Valerie Cassel Oliver
2011 Driskell Prize Winner
Valerie Cassel Oliver is the 2011 recipient of The David C. Driskell Prize. Named for the renowned African American artist and art scholar, the Driskell Prize is an annual award that recognizes a scholar or artist in the beginning or middle of his or her career whose work makes an original and important contribution to the field of African American art or art history.
In her role as senior curator at the Contemporary Arts Museum Houston (CAMH), Cassel Oliver has organized numerous group and solo exhibitions. Her debut exhibition “Splat Boom Pow! The Influence of Cartoons in Contemporary Art” (2003) toured both nationally and internationally, “Double Consciousness: Black Conceptual Art Since the 1970s” (2005) was received with critical acclaim and “Black Light/White Noise” (2007), which featured light and sound works created by two generations of African American artists was groundbreaking. Her 2008 exhibition “Cinema Remixed and Reloaded: Black Women Artists and the Moving Image Since 1970” was nominated by the United States section of the International Art Critics Association (AICA/USA) in the “digital media, video or film” category. Co-organized by Dr. Andrea Barnwell-Brownlee, director of the Spelman College Museum of Fine Art, the exhibition highlighted the contributions of African American female artists to the cinematic and visual arts arenas, and was presented in Atlanta in two parts (2007/2008) and at CAMH (2009). Cassel Oliver’s most recent exhibitions include “Hand+Made: The Performative Impulse in Art and Craft” (2010), “Benjamin Patterson: Born in the State of FLUX/us” (2010) and “Perspectives 173: Clifford Owens,” which is currently on view at CAMH through April 3. Forthcoming exhibitions by Cassel Oliver include “Donald Moffett: The Extravagant Vein” (2011), a 20-year survey of work by painter Donald Moffett, and “Perspectives 177: MacArthur Binion” (2012).
In 2009 Cassel Oliver was one of ten curators in the U.S. chosen to participate in the fellowship program of the Center for Curatorial Leadership (CCL), a distinguished organization that trains curators for leadership positions. She was also the recipient of the prestigious Curatorial Fellowship Award from the Getty Foundation, which funded the initial research for “Benjamin Patterson: Born in the State of FLUX/us.”
Prior to her tenure at CAMH, Cassel Oliver was director of the Visiting Artists Program at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago (1995–2000) and program specialist at the National Endowment for the Arts (1988–1995). In 2000 she was selected as one of a team of curators to organize the Whitney Biennial at the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York.
Cassel Oliver received her certificate of executive management from Columbia University in 2009. She also holds a master’s degree in art history from Howard University and a bachelor’s degree in communications from The University of Texas at Austin.