Black art is the salt of the earth. It embodies the work of reporter, historian, documentarian, drug dealer, bartender, songstress and writer. It is a labor of love.
At once, it depicts everything that is wrong with the world as well as all that is right with it. And ain’t nothing like Blackness expressed through its own creative, critical and cultural lens, especially when a dominant culture eschews that perspective. To all black progenitors -- we are grateful. Paying homage to all the newcomers, emerging, seasoned, thoroughbred and all around fan favorites, who put that work in for 2018, here’s my selection of 15 dope Black works of art just because:
1) Kris Richards
Richards is new on the scene, but not really. This Jamaican-born artist was raised in Miami, and was also one of four students who painted the beautiful mural seen in the film Moonlight. His forthcoming collection "Grills" will be exhibited in 2019.
Like Blackness, Gold is malleable under the most extreme conditions. It can be bent, but never broken; hammered, but never cracked, set ablaze, but never burnt. It is of no consequence we both stay lit. It is not happenstance, that grills are the accoutrements that have long transformed niggas into gods.
2) Choze Mitchell
Mitchell's fusion of Blackness and pop art is exquisite, and definitely a platform he’ll grow on. However, the way this Memphis-born artist captures Black boy joy is just joyous. His use of vibrant color against brown skins is poppin’.
Walker’s work can be found at the intersection of fine art and pop culture. His Waffle House piece caught my attention, but after a full troll I was sold on his aesthetic and approach to popular culture. This stunning neo-classical portrait of Trap artist Young Thug is an example of both skill set and imagination.
4) Dawn Williams Boyd
The "Erasure of Obama" piece by Boyd is a sign of the times. As soon as 45 got into office, we’ve been reckoning with an undoing of sorts. The American tyrant and real estate chump has attempted to scrub the work of former President Obama’s administration. Traditionally, Boyd’s work in textile, mainly quilting, reflects Black moments. This appears to be her most political.
5) Sheeba Maya
Maya’s painting and drawings pay utmost homage to Black women and pushed the envelope in Afrofuturism. Her zodiac series -- depictions of warrior women for the 12 signs -- was wholly impressive. This time around, the New York native does a deep dive into hues. Her latest work shows true-to-life women in a range of hues. Clearly, Sheeba does this, y’all.
6) Fabian Williams
Fabian Williams aka the Occasional Superstar is the shit. This multifaceted artist hailing from Fayetteville, is responsible for some of the dopest murals in around Atlanta. His themes are specific to Black social justice movements throughout history. He is responsible for the timely Kaepernick mural in Atlanta’s increasingly gentrified West End, and the Yo Gotti piece at T.I.’s Trap Museum. Word on these streets is that Williams is one of the best painters of the new millennium. Don’t act like you ain’t hear that from me.
7) Harmonia Rosales
This Chicago-bred artist is trailblazing the art scene with her intricate pieces that not only exalt Black women in high art, but also as the hierarchy of religious figures. Her creation painting earned the attention of art collectors, dealers, gallerists and institutions, and others who are new to her work, however, Rosales ain’t new to this.
8) Deborah Roberts
Roberts' collage work is downright gorgeous. The distorted images bring full attention to black bodies, particularly black girls, and their issues and right to exist in a society hellbent on their erasure. The Austin artist is making waves and drawing eyes.
9) Alfred Conteh
Conteh is largely known for ginormous and breathtaking sculptures as well as his unapologetic stance on racism and Black culture. Currently, the Georgia native is flexing the paint brush. While doing so he is world building with his ongoing series "Two Fronts." In the paints, Conteh is creating a real world that depicts real Black folks doing real life shit -- and this is in stark contrast to what outsiders think they know about Black lives. Conteh is a consummate professional in this here art game. Don’t say I ain’t tell you so.
10) Charly Palmer
Palmer kicked in the door and waved the .44 with his headdress pieces that explored insecurities and fears that take up space in Black heads. This Milwaukee-raised artist is known for switching up styles and introducing incredible themes. We’re waiting and watching for what’s next.
11) Nathaniel Mary Quinn
A naive eye may mistake Quinn’s work for collage, but Nah. It’s all painted. The Chicago-born New Yorker brings complexity, deft and depth to cubism that is quite provocative and fresh. His work tells stories of Black subjects such as "Dante," "The Borrower," "Homeboy Up The Block." We know them oh so well. We empathize with them, we love them, we covet them.
12) Kadir Nelson
If you’re familiar with Nelson’s work, then you know he was the perfect artist to commission for this Henrietta Lacks piece. Just sheer perfection.
13) Hank Willis Thomas
This piece by Thomas speaks to these perilous times in Black people’s lives, specifically those affected by the rash of police shootings that have occurred. The sculptural work was acquired by the National Memorial for Peace and Justice and Legacy Museum in Montgomery, Alabama.
14) Amy Sherald
C’mon now y’all already know. Artist Amy Sherald was tasked with the privilege and honor to paint the official national portrait of our forever First Lady, and she did not disappoint.
15) Kehinde Wiley
King Kehinde dropped the mic on this official portrait of former President Barack Obama. He did that. Need I say more?
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