1- AMY SHERALD
Amy Sherald is an American painter who depicts Afro Americans in normal settings. Her painting style is expressed with realism, where she stages and photographs her subjects before painting the skin color using signature grey tones against contrasting or pastel colors.
In 2016, Sherald became the first woman and first African American ever to win the National Portrait Gallery’s Outwin Boochever Portrait Competition. In 2017, she was selected by former President Barack Obama and First lady Michelle Obama to paint their official portraits. In 2018 her portrait of Michelle Obama was unveiled receiving critical acclaim.
In 2018, she had her first museum solo exhibition at the Contemporary Art Museum of St.Louis along with receiving a mural commission to paint a mural in Philadelphia and Baltimore’s Parkway Theatre. Sherald was based in Baltimore until 2018, where she decided to move to New Jersey studio to concentrate on her new work that would later be presented in a new solo exhibition at the Hauser + Wirth gallery in New York City featuring eight large scale oil portraits.
In 2020, Sherald collaborated with Vanity Fair magazine to paint a portrait of Breonna Taylor, who was a 26-year-old medical worker shot and killed by Louisville police officers in her apartment.
Other notable projects included an exhibition of five small-scale portraits of black women created over the duration of the COVID-19 pandemic. Finally in December of 2020, her piece “The Bathers” (2015) was sold at auction for $4,265,000.
2- KERRY JAMES MARSHALL
Kerry James Marshall is an American painter who is recognized as one of the greatest contemporary artists of his time. Marshall’s work is inspired by his personal experiences both past and present as a person of color in America. Born in Birmingham during the American civil rights movement, and later moving to Watts, Los Angeles allowed him to create a visual sense of reality and emotion that transcended within the black communities.
Marshall’s choses to use painting, comics and sculpture to present a stronger literal and conceptual type of Black aesthetic. His work presents the daily lives of Afro Americans, in portraits, landscapes, significant historical events and more. By using a strong tone and subject matter, Marshall has become known for creating revolutionary portraits of Black subjects.
Many say that his work shines a critical light of Western art history with themes and depictions that have been historically omitted. In 1993, he created iconic works: De Style, a painting of a familiar black barbershop, and Lost Boys, a memorial painting of the violent deaths of Black children.
More recently, his work has captured subjects as far ranging as the joy of Black love, to historical activists, to a mining of traditions of abstraction via the Black Liberation Flag.
After receiving TIME magazine’s “100 most Influential People” of 2017, Marshall followed up in 2018 with his 1999 comic book series, Rythm Mastr. This new art project showcased a complete cast of Black superheroes in response to Marvel comics lack of Black representation in illustration form.
3- KEHINDE WILEY
Kehinde Wiley is an American painter best known for portraits featuring African Americans in the traditional settings of Old Master paintings. Wiley’s started with a series in 2001, where he presented a painting exhibition of young black men dressed in everyday clothes in grandeur. Wiley choses to discover his models on the streets, instead of having a traditional casting in a studio which gives his art a deeper intimacy and raw beauty.
Wiley’s process involves photographing his model, sketching and finally painting in the conventional hierarchy of a historic atelier. His use of colors, backdrops and hyperrealism draws the viewer into an enigmatic state that only few have achieved and received praise in recent Contemporary art. In 2005, his series Rumors of War, Wiley painted black men as equestrians, wearing inner city streetwear of Timberland boots, bandanas and more.
In 2012 Wiley decided to add women to his paintings with An Economy of Grace, commissioning costumes from Riccardo Tisci, creative director of Givenchy.
In 2015 Wiley’s exhibition “Kehinde Wiley: A New Republic,” presented works of his 14-year career. Wiley replaced conventional images of white men of historical status with black people who simulated the poses of the original masterworks.
Wiley’s work emerged into a critics choice, as in 2015 Wiley was the recipient of the 2014 National Medal of Arts. Two years later former president Barack Obama selected Wiley to paint his official portrait that was later unveiled at the Smithsonian’s National Portrait Gallery. His collaboration with Obama was the first representation of an African American and painting by an African American in the presidential portrait collection.
In 2019 Wiley exhibited a different medium of art, Rumors of War, a bronze sculpture commissioned by the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts which was unveiled in Times Square. As Wiley continues to give us poetically provocative and visually incredible portraits, his latest body of work has truly elevated him to be mentioned amongst the greatest artists of the century.
4- KARA WALKER
Kara Walker is an American artist known for her large-scale sculptural installations and paper silhouettes of black figures against a white wall. Her work constantly address the history of American slavery and racism through violent and unsettling imagery. Walker’s uses her art to confront history, stereotypes and gender of American Slavery. By exploring post slavery to modern day subject matter with powerful silhouettes and installations, Walker’s work gives a strong reminder of American racism of the past and present.
In 1994 Walker took a big gamble and unveiled her paper cut mural silhouette Gone , which presented an Antebellum South entailed with sex and slavery. Critics began to take notice and the age of 27 became the second youngest recipient of the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation’s “genius” grant.
In 2000, Walker created Insurrection!,which included silhouetted characters against a background of colored light projections.
In 2002, Walker created, An Abbreviated Emancipation, commissioned by The University of Michigan Museum of Art, Ann Arbor. This collection of work represented the race relations and roots of slavery prior to the Civil War.
In 2005, she created,The Creation of African-America, a Moving Picture,using moving images and sound. By using silhouettes and shadow puppets Walker immersed the viewers into her dark world as a woman of color during early American slavery.
In 2014, Walker debuted her first sculpture installation consisting of a colossal female Mammy Archetype sphinx, measuring 75-feet long by 35-feet high. Along the outskirts of the grand figure stood fifteen life-size young male figures dubbed as attendants. The sculpture was made by covering a core of machine-cut blocks of polystyrene with a slurry of white sugar sponsored by Domino Sugar by donating 80 tons of sugar for Walker’s piece. Also known to produce watercolors, animation and puppets.
In 2016, Walker revealed Slaughter of the Innocents (They Might be Guilty of Something). In the painting, Walker depicts an African American woman slicing a baby with a small scythe. The influence for this detail was that of Margaret Garner, a slave who killed her own daughter to prevent her child returning to slavery.
In 2019, Walker created Fons Americanus , exhibited at Tate Modern’s Turbine Hall. This exhibition displayed a fountain, measuring 13 m, with motifs referencing the history of the TransAtlantic slave trade.
Even though Walker depicts the inequalities and mistreatment of African Americans by their white counterparts, many feel otherwise. Some critics describe her work as grotesque or crude. In her exhibition The Battle of Atlanta, Walker depicts a white Southern soldier raping a black girl while her brother watches in shock with a sword. Her use of physical stereotypes of flatter profiles, bigger lips and straighter noses has also been a recurring trait in her work that many oppose. Walker remains un phased by this criticism and continues to deliver provocative and intellectually beautiful images.
5- ARZINE STANLEY
Arzine Stanley is an Nigerian hyper realism artist who taught himself how to master both pencils and paper as a medium to express himself through what he calls his three p’s namely patience, practice and persistence. Arinze creates art that evokes an emotional connection by using his pencil as a form of social and political activism. Drawing inspiration from life experiences and necessity, his objective is to use his art to speak for those who can not speak for themselves.
Arzine states “my art is born out of the zeal for perfection both in skill, expression and devotion to create positive changes in the world.” By choosing this state of awareness in his art he allows himself to lose control of his pencils, flowing flawlessly through his canvases. In return he found himself spending countless hours creating only artwork that stimulates the mind, body and soul with an intimate connection.
In 2016, Arinze’s debuted his first exhibition at the Omenka gallery lagos, Nigeria which led to critical acclaim from art lovers and surrounding communities. As the art world opened doors for Arzine, his work was soon to be exhibited to international audiences in the USA and UK.