Celebrating Creativity in the Black Community
5 Exciting Artists to Watch
As an art lover and collector, I am always looking for emerging talent. I have been collecting contemporary art for over twenty-five years. To this day, I still remember my first purchase, an Alexis Harding painting titled Couplings, I can feel the flutter in my stomach, the adrenaline rush, the excitement of discovering and buying the piece. I still feel the same way all these years later, and that was the case when I spotted the evocative work of African American artist Mickalene Thomas some years ago. She makes work with many art forms (paintings, photography, video, and installations) drawing on art history and pop culture to create a contemporary vision of female sexuality, beauty, and power. It’s her bold, dynamic paintings that I am drawn to in particular. Her work got me thinking of the times we are in with the Black Lives Matter movement, so in that context, I have compiled five black artists forging a seminal reputation amongst the art community. I want to celebrate the creativity, the beautiful soul that lives amongst black communities globally.
Hugo is a visual artist from Maputo, Mozambique. His intimate monochrome illustrations are beautiful. A strong tradition of craftsmanship in woodcarving and sculptures, Hugo takes inspiration from these processes; hence his work resembles the craft of woodblock printing. His work represents aspects of everyday life, referring to the collective history of the Mozambican people and their fantasies while seeking more familiar elements of the black experience.
Amy Sherald became a household name after her stunning official portrait of Michelle Obama. Sherald creates innovative, dynamic paintings that confront the psychological effects of stereotypical imagery on African-American subjects through color and form. A tour de force in her own life, Sherald lived in Baltimore and finishing up a graduate degree in fine art when, at age 30, she was diagnosed with a severe heart condition. Nine years later, in 2012, after a harrowing blackout episode, she received a heart transplant, giving her a renewed energy to continue with her to painting. I say hallelujah to that, and I absolutely loved her first New York solo exhibition at the Hauser & Wirth gallery. The show, titled ‘Heart of the Matter” ( I am a heart of the matter person), consisted of eight new portraits in rainbow hues, starring ordinary people. The subject’s complexions painted in Sherald’s signature grisaille, or grayscale, absence of color that directly challenges perceptions of black identity.
Arcmanoro Niles’s paintings are electric, his exhilarating figures, which are often based on friends, family members, or himself, and draw on historical portraiture, have excited the art world.
Not much older than me; Simpson, in her 30 years career, is one of the most brazen artists to come out of America. Initially, as a compelling photography-based artist, Lorna Simpson has recently become, of all things, a painter. As Absolutely Patsy is all about reinvention, and about taking on new challenges, Lorna Simpson embodies, more than anybody, that philosophy. In an article for Vogue February 2018, Simpson discussed how pivoting was transformative for her—changing galleries, making paintings, and charting a new postmarital life with old friends and new ones. At 60, she stays fit and young with aerobics and ashtanga yoga, inspired by her daughter.
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