Wins Southern Prize from South Arts

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Photos of Southern Prize winner Paul Stephen Benjamin, left, and finalist prize winner Jeremiah Ariaz.
Southern Prize winner Paul Stephen Benjamin, left, and finalist prize winner Jeremiah Ariaz.

In a ceremony held last night at the Contemporary Arts Center in New Orleans, Atlanta artist Paul Stephen Benjamin was awarded the $25,000 Southern Prize from South Arts, and Louisiana artist Jeremiah Ariaz received the finalist prize of $10,000. It is the second year the prize has been given by the Atlanta-based organization. Benjamin also receives a two-week residency at Hambidge in north Georgia.

Installation view of artworks in Paul Stephen Benjamin's show "Pure Black" at MOCA GA.
Installation view of Paul Stephen Benjamin’s show “Pure Black” at MOCA GA.

Known for his complex video and sculptural installations and paintings that explore notions of blackness, Benjamin has been raking in the accolades since receiving his MFA from Georgia State University in 2013.


His exhibition “Reinterpreting the Sound of Blackness” remains on view at the Telfair Museums in Savannah through May 6. He was included in the “Fictions” exhibition at the Studio Museum in Harlem that closed in January. Those followed his 2017 solo exhibition at the Museum of Contemporary Art of Georgia, which was part of his 2017-18 Working Artist Project fellowship, another solo show at the Office of Cultural Affairs’ Gallery 72, and installations at the High Museum of Art and the gallery {Poem 88}. He was also the recipient of an $8,000 grant in 2014 from the New York-based Artadia.

Photo by Jeremiah Ariaz of torso with giant Louisiana belt buckle.
Photo from Jeremiah Ariaz’s series Louisiana Trail Riders.”

Ariaz, who teaches at Louisiana State University, explores notions of place and history,  landscapes and lived environments, and romantic myths of the West in his photographs. He also recently received the 2018 Michael P. Smith Award for Documentary Photography from the Louisiana Endowment for the Humanities.

All Southern Prize finalists received $5,000. In addition to Benjamin and Ariaz, the finalists were Amy Pleasant, Anastasia Samoylova, Garrett Hansen, Dominic Lippillo, Meg Stein, Kate Hooray Osmond and Vesna Pavlović.

The inaugural prize winners in 2017 were Noelle Mason of Florida and Coulter Fussell of Mississippi.

The jurors for this year’s prize were César García, co-founder and Executive & Artistic Director of The Mistake Room in L.A., Monica Moses,  editor of American Craft magazine, and Trevor Schoonmaker, chief curator and curator of contemporary art at the Nasher Museum of Art at Duke University, who was also artistic director of the recent Prospect.4 triennial in New Orleans.

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