SOUGHT AFTER ARTIST AND FILMMAKER Kahlil Joseph has worked with Kendrick Lamar, Shabazz Palaces, Flying Lotus, FKA Twigs, and shared a directing credit with Beyonce on her visual album “Lemonade.” He has also collaborated with film director Terrence Malick and visual artists Henry Taylor, Martine Syms, and Doug Aitken. Joseph makes hip hop videos and also presents his work in museums and galleries. He has a distinctive visual style and unique approach to his craft, attributes that got him recognized and awarded the 2017 Los Angeles Artadia Award.
Joseph was chosen for the award along with Gala Porras-Kim, a Los Angeles-based multidisciplinary artist who “engages cultural heritage and language in her practice.” Artadia provides monetary awards and an ongoing network of support to visual artists working in any medium at any stage of their career. Artadia also has award programs in Atlanta, Boston, Chicago, Houston, New York, and the San Francisco Bay Area. The Los Angeles award includes $10,000 in unrestricted funds.
The award announcement included insightful observations from the judges. Anuradha Vikram, who serves as artistic director at 18th Street Arts Center in Los Angeles, said: “Kahlil Joseph has one of the most distinctively original visual styles of any artist currently working in film. His hybrid practice crossing cinema, visual art, fashion, and popular music is sparking conversation far beyond the usual art circles. Whether his work takes the form of immersive gallery installations or more conventional single-channel cinema display, Joseph captures the arresting choreography of the contemporary street, which is both his setting and his sphere of influence.”
“Kahlil Joseph has one of the most distinctively original visual styles of any artist currently working in film. His hybrid practice crossing cinema, visual art, fashion, and popular music is sparking conversation far beyond the usual art circles.” — Anuradha Vikram, Artadia Award Judge
Indeed, Joseph directed Lamar’s live stage performance when he opened for Kanye West’s 2013 Yeezus tour, creating a video installation for the hour-long performance. Joseph had no experience at such a task and had to make it happen in a few weeks. He casted Compton, the city where Lamar grew up, as the film’s protagonist. It gave him an opportunity to correct the record. “Everyone wants to see themselves on the screen,” Joseph told the Los Angeles Times. “But when I see black people in movies, I don’t see them as I know them to move and talk.”
While he was working on the project with Lamar, Noah Davis (1983-2015), the painter, founder of the Underground Museum, and Joseph’s brother, who died at 32 from a rare form of cancer, suggested he present the video at the museum. Joseph adapted “m.A.A.d.” to a 15-minute, two-channel installation and it appeared in a 2015 group show at the Underground Museum. Later that year, it was on view at the Museum of Contemporary Art Los Angeles on two 16-foot-wide screens. Titled “Double Conscience,” it was his first solo museum exhibition.
“Until the Quiet Comes,” a short film by Kahlil Joseph featuring music by Flying Lotus (3 mins, 56 secs), won the Grand Jury Prize for Short Films at the 2013 Sundance Film Festival. | WHAT MATTERS MOST
JOSEPH WAS BORN AND RAISED in Seattle, and moved to Los Angeles to attend Loyola Marymount University. After interning and working five years in production, before he began directing music videos, Joseph landed a dream opportunity. He worked in Texas as a film editor for Malick, the high-concept filmmaker. He told the Los Angeles Times, “That was the best thing that ever happened to me. …There was being born and there was this.”
Based in Los Angeles, the film capital that is now a full-blown art capital, Joseph has come into his own, developing a powerful creative vision that’s attracting a broad spectrum of interest and acclaim. He co-founded What Matters Most, an independent production company. “Until the Quiet Comes,” featuring music by Flying Lotus, won the Grand Jury Prize for Short Films at the 2013 Sundance Film Festival. The following year, the film was included in “Ruffneck Constructivists,” the group exhibition curated by Kara Walker at the Institute of Contemporary Art in Philadelphia.
Last year was a banner year. The exhibition “Young Blood: Noah Davis, Kahlil Joseph and The Underground Museum,” at Seattle’s Frye Art Museum, presented new film works by Joseph and paintings by his late brother. Joseph produced a film installation for Taylor’s exhibition at Blum & Poe gallery in Los Angeles. The painter is a friend and the film was inspired by his experience meeting Bob Marley. Also in 2016, Joseph was awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship. More recently, he made a film for French fashion brand Kenzo’s spring/summer 2017 line.
Artadia judge Bennett Simpson, a senior Curator at the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles, said: “In a short time, Joseph has become one of the filmmakers people simply must pay attention to. His attention to choreography, sound, and cultural and community signifying—his particular poetics of blackness—is at home both in the museum and in the worlds of film and music. He is one of the indispensable voices of his moment.” CT
KENZO “Music is my Mistress,” a film by Kahlil Joseph (12 mins, 14 secs). | Kenzo
“FKA Twigs: Video Girl,” directed by Kahlil Joseph (4 mins, 35 secs). | WHAT MATTERS MOST
“Memory Palace,” a collaboration between Martine Syms and Kahlil Joseph | MOCA LA
“Shabazz Palaces: Black Up,” directed by Kahlil Joseph (4 mins, 49 secs). | WHAT MATTERS MOST