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Beginners Guide to Black American Artistry

Earlier this month, I posted about the pieces I chose as the winners of the Maryland Federation of Art's Black Art Matters exhibition. So, I wanted to follow it up with a short guide to some must-know Black artists! These range from the old masters to some more contemporary artists. Allow yourself to travel through time in a sense and enjoy...

Charles White

“Born in 1918 in Chicago, Charles White is known for chronicling African American related subjects in paintings, drawings, lithographs, and murals. He worked primarily in black and white, and sepia tones, and he was an incredibly skilled draftsman. His meticulously executed drawings and paintings speak of and affirm the humanity and beauty of black people."

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Elizabeth Catlett

“Born in 1915 in Washington DC, the

main purpose of Elizabeth Catlett’s work is to convey social messages rather than pure aesthetics. Her work depicts race, gender, and class issues, and was a mixture of abstract and figurative art influenced by African and Mexican art traditions."

Barkley Hendricks

“Born in 1945 in Philadelphia, Barkley L. Hendricks was a modern painter who made new contributions to black portraiture and conceptualism. He worked in a variety of media and genres throughout his career, such as photography, landscape, and painting. Hendricks’ best known work took the form of life-sized oil paintings of Black Americans."

Kara Walker

“Born in 1969, Kara Walker is an American contemporary painter, silhouettist, printmaker, installation artist, and filmmaker who explores race, gender, sexuality, violence, and identity in her work. She is best known for her room-size figure of black cut-paper silhouettes."

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Amy Sherald

"Born in 1973, Amy Sherald is best known for her portrait paintings. Her choice of subjects look to enlarge the genre of American art historical realism by telling African American stories within their own tradition. On February 12, 2018 the Smithsonian’s National Portrait Gallery unveiled Sherald’s portrait of Michelle Obama, making her the first African American woman to paint an official First Lady portrait. Amy Sherald was a resident artist at Creative Alliance from 2015-2017."

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Kehinde Wiley

“Born in 1977, Kehinde Wiley is known for his highly realistic paintings of Black people. Wiley has gained recent acclaim for his heroic portraits, which address the image and status of young African American men in contemporary culture. Wiley’s portrait of President Barack Obama was unveiled on February 12, 2018.”

Mark Bradford

“Born in 1961, Mark Bradford is known for grid-like abstract artwork that combines collage with paint. Bradford transforms materials scavenged from the street into wall size collages and installations that respond to impromptu networks, underground economies, migrant communities, or popular appropriation of abandoned public spaces that emerge within a city.”

Jack Whitten

“Born in Bessemer Alabama in 1939, Jack Whitten’s art style was known to be abstract, but he liked to refer to his work as art with truth and soul. A large number of Whitten’s artworks were inspired by his own experiences during the Civil Rights Movement of the 1950s and ‘60s. He concluded that slavery blocked the culture of people of color and believed that it was his destiny to restore their culture through his art.”

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Carrie Mae Weems

“Born in 1953, Carrie Mae Weems is an American artist who works with text, fabric, audio, digital images, and installation video. She is best known for her work in photography. Her work confronts issues of racism, gender, politics, and identity, particularly those in African American communities.”

Faith Ringgold

“Born in 1930 in Harlem, Faith Ringgold’s artistic practice is extremely broad and diverse. She uses mediums, including painting, quilts, sculptures, performance art, and children’s books. She is best known for her colorful abstractions, which often depicts theme from American history and politics.”

Did you enjoy learning about these artists? Who are you looking forward to learning more about? Let me know!


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