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Carl Hancock Rux

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Carl Hancock Rux
BornCarl Stephen Hancock
March 24
New York City, U.S.
OccupationPoet, playwright, novelist, essayist, singer-songwriter, director, actor, performance artist, visual artist, radio host
Literary movementAfro-Futurism, speculative and dystopian fiction, alternative music
Years active1989–present
Notable worksAsphalt, Rux Revue, Talk, Pagan Operetta, Good Bread Alley, Apothecary Rx
Notable awardsAlpert Award in the Arts, NYFA Prize, Village Voice Literary prize, Obie Award, Bessie Award

Carl Hancock Rux (/ˈrʌks/) is an American writer and multidisciplinary artist, historian and social activist. The author of a collection of poetry, Pagan Operetta, a novel, Asphalt and the play Talk.[1] Rux has been published as a contributing writer in numerous journals, catalogs, anthologies, and magazines including Interview magazine, Essence magazine, the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, Iké Udé's aRude Magazine, Nka: Journal of Contemporary African Art (founded by fellow art critics Okwui Enwezor, Chika Okeke-Agulu and Salah Hassan) and American Theatre (magazine), among others. Rux's writings and monographs on visual art include essays on the work of conceptual artist Glenn Ligon ( I Stand in My Place With My Own Day Here: Site-Specific Art at The New School, edited by Frances Richards with a foreword by Lydia Matthews and introduction by Silvia Rocciolo and Erik Stark); the introduction for Nick Cave’s Until; and the Guggenheim Museum’s Carrie Mae Weems retrospective.

Carl Hancock Rux is also a musician, having performed on stages worldwide with artists including Chaka Khan, Odetta, Nona Hendryx, Steve Earle, Meshell Ndegeocello, The Roots, Vernon Reid, Antony and the Johnsons, Natalie Merchant, Joan Osbourne, and many others. He has recorded several albums, singles, and mixed tapes since the release of his Sony 550 cd, Rux Revue.[2] Rux's mixed media works (with frequent collaborator, visual artist and sculptor, Dianne Smith) have been included in the Uptown Triennale at the Miriam and Ira D. Wallach Art Gallery;[3] as well as the Archer Aymes Retrospective, exploring the legacy of emancipation through an immersive art installation featuring a concert performance by mezzo soprano Alicia Hall Moran and pianist Aaron Diehl, presented as one component of a three-part series commemorating Park Avenue Armory[4] and at the Frieze Art Fair at London's Serpentine Gallery.[5]

Rux has been featured on the cover of the New York Times magazine,American Theater magazine (with Tony Kushner), and the Village Voice.

He is co-artistic director of Mabou Mines,[6] associate artistic director at Harlem Stage The Gate House,[7] resident artist at Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts where annually he conceives and stages its campus-wide Juneteenth festival,[8] multidisciplinary editor at The Massachusetts Review[9] and has taught and or lectured at Brown University, Yale University, Hollins University, UCLA, Smith College, UMass Amherst, Sarah Lawrence College, New York University, Rutgers University and is the former Head of the MFA Writing for Performance Program at CalArts where he continues to teach.[10] Mr. Rux lives in Fort Greene, Brooklyn.

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Early life and Education

Born Carl Stephen Hancock in East Harlem. Rux's mother, Carol Jean Hancock (1933-2002), was an unwed teenager when she was diagnosed with schizophrenia shortly after the birth of her first child (Rux's much older brother). While institutionalized in a state-operated long-stay psychiatric hospital for adults with extreme mental health disorders, doctors discovered Rux's mother had once again become pregnant.

Due to the severity of her illness, his mother was unable to give anyone information regarding Rux's conception or the identity of his biological father (on Rux's original birth certificate, the names of his biological mother and maternal grandmother, Geneva Hancock née Rux, are the only parental names listed.) Rux was immediately taken into custody by his grandmother, a divorcee, who lived in a one-bedroom East Harlem pre-war tenement apartment in which she had grown up and at various times, shared with four younger siblings, her ex-husband, two daughters, and five grandchildren (Rux's grandmother and her siblings had been abandoned by their own mother sometime during the Great Depressionand forced to raise each other as well as Geneva's daughters and all of her grandchildren.) When Rux was still a toddler, neighbors noticed they had not seen him or his grandmother in a while. Failing to get a response at her home, authorities were called. Upon forcing their way into the apartment, police officers discovered four-year-old Rux watching television and surviving on cold cereal. His grandmother ( an alcoholic) had been dead for several days (a coroner subsequently attributed her death to cirrhosis of the liver and acute alcohol poisoning[11]).

Transferred to Foster Care, Rux lived with several families before he eventually became the ward of his granduncle uncle, James Henry Rux (1915-1994), a furrier, and his wife Arsula (née Cottrell). Raising him in the Highbridge section of the Bronx, the couple legally adopted him at the age of 15 and changed his name to Carl S. Hancock Rux.[12]

Rux attended the Horace Mann School, and is a graduate of the Fiorello H. Laguardia High School of Music and the Performing Arts where he studied voice and the visual arts;[13] Columbia University and the American University of Paris (BFA/ Creative Writing & Comparative Literature); and the University of Ghana at Legon (MFA).[14]



While working as a New York City Social Work Trainer, Rux began his artistic career as a playwright and, later, a spoken word and performance artist. Influenced by the Lower East Side poetry and experimental theater scene, Rux worked with artists including Sekou Sundiata, Laurie Carlos, Robbie McCauley, Jane Comfort, and Urban Bush Women, creating work primarily at Performance Space 122), Judson Church, St. Mark's Church in-the-Bowery, The Kitchen, Threadwaxing Space and the Nuyorican Poets Cafe.[15] He became the curator and co-host (along with founder Miguel Algarin) of the radio show Live From The Nuyorican Poets Cafe, which aired for several years on WBAI; and is featured in the poetry anthology Aloud, Voices From the Nuyorican Poets Cafe, (winner of the 1994 American Book Award).[16]

Carl Hancock Rux and Tarell Alvin McCraney book signing at Brooklyn Book Festival

Rux's first book of poetry, Pagan Operetta, received the Village Voice Literary prize[17] and was featured on the weekly's cover story: "Eight Writers on the Verge of (Impacting) the Literary Landscape." Rux is the author of the novel Asphalt and the author of several plays. His most notable play is the Obie award-winning play Talk (published by TCG), which premiered at the Joseph Papp Public Theater.

"There is something called black in America, and there is something called white in America, and I know them when I see them, but I will forever be unable to explain the meaning of them, because they are not real, even though they have a very real place in my daily way of seeing, a fundamental relationship to my ever-evolving understanding of history and a critical place in my relationship to humanity."

Carl Hancock Rux

Isabelle Huppert, Isabella Rossellini and Carl Hancock Rux after their appearance in Hey Joe... directed by Robert Wilson for Joe Melillo at Brooklyn Academy of Music afterparty

Dance, Performance Art & Theater

Rux has written, performed, and or collaborated with numerous artists in the field of dance, including works by the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater; Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane Dance Company, Jane Comfort & Co., Ronald K. Brown's Evidence, Urban Bush Women, Paz Tanjiquio's Topaz Arts, Marlies Yearby's Movin' Spirits Dance Theatre, Robert Moses Kin, and others.[18] He also originated the title role in the folk opera production of The Temptation of St. Anthony, based on the Gustave Flaubert novel, directed by Robert Wilson with book, libretto, and music by Bernice Johnson Reagon and costumes by Geoffrey Holder. The production had its official "world premiere" at the Paris Opera, becoming the first opera composed by an African American woman and performed on its stage since the inauguration of the Académie Nationale de Musique - Théâtre de l'Opéra. The Village Voice described Rux's performance as having "phenomenal charisma and supreme physical expressiveness...(achieving) a near-iconic power, equally evoking El Greco's saints in extremis and images of civil rights protesters besieged by fire hoses."[19] His plays include the Obie award-winning play Talk (co-produced by the Foundry Theater and the Joseph Papp Public Theater/nat'l tour); Song of Sad Young Men (Producer's Club Theater/nat'l tour); Smoke Lilies and Jade (Center for New Performance); No Black Male Show (The Kitchen/nat'l tour), and many others. Rux has also performed throughout Europe, West Africa, and Southeast Asia as a solo artist as well as a collaborator with artists including Vernon Reid, Toshi Reagon, Nona Hendryx, Carrie Mae Weems, the Alvin Ailey Dance Theater and Urban Bush Women.


Rux was the host and artistic programming director of the WBAI radio show, Live from The Nuyorican Poets Cafe; contributing correspondent for XM radio's The Bob Edwards Show and frequent guest host on WNYC[20] as well as NPR. He co-wrote and performed in the national touring production of NPR Presents Water±, directed by Kenny Leon, and was also the co-writer and host of the WNYC documentary "Walt Whitman: Song of Myself", awarded the New York Press Club Journalism Award for Entertainment News, and broadcast annually since 2005.

Recording Artist

Discovered by Sony 550 President Polly Anthony, Rux released his debut CD Rux Revue recorded and produced in Los Angeles by the Dust Brothers, Tom Rothrock, and Rob Schnapf.[21] Rux recorded a follow-up album, Apothecary Rx, selected by French writer Phillippe Robert in the 2008 publication "Great Black Music": a tribute of 110 American albums by African American artists. His third studio CD, Good Bread Alley, was released by Thirsty Ear Records, and his fourth, "Homeostasis" (CD Baby), was released in May 2013. He has also released a mixed tape of a live performance at Joe's Pub, "Anima/Animus".[22] Rux's music has been produced in close collaboration with artists including Tony Allen (former musical director for Fela Kuti); British rock musicians Rob Marshall of The Humanists, Belfast-born DJ, and music producer David Holmes; electronica producer Geoff Barrow of Portishead, French-born house music DJ François Kevorkian, Chicago dance music DJ Ron Trent, Japanese house music DJ Yukihiro Fukutomi, and electronic, experimental hip-hop musician, DJ Spooky among others, resulting in an eclectic blend of alternative music covering a wide range of genres.


Rux has written the book and libretto for several operas including Why Don't Girls Wear Pearls Anymore? by Pulitzer Prize-nominated Israeli composer Tamar Muskal; Mackandal by Haitian Cuban composer Yosvany Terry; and several works by American composers including Blackamoor Angel by Deidre Murray; Steel Hammer by Julia Wolfe (2010 Pulitzer Prize finalist); and Swann by Tamar-kali.


List of albums by Carl Hancock Rux[23]
Year Title
1998 Cornbread, Cognac, Collard Green (R)evolution
1999 Rux Revue
2004 Apothecary Rx
2006 Good Bread Alley
2013 Homeostasis
2020 Anima/Animus
Singles and EPs by Carl Hancock Rux[24]
Year Title
2000 Intro To (R)Evolution / Asphalt Yards
2001 Lamentations (You, Son)
Year Title Album
2000 Bow Down To The Exit Sign
2000 I Am I Am / Music Is The Healer
2000 I Am New Directions
2000 I Am Abstract Jazz Lounge III
2000 I Am Afrotronic - Afro Flavoured Club Tunes
2000 I Am A New Dimension
2001 I Am(London Elektricity Remix) Plastic Surgery 2
2002 I Am Love Each Other
2003 How Long McKay
2010 Living Room The Dogs Are Parading
2013 A Life Forum Life Forum
2018 Tributary Tales
2018 The Night Watcher Tomorrow Comes The Harvest
2020 Ring of Truth Humanist
2024 The Beginning (My God) The Beginning (My God)

Artist Residencies

  • Yale University Hayden Artist in Residence Fellowship[26]
  • University of California San Diego
  • University of California, Los Angeles
  • University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill
  • Stanford University
  • University of Massachusetts, Amherst
  • Hollins University
  • University of Iowa
  • Institute of the Arts, San Jose
  • Brown University
  • Princeton University
  • Mellon Foundation Artist in Residence/AAD, Harlem Stage [27]
  • Smith College
  • Rutgers University
  • Bard College [28]
  • Emerson University [29]
  • The New School [30]
  • CUNY Graduate Center [31]
  • Mabou Mines Resident Artist Program
  • Theatre Academy at Luleå Universitat of Technology, Luleå, Sweden

Exhibits and Curation

Rux has been a curator of performance and conceptual art at Thread Waxing Space, the Kitchen,Joe's Pub, the Nuyorican Poets Cafe, and Harlem Stage. His own work (visual and performance art) has been exhibited nationally at the Brooklyn Museum, the Whitney Museum, Wallach Art Gallery, the American Folk Art Museum, the Detroit Institute of Art, and the Serpentine Gallery in London.


Rux testified in the case of Jonathan 'Demetrius' Norman, a Portland Oregan gang member, rapping under the name of Smurf Luciano, accused of running cocaine for a local drugpin.[32] During the six-week trial, prosecutors argued that the lyrics to Norman's "No Deal," which included a reference to "packing heat" and criticized Portland's district attorney, were proof that Norman was a criminal. Rux, testifying as an expert witness for the defense, said listeners of hip-hop shouldn't assume that rappers live the lives they rap about, any more than listeners of country music should assume Johnny Cash actually shot a man in Reno just to watch him die.[33] At the end of the trial, the rapper was acquitted of charges of conspiracy to distribute narcotics.

Rux has committed himself to raising awareness of child abuse, the need for child protective services, and the importance of understanding socio‐economic contexts concerning drug use, poor living conditions, limited access to education and employment in poverty-stricken neighborhoods and housing characteristics that may influence drug‐related behaviors and levels of child abuse.[34]

Rux joined New Yorkers Against Fracking, organized by singer Natalie Merchant, and featuring Citizen Cope, Mark Ruffalo, Meshell Ndegeocello, Toshi Reagon and Tamar-kali calling for a fracking ban on natural gas drilling using hydraulic fracturing.[35]

Rux worked with the Fort Greene Association, New York philanthropist Barbaralee Diamonstein-Spielvogel and Commissioner Laurie Cumbo (then councilwoman of the 35th District of New York City) to erect a cultural medallion at the Carlton Avenue home where novelist Richard Wright lived and penned his seminal work, Native Son.[36]

Awards and Recognition

Rux is the subject of Carl Hancock Rux, Coming of Age (produced by Larry Clamage/Richard Maniscalco for Voices of America, and recipient of the CINE Golden Eagle award for television documentary). He has also received numerous awards and fellowships including the New York Press Club Journalism Award for Entertainment News; the Jerome Foundation award; the New York Foundation for the Arts Prize; the Doris Duke Award for New Works; the Doris Duke Charitable Fund; the National Endowment for the Arts/Theater Communication Group Playwright in Residence Fellowship; the NEA Leadership Initiatives Meet the Composer Grant; the Kitchen Theater Artist Award; a Rockefeller Map grant; the Creative Capital Artist grant and is the recipient of a Herb Alpert Award in the Arts; the Bessie Schomburg (BESSIE©) award); the Brooklyn Arts Exchange (BAX) Arts & Artists in Progress Award; the Village Voice Literary Prize; the Fresh Poet Award; the OBIE© award; and was a finalist for the United Artist Fellowship. In 2020, he was named a Global Change Maker by Change.Org.[37]

Family History

Later in life, Rux was reunited with his estranged much older brother, Ralph Lewis Hancock (1952-1987), the owner of an organic Fort Greenerestaurant in Brooklyn. Unfortunately, their reunion was brief. Shortly after their reunion, his brother succumbed to AIDS-related complications.

Rux is a descendent of Dr. Marcellus Carlyle Rux (1882-1948), former Moderator and principal of the Bluestone Harmony Academic and Industrial School (now Bluestone High School)in Keysville Virginia. He served for many years as the Auditor and Statistical Secretary of the Negro Baptist General Association of Virginia and as a member of the Lott Carey Baptist Foreign Mission Convention. A licensed minister at Rehobeth Baptist Church, he also served as former pastor of Mt. Olive Baptist Church, the First Baptist Church at South Boston, Virginia, and the Mt. Ellis Baptist Church at Keysville, Virginia.[38]

His younger brother, Samuel Nicks Rux, is a New York City public school teacher in the Bronx,[39] and his cousin, Dr. Shawn Rux, is Deputy Chancellor of the New York City Department of Education.[40]


Rux's archives are housed at the Billy Rose Theater Division of the New York Public Library, the Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution as well as the Film and Video/Theater and Dance Library of the California Institute of the Arts.[41]


  1. ^
  2. ^ Rux Revue - Carl Hancock Rux | Album | AllMusic, retrieved 2024-03-21
  3. ^ "Wallach Art Gallery Presents a Visual Arts Tribute to Harlem's Sonic Experiences". Hyperallergic. 2023-06-23. Retrieved 2024-03-21.
  4. ^ Rabinowitz, Chloe. "Park Avenue Armory to Present ARCHER AYMES LOST AND FOUND RETROSPECTIVE: A JUNETEENTH EXHIBITION". Retrieved 2024-03-21.
  5. ^ Parker, Rianna Jade (2019-10-25). "'Black People Work from the Position of "We"': An Interview with Carrie Mae Weems". Frieze. Retrieved 2024-03-21.
  6. ^
  7. ^ Rabinowitz, Chloe. "Carl Hancock Rux Joins Harlem Stage as Associate Artistic Director/Curator-In-Residence". Retrieved 2024-03-21.
  8. ^ "Carl Hancock Rux: Marking History, Juneteenth 2021 at Lincoln Center | Mass Review". Retrieved 2024-03-21.
  9. ^
  10. ^ "Carl Hancock Rux at MLC2012". Mosaic Literary Magazine. 2012-09-30. Retrieved 2024-03-21.
  11. ^ "An Evening with Carl Hancock Rux".
  12. ^ "Preaching to the Choir | Mass Review".
  13. ^
  14. ^
  15. ^ Stapleton, Lara (2004-05-01). "Carl Hancock Rux with Lara Stapleton". The Brooklyn Rail. Retrieved 2024-03-21.
  16. ^ "Bookstore". Nuyorican Poet's Bookstore. Archived from the original on June 12, 2013. Retrieved May 30, 2013.
  17. ^ "Apr 04, 1999, page 68 - Star Tribune at". Retrieved 2024-03-21.
  18. ^ "The March | Perelman Performing Arts Center". Retrieved 2024-03-21.
  19. ^ "Balm in Brooklyn | Village Voice". Archived from the original on May 18, 2015. Retrieved May 8, 2015.
  20. ^ "Carl Hancock Rux". National Book Foundation. Archived from the original on September 7, 2008.
  21. ^ "Sep 12, 1999, page 91 - The Philadelphia Inquirer at". Retrieved 2024-03-21.
  22. ^ Carl Hancock Rux - Anima/Animus, 2020-04-24, retrieved 2024-03-21
  23. ^ [1]
  24. ^ [2]
  25. ^ [3]
  26. ^ "Carl Hancock Rux - the Camargo Foundation".
  27. ^
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  29. ^
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  31. ^
  32. ^ "Rapper Cleared in Drug Case in Which His Lyrics Were Evidence". MTV.
  33. ^ "Prosecutor Calls Rapper's Lyrics Criminal Evidence". MTV. Retrieved 2024-03-21.
  34. ^ "Prosecutor Calls Rapper's Lyrics Criminal Evidence". MTV. Retrieved 2024-03-21.
  35. ^ Drew, Phil (May 9, 2012). "Big stars rally against hydrofracking". The Record. Retrieved June 28, 2019.
  36. ^ Villarosa, Linda (March 20, 2012). "Group Helps You Find Mr. Wright". The Local. Fort Green/Clinton Hill. Archived from the original on March 22, 2012.
  37. ^ "Global ChangeMakers — We Make Change". Retrieved March 16, 2020.
  38. ^ Caldwell, A. B. (1921). "History of the American Negro and His Institutions: Virginia".
  39. ^ "Carl Hancock Rux".
  40. ^ "NYC DOE hires husband of deputy chancellor in secret deal". 26 August 2023.
  41. ^ "Carl Hancock Rux". Retrieved 2024-03-21.

External links

This page was last edited on 13 June 2024, at 01:02
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