Healing the Scars: Gary Tyler Awarded 2024 Frieze Los Angeles Impact Prize

Wrongly convicted of murder, the Los Angeleno was sentenced to death and spent 42 years incarcerated. His work often uses fabric quilting techniques he learned in prison

in Frieze Los Angeles , News | 06 MAR 24
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After spending more than half his life in prison, Los Angeles-based artist Gary Tyler has today been named as the recipient of the 2024 Frieze Los Angeles Impact Prize. The prize recognizes an artist who has made a significant impact on society with their work, and will see Tyler present a solo project at Frieze Los Angeles 2024, and receive $25,000. Launched with Endeavor Impact, the prize is a central part of Frieze’s program of collaborations in Los Angeles, this year presented in partnership with The Center for Art and Advocacy. 

One of World's Wonders: African Giant Swallowtail Butterfly, 2023. Quilting Fabric, Burlap, Thread, and Batting 51 1/2 x 71 1/2 in. Photo by Tim Johnson, courtesy of the artist and Library Street Collective
Gary Tyler, One of World’s Wonders: African Giant Swallowtail Butterfly, 2023. Quilting fabric, burlap, thread and batting, 51 1/2 x 71 1/2 in. Photo by Tim Johnson, courtesy of the artist and Library Street Collective

The Frieze Impact Prize was established in 2022, since when it has recognized artists who contribute their talents towards issues of social justice, including Mary Baxter, Maria Gaspar, Narciso Martinez and Dread Scott. This year’s prize application ran alongside that of the Center for Art and Advocacy’s Right of Return fellowship program, an annual award recognizing previously incarcerated artists whose practices engage with critical projects including the reframing of societal criminal narratives and racial equity. Alumni and artists from the 2024 cohort of Right of Return Fellows were invited to apply for the Prize, with Tyler’s winning proposal selected by a jury comprising Endeavor CEO Ariel Emanuel, artist Gary Simmons and Tina Perry-Whitney, President of OWN TV Network and OTT Streaming.

Romola Ratnam, SVP, Head of Impact, Inclusion and Advocacy at Endeavor said: “The Frieze Los Angeles Impact Prize celebrates art’s capacity to spark conversation, challenge perceptions and drive change. We are honored to partner with The Center for Art and Advocacy this year, amplifying their important work supporting justice-impacted artists in the U.S. I look forward to seeing Gary Tyler, an artist whose work exemplifies the potency of creativity in the face of adversity, present new textile works at the fair.”

Remembrance, 2023 Quilting Fabric, Thread, and Batting 96 x 108 in Photo by Tim Johnson, courtesy of the Artist
Gary Tyler, Remembrance, 2023. Quilting fabric, thread and batting, 96 x 108 in. Photo by Tim Johnson, courtesy of the Artist and Library Street Collective

In 1974, Tyler was just 16 when he was convicted of murder and sentenced to death. He spent the following 42 years in Angola State Penitentiary in Louisiana, including many years on death row, before his conviction was twice commuted and he was eventually released in 2016. During his time incarcerated, Tyler worked as a hospice carer and ran drama activities. He also learned traditional quilting techniques, about which he said “I had found my calling.”

At Frieze Los Angeles, Tyler will present a new body of textile work that expands on his series “We Are the Willing,” first shown at his 2023 solo exhibition at Library Street Collective in Detroit. The appliquéd images draw on Tyler’s personal narrative and those of individuals he encountered during his incarceration. Self-portraits feature alongside depictions of people on death row, conveying the complexity of prison experiences while fostering narratives of collectivity.

Jesse Krimes, Founder and Executive Director of the Center for Art and Advocacy said: “The Center is incredibly proud to partner with Frieze on selecting one of our Right of Return Fellows for The Frieze Los Angeles Impact Prize. Gary Tyler has a profound practice tackling healing, injustice and racial equity. His masterful quilting technique will be on display at the fair, showcasing new textile work that I’m sure will inspire all.” 

Frieze Los Angeles 2024

Frieze Los Angeles is at Santa Monica Airport, February 29–March 3, 2024.

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Main image: Gary Tyler. Photo by Dorian Hill, courtesy of the Artist and Library Street Collective