July 7, 2021
3 minute read

Crocker Art Museum Names Alex Anderson the 2021 Recipient of John S. Knudsen Prize

Portrait of Alex Anderson. Courtesy of the artist and GAVLAK Gallery Los Angeles | Palm Beach.

Sacramento, CA, July 7, 2021 — The Crocker Art Museum is pleased to announce that Alex Anderson, a Los Angeles-based artist who works in clay, is the 2021 recipient of the John S. Knudsen Prize. The artist brings social activism to exquisitely crafted works that are simultaneously lush and beautiful with a tinge of critique.

In addition to a $25,000 cash award to the artist, the prize funds the Museum’s purchase of Anderson’s work Spiraling (2020), a work made during the uncertainty of the COVID-19 pandemic when, as the artist explains, it “felt as though we were all spiraling toward our own undefined, yet certain end.”

Added Anderson: “The minstrel characters in the painting reflect the state of race relations in America at the time and serve as avatars of my own experience in the world as a Black person socially contextualized by the white Western paradigm.”

Alex Anderson (American, born 1990), Spiraling, 2020. Earthenware, glaze, and gold luster, 22 x 17 x 2 in. Crocker Art Museum, John S. Knudsen Endowment Fund, 2021.49.

The Crocker also announced that Anderson will be included in the upcoming exhibition Belonging—curated by Angelik Vizcarrondo-Laboy and organized with the National Council on Education for the Ceramic Arts—which will be held at the Museum February 20, 2022 – May 8, 2022. The show will explore the coded ways in which we navigate inhospitable environments, push back against oppressive systems that deny belonging, and foster inclusion through community.

Anderson (b. 1990, Seattle, WA) received his Bachelor of Arts in Studio Art and Chinese from Swarthmore College and his Master of Fine Arts in Ceramics from the University of California, Los Angeles. He previously studied at the Jingdezhen Ceramic Institute in Jingdezhen, China. He was awarded a Fulbright Grant in affiliation with the China Academy of Art in Hangzhou, where he continued his studies in ceramic art.

“Alex Anderson uses the fraught, overlapping identity politics of ceramics to explore his own identity,” enthused art journalist Justin Kamp on the occasion of Little Black Boy Makes Imperial Porcelains, Anderson’s 2020 exhibition at GAVLAK in Los Angeles. He is “dragging the white monolith of Westernized sculpture into a realm of colorfully violent deconstruction.”

Anderson’s work has been exhibited nationally and internationally, including Human Resources Los Angeles, the Long Beach Museum of Art, and the American Museum of Ceramic Art. Anderson is represented by GAVLAK in Los Angeles and Palm Beach and recently presented his third solo exhibition with the gallery in 2021.

The John S. Knudsen Prize

The John S. Knudsen Prize was established in late 2012 by a gift from the estate of art collector John Knudsen to support an emerging or mid-career California artist while also funding programs, exhibitions, acquisitions, and other endeavors related to the artist’s work at the Museum.

Artists may use the award to work in the studio, travel, purchase materials for a specific body of work, and/or pursue other creative endeavors. Awarded by a committee of review, the prize is open to all artists in California who have not yet had a solo exhibition at a major art museum.

Previous recipients include the late Cyrus Tilton (2017), whose upbringing in Alaska and deep connection to nature informed his poignant sculpture; Mark Dean Veca (2018), who creates expressively Pop paintings, installations, and sculptures; and Jamie Okuma (2019), whose beadwork explores modern indigenous beauty through fashion and innovative approaches to a historic technique.

The Crocker brings people together and connects them in unexpected ways with art, ideas, each other, and the world around them. Founded as a public/private partnership in 1885, the Crocker features the world's foremost display of California art and is renowned for its holdings of master drawings and international ceramics, as well as European, Asian, African, and Oceanic art. The Crocker serves as the primary regional resource for the study and appreciation of fine art and offers a diverse spectrum of exhibitions, events, and programs to deepen visitors' understanding of art, including films, concerts, studio classes, lectures, and an array of activities for families and children. Find more information about exhibitions and programs at