Grant Recipients Richard Pousette-Dart Award Visual Arts 2023

Mike Cloud

Mike Cloud smiles softly into the camera. He wears glasses and a collared button down shirt under a windbreaker.
Photo courtesy of the artist.
  • 2023 Richard Pousette-Dart Award
  • Visual Arts
  • Artist, Professor
  • Born 1974, Chicago, IL
  • Lives in Chicago, IL
  • Additional Information

Artist Statement

My work expresses my thinking about the subjects, objects, and techniques embedded in painting. I experiment with materials without preconceiving how their activation and conceptualization will connect as a total experience. My subjects are deeply human: natality, plurality, freedom, and death. I wrestle with the materials to make complete pictures—holistic abstractions—that are countercultural and anticultural in their aesthetics and politics.

- December 2022


Mike Cloud is a painter whose work questions the semiotic production of intersectional identity. Cloud’s research method involves a studio-based exploration of traditional materials, cultural ephemera, and household items. His paintings, collages, and other objects draw on postmodern attitudes towards the collective unconscious and its social expression, while being critical of art’s political use as a mirror of existential conflict.

Cloud’s “American history paintings” are historical figure portraits that use a radical approach to color, surface, and construction to create pictorial codes that connect abstract gestures to aspects of our shared human and historical conditions. In Battle of Little BigHorn, a flock of roughly collaged and thickly painted birds represent the combatants on both sides of the titular battle: native and federal. The birds are rendered in the childish tradition of Thanksgiving “hand turkeys,” having been traced as silhouettes from the artist’s own hands and then embellished with eyes, beaks, feet, and text denoting each historical actor: George Custer, Sitting Bull, Marcus Reno, Rain in Face, etc. The actors in Cloud’s depiction of the battle are simultaneously diverse and homogenized, differentiated and non-hierarchical: squaring the circle of conservative historical narratives and progressive identity-based Utopias.

Cloud’s solo exhibitions include Possessions: Mike Cloud presented by Thomas Erben Gallery as part of Frieze London, London, United Kingdom (2020); Tears in Abstraction, Thomas Erben Gallery, New York, NY (2019); The Myth of Education, the Reva and David Logan Center for the Arts at the University of Chicago, Chicago, IL (2018); Quiltmaking & Over-Production of Opposites (2010) and Mike Cloud: Agreement and Subjectivity (2008), Max Protetch Gallery, New York, NY; and a site-specific work for MoMA PS1’s National Projects, Long Island City, NY (2005).

Cloud’s work has been presented in group exhibitions in the United States and internationally, including at The Studio Museum in Harlem, New York, NY; The Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago, Chicago, IL; The American Academy of Arts and Letters, New York, NY; Neuer Kunstverein Aschaffenburg (KunstLANDing), Aschaffenburg, Germany; and 47 Canal, New York, NY.

He has received a Foundation for Contemporary Arts Emergency Grant (2022), a Hassem, Speicher, Betts, and Symons Purchase Fund Award from the American Academy of Arts and Letters (2020), the inaugural Chiaro Award from the Headlands Center for the Arts (2015), and a New York Foundation for the Arts Fellowship in Painting (2015).

Cloud holds a B.A. from the University of Illinois, Chicago and an M.F.A. from Yale University. His work and research as a professor of art theory and practice at Northwestern University has expanded his studio practice to include writing and open-forum discussions.

An installation view of freestanding abstract paintings on irregularly shaped canvases featuring triangles and bold lines. Brooms stick out of the canvas. Text on the painting reads: ‘There are many trails that lead to the Beach originating at the Hotels before they becmame [sic] wed/ to disease and the recommendations and postponments [sic] of plans and receptions of / good friends and officiates of those same frieds [sic] couples minister and etc…
Mixed Marriage Bering/Strain, 2020, oil on linen with mixed media, 66” × 136” × 12.” Photo courtesy of Thomas Erben Gallery.
An installation view of two abstract paintings. In the foreground, a painting on a star-shaped canvas has smudges, patches, lines, and handprints in shades of red, pink, black, green, and brown. In the background is another painting on an irregularly shaped canvas with shades of light blue, brown, orange, green, and white.
Installation view of blurred lifetime, at The Landing Gallery, Los Angeles, 2021. Photo by Joshua White.
Images collaged with text and multicolored triangles on paper.
Colin Powell Paper Quilt, 2010, altered photography book, color aid paper, and acrylic paint, 60” × 67.” Photo courtesy of Meulensteen Gallery.
Irregularly shaped sections of wood painted with handprints in shades of blue, red, yellow, and green. Colorful ABC blocks are affixed to the work along with part of a broom and other wooden rods, from which three belts in loops hang.
Hanging Portrait Anthony Bourdain, 2020, oil on linen with mixed media, 60” × 36” × 21.” Photo by Joshua White.
Three wooden panels loosely in the shape of a falling bomb covered in text, handprints, and shades of white, green, orange, blue, and black.
Bomb Bambuti Pigmy, 2020, oil on linen, 109” × 59” × 3.5.” Photo by Joshua White.
Two star-shaped freestanding panels connected by a diamond-shaped panel. The left panel is painted in shades of pink and has text that reads: “Oranges, Red vs Green Cabbage, Ketchup, Honey, Green vs Black Tea.” The right panel is painted in shades of yellow and brown and has text that reads: “Cabbage, Brown vs White Rice, Bread, Milk, Green vs Red Apples.” Other wooden panels adjoin the two stars and are painted with rhomboids, squiggles, and colored bars.
Removed Individual, 2013, oil on linen with stretcher bars, 120” × 240.” Photo courtesy of the artist.
A rectangular panel on the left is painted with colorful shapes in shades of red, white, and blue with a small rectangle of green text which reads ‘RACIAL MYTHOLOGY AND STORIES ABOUT MONEY.” Attached is a triangular shape which features red bricks and green triangles on the bottom. The text reads “RAPE BUT ONLY + OF THE SABINE WOMEN!”
Cycle and Stable, 2015, oil on linen with stretcher bars and hardware, 96” × 96.” Photo courtesy of the artist.