Ralph Lemon

Dancer, Choreographer, Writer, Artist
Born Cincinnati, OH, 1952
Lives in New York, NY

Photo by Tara Fallaux.

The Foundation for Contemporary Arts award helped me through this wildly abundant year. The award was an enormous affirmation of my work. I am deeply indebted.

Ralph Lemon, November 28, 2012


Ralph Lemon is a dancer, choreographer, writer, and visual artist. He currently serves as the Artistic Director of Cross Performance, a company dedicated to the creation of cross-cultural and cross-disciplinary performance and presentation. In 2004, Lemon concluded The Geography Trilogy, a decade-long international research and performance project exploring the “conceptual materials" of race, history, memory, and the creative practice. The project was comprised of three dance/theater performances Geography (1997), Tree (2000), and Come home Charley Patton (2004). Later works include How Can You Stay in The House All Day and Not Go Anywhere? (2008-2010), Rescuing the Princess, a multimedia performance commissioned for the Lyon Opera Ballet (2009); Ralph Lemon and Okwui Okpokwasili in the Atrium at The Museum of Modern Art (2011); dance/film project Four Walls (2012). Lemon curated the Fall 2012 performance series Some sweet day at The Museum of Modern Art, and the 2010 performance series I Get Lost at Danspace Project.

Lemon's solo exhibitions include 1856 Cessna Road at The Studio Museum in Harlem (2012); How Can You Stay In The House All Day and Not Go Anywhere? at the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts (2010); (the efflorescence of) Walter at the Contemporary Art Center, New Orleans (2008), and The Kitchen (2007); The Geography Trilogy at Zilkha Gallery at Wesleyan University, Middletown, Connecticut (2001); and Temples at Margaret Bodell Gallery, New York (2000). Lemon has shown work in group exhibitions at The Studio Museum in Harlem, Hayward Gallery, London, United Kingdom.; and The Nasher Museum of Art at Duke University.

Following his FCA support, Lemon was a 2013-14 Annenberg Fellow at The Museum of Modern Art, where he curated a series of “performance essays," titled Value Talks. In 2020 Lemon was named a MacArthur Fellow.

Prior to his 2012 Grants to Artists, Lemon received an Alpert Award (1999), a Bellagio Study Center Fellowship (2004), a John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation Fellowship (2009), a United States Artists Fellowship (2009), two New York Dance and Performance “Bessie" Awards (1986, 2005), two New York Foundation for the Arts Fellowships (2004, 2009).

Lemon received a B.A. from the University of Minnesota.

Artist Statement

I am thinking around performance, the stage, the museum or gallery, visual art, video, film, writing... active contemplation and how I would like to be able to live in and between these particular forms (perceived medium landscapes) as organically as possible, banishing any hierarchy. I contemplate what it is I can't do, what's not possible, in this ongoing conversation I have with the body—as place, memory, culture—and as vehicle for cultural language. My artistic process entails a vigorous collision of creative cultures and inspired conversations that dictate how the work is constructed, and how it might be shared with a public audience. A principal question to this process is: how can an intensive artistic research and immediate art-making practice translate to the staged realm of the spectator? This ongoing struggle between process and production creates a tension that is a vital element in all of my artistic work.

December 2011