In honor of Black History month I thought I would list my African American artists working today. Now I don’t claim to be an expert in the field. I’m just another art – lover with a blog and an opinion. To distill this list down to only ten names took some doing. There were many who got left out who perhaps really belong here. All comments are welcome, and if you think of someone who should be added to the list let me know. I’m sure I haven’t seen every great black artist working today… maybe we can discover some new talents together.
10. Kehinde Wiley
Kehinde Wiley has enjoyed big time success. He’s famous for creating large portraits of young black men. The portraits are vibrant and highly patterned. His subjects usually wear the latest in hip hop street fashion. The theatrical poses and objects in the portraits are based on well-known images from 17th – 18th century Western art. Wiley gives the authority of those historical sitters to his modern subjects. In 2005, VH1 paid Wiley to paint portraits of the people up for that year’s Hip Hop Honors program. He applied his usual magic to these images. He included references to older portraits to add legitimacy to paintings of powerful musicians. In Wiley’s hands, Ice T channels Napoleon. Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five take on a 17th century Dutch civic guard company.
9. Kerry James Marshall
Kerry James Marshall is known for creating large paintings and sculptures which show African American life and culture. Early on he developed his unique style of depicting African American figures in jet black paint. His work often deals with the effects of the Civil Rights movement on domestic life. He also works with elements of popular culture. Marshall was born in Alabama born. But, he grew up in California.
8. Mark Bradford
Mark Bradford’s wall pieces look like giant maps at first. They are detailed contours of cities. And as you approach them, you’ll see tiny colorful details. Carefully looking at the works creates the effect of zooming in from an aerial view to a street level view.
These large scale collages are made from found materials. Mark gathers these materials as he goes out into the city. He describes his work as a “technique of locomotion without a goal.” However he doesn’t drift without motive. Bradford wanders through Los Angeles with the goal of gathering materials to make precious art works.
7. Glenn Ligon
Glenn Ligon works in a variety of media. This includes painting. Neon. Video. Photography. And digital media like Adobe Flash. Much of Ligon’s work is inspired by his experiences as a gay black man living in the U.S.
Even though he’s a multi media artist, painting is his main thing. His paintings include literary fragments. Jokes. And quotes from a selection of authors. He stencils them directly onto the canvas by hand.
6. Carrie Mae Weems
Weems is primarily a photographer. She’s a socially motivated artist. Her work deals with issues around race, gender and class. Lately she has broadened her view to include global struggles for equality and justice.
Weems uses a variety of media. She addresses a wide range of issues. An overall commitment to better understanding the present by looking into the past is found in her work. A collective spirit is also present. It’s true black people are her primary subjects. But Weems wants “people of color to stand for the human multitudes”. And for her art to be relate-able for people of all races.
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