The New York–based artist Byron Kim, who is known for his ongoing project Synecdoche (1991–), which consists of hundreds of abstract panel paintings of human skin tones and was exhibited in the 1993 Whitney Biennial, has been named the winner of the 2019 Robert De Niro, Sr. Prize, for his outstanding achievements as a midcareer American painter. He will receive $25,000.
This year’s jury comprised Carmen Hermo, associate curator of the Brooklyn Museum’s Elizabeth A. Sackler Center for Feminist Art; Norman Kleeblatt, the former chief curator of the Jewish Museum in New York; and William S. Smith, editor of Art in America.
“Byron Kim demonstrates how a minimalist visual vocabulary can be maximally affecting,” Smith said. “His paintings reflect his careful attention to the subtleties of color, surface, and light while simultaneously demonstrating the medium’s ability to facilitate everything from broad social engagement to deeply personal rumination.”
Born in 1961, Kim earned his BA at Yale University, where he serves as a senior critic. A mid-career survey of his work, “Threshold” (2006/7), traveled from the Berkeley Art Museum in California, the Samsung Museum of Modern Art in Seoul, and five other locations. His work has been featured in a number of major group shows at the Museum of Modern Art and the Whitney Museum of American Art, as well as at international exhibitions including the Sharjah Biennial, United Arab Emirates and the Gwangju Biennale. His exhibition “The Sunday Paintings” is currently on view at the Museum of Contemporary Art Cleveland.
The prize—established by actor Robert De Niro in honor of his late father, whose abstract works are in the collections of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Whitney, and the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden—is administered by the Tribeca Film Institute, which was cofounded by De Niro. Previous winners of the prize include Robert Bordo, Catherine Murphy, Laura Owens, Joyce Pensato, R.H. Quaytman, Henry Taylor, and Stanley Whitney.