Jamal Cyrus (’04), a Houston-based artist, was recently awarded a 2023 Guggenheim Fellowship in the category of Fine Arts. A total of 171 scientists, writers, scholars and artists were honored across 48 fields and chosen from nearly 2,500 applicants for their promise of enriching the lives of fellow human beings through their research and work.
Cyrus’ artwork investigates and shines a light on the political histories and visual culture of Black America through collage and assemblage. He uses ordinary materials and processes to provide a deeper understanding of issues Black Americans have faced and currently face.
He graduated from UH with his Bachelor of Fine Arts degree with a concentration in photography and digital media in 2004. He went on to graduate with a Master of Fine Arts degree from the University of Pennsylvania in 2008. His work has been featured across the country and world, including here at UH. His piece, “Eroding Witness, Episode 3 Season 20,” is featured in the John M. O’Quinn Law Building. His exhibition, “The End of My Beginning,” was first featured at UH’s Blaffer Art Museum in 2021 and went on to be featured at the Institute of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles and the Mississippi Museum of Art.
Cyrus’ reply about winning the fellowship: “In an odd way I was relieved. Relief because of what the fellowship will allow me to accomplish in the studio. It allows me to be a little more adventurous in the studio than perhaps I would have been before. At the same time, I felt very honored to become a part of a list of artists who have been awarded a Guggenheim, which is a pretty stellar cast.”
Cyrus’ reply about his time at UH: “That was an exploratory period in my life. You really had the opportunity to express yourself in regard to what you make and what it’s about. At UH, I learned to become comfortable expressing myself and talking about my work. I also think the block program at the University of Houston (this is an intensive “block” of semesters for fine arts majors enrolled in junior and senior level studio courses) is perfect training for graduate school. I got to be self-determining and self-directed in terms of describing what my projects were about. That helped me quite a bit.”
Cyrus’ reply about a current project: “I’m working on a public art piece with artist Charisse Weston. We’re doing a commemorative glass sculpture for Barbara Jordan, which will be located at the Gregory School in Houston’s Freedman’s Town.”