Famous Contemporary Black Artists You Should Know About

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A term that has been used for ages now to define, communicate, and express concerns and revolt against the evolution of the world.

Mainly, if we talk about the case of black people, they’ve been facing discrimination for a long time, even in the field of art.

Art has thus also been a great weapon used against racism with valor by many black artists across the globe. 

A cause was also the focus of the work of contemporary black artists, who rewired the art world’s perspective. 

Although not everyone will be able to comprehend this cause, everyone can understand their art.  

Now tell me, how many black contemporary artists do you know?

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Did you know that there are a tremendous number of talented female artists among them?

When the world continuously exposed them to savage acts of racism, art offered them a voice unlike any other medium.

If this gets you all hyped up to know more about contemporary black artists, then follow me on the blog.

Female Contemporary Black Artists 

Through their art, black women found strength in a world that was dominating, racist, patriarchal, and hopeless. 

So, here is a list of seven female black contemporary artists who made an impact on the art world!

1. Bisa Butler

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Bisa Butler, one of the most well-known African American fiber artists, revolutionized the quilting medium by creating a whole new subgenre.

She wanted to share the stories that “have been forgotten over time” through these artworks.

Even the essence of African textiles and conventional jewel tones are used to depict the skin tone of her subjects.

Her passion for sewing and quilting led her to major in fine arts and earn a Magna Cum Laude from Howard University after graduation.  

In 2004, she completed her master’s degree in art education from Montclair State University.

She also had her first solo museum, which featured many of her artworks like The Mighty Gents, Three Kings, and The Safety Patrol and gained a lot of attention.

In 2018, her exhibition at EXPO Chicago, a Black History Month exhibition in New Jersey in 2019, and her artworks in books like “Journey of Hope” were some of the most fantastic contemporary artworks that won tons of hearts.

2. Carrie Mae Weems

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Known for her works in text, fabric, audio, digital images, and installation videos, Carrie Mae Weems is one of the most well-known contemporary black artists.

Her portrayal of the everyday struggles faced by the black community is largely famous.

Artwork by Carrie Mae takes a huge toll on topics like racism, sexism, politics, and personal identity.  

Her first panel work, Family Pictures and Stories, a combination of text and images, was completed in 1983.

It focused on the story of her family and the general movement of black families out of the South and into the North.

Besides, Carrie’s other artworks, the Kitchen Table Series and Shape of Things, are some of the artworks that were widely recognized.

Suggested Read:

3. Ronni Nicole Robinson

Image Source: Ronni Nicole Instagram

Around the world, Ronni Nicole Robinson, also known online as the “Forever Florist,” has developed a mass following.

She called her artworks “flower fossils” when asked about them because most of them featured flowers as their subjects and are known to have been inspired by nature.

Her fondness for flowers dates back to her early years; she would claim that she had always enjoyed drawing flowers.

Now you may wonder what her technique is to imprint or carve a flower?

Well, in this method, she spreads out a piece of clay and makes impressions of it.

So, this was all about Ronni, and recently, in 2019  she has also added paper relief impressions to her repertoire.

4. Amy Sherald 

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African American contemporary painter Amy Sherald is most recognized for her realistic portrayals of black people’s experiences and lifestyle.

The primary feature of her paintings is the use of grisaille to depict the skin tones of her subjects.

During her success years, she would spend most of her time in Baltimore, taking pictures of American black people.

With her painting “Miss Everything,” Sherald became the first black woman to win the 2016 Outwin Boochever Portrait Competition at the National Portrait Gallery.

Fun fact: Barack Obama, the then-president, and Michelle Obama, the first lady, chose her to paint their official portraits as a result of the awards she received.

5. Wangari Mathenge

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Wangari Mathenge is one of the famous contemporary black artists who is known to capture simple moments in life that primarily revolve around her family.

By adding real life events, it almost seems like she is trying to tell the story of her own life through her contemporary work of art.

Using her background in business and law combined with her defiant approach to women, she hopes to demonstrate the strength and self-awareness of women.

In 2019, she joined the MFA painting and drawing program at the School of the Art Institute in Chicago.

Some of her works are held in private collections in Africa, Europe, and North America.

6. Somaya Critchlow

Image Source: Somaya Critchlow Instagram

Somaya’s small, portable portraits and her Renaissance and Rococo paintings of black women are her most well-known works.

Guess why Critchlow is on the list of famous black painters today? 

It’s because she created a beautiful representation of black womanhood and depicted their struggles by deftly fusing high and low cultures.

She also combined the techniques of Renaissance masters like Diego Velazquez and Rubens to create sensual paintings while she was studying.

Some of her most recent exhibitions include Women Painting Women, Texas: The Soul as Sphere, and Mixing It Up: Painting Today!

7. Kenturah Davis

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Kenturah Davis is a famous contemporary black artist who tells a story with her art and is also known for working between Ghana and Los Angeles.

She makes sympathetic marks that give the text the appearance of a web of threads weaving into a portrait by applying layers of oil paint over stamped letters.

But by using textual methods, she strips away the color part of art to give her painting a special effect.

Not only this, but to make her artwork more enchanting, she adds additional motivational sayings and mantras to her work.

Cool, isn’t it?

Male Contemporary Black Artists

We see black men challenging one of the most significant social issues that still exists globally and proudly celebrating their skin tone!

So, let us look at some of the male contemporary black artists who contributed to their movement. 

1. Jack Whitten

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One of the most significant modern black artists is Jack Whitten.

He infused “truth and soul” into the abstract art principles that formed the foundation of most of his contemporary artworks.

His artworks were known as feathery and soft, this was the result of a new technique he discovered in which he placed a nylon mesh fabric over the wet acrylic paint.

Whitten’s only concerns during his lengthy career were methods, supplies, and his connection to the sources of inspiration for his modern pieces.

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What a true artist!

Before experimenting with gestural strokes in his artwork, he also tested his skills in photography and printmaking.

In 2015, he was even awarded the National Medal of Arts Award for brilliantly portraying the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center.

2. Kehinde Wiley

Image Source: Kehinde Wiley Instagram

Kehinde Wiley, one of the black contemporary artists who proudly is an African American, is known for his portraits of then-US President- Barack Obama.

It is this brilliance in his art style and techniques that makes him the most influential among contemporary black artists. 

In his work, he blends historical fashions with elements of Islamic architecture, textile art, and culture.

His paintings are based on photographs of young men whom he saw on the streets.

Not only this, he wanted to tell their story and the hardships African Americans faced in a White dominated society. 

He describes his approach as “interrogating the notion of the master painter, at once critical or complicit.”

He was the first black artist, along with Amy Sherald, to paint a portrait of an American president and have it on display at the Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery.

The New York City Art Teachers Association presented Wiley with the Teacher of the Year award in October 2011.

Fun fact: Two of his paintings were featured on the top 500 New York City taxicabs in early 2011.

3. Henry Taylor 

Image Source: Henry Taylor Instagram

The American painter and artist Henry Taylor was born in 1958. 

He is best known for his acrylic paintings, mixed-media sculptures, and installations.

His acrylics attracted a lot of attention because they managed to strike an unachievable balance.

The balance between natural expression and deft, sophisticated allusions to the traditions of the art world.

Being a contemporary black artist, his subjects were usually his friends, family, and the strangers he met on the streets of California. 

He wanted to portray an imaginary world that consisted of famous professional sportsmen and leading cultural figures. 

His famous painting, “Cicely and Miles Visit the Obamas,” was an imaginary depiction of his visit to the Obama family.

However, some of his most recent pieces, which center on racism, corruption, and shootings, depict the grim reality of the modern world.

4. Gerald Lovell

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Gerald Lovell is a budding contemporary black artist, mostly known as an impasto artist who adds thick layers of paint to the skin of the subjects of his paintings.

His emphasis on skin tone draws attention to the fact that the majority of his subjects are African Americans, which highlights the racism they still experience today.

His use of color selections adds a dynamic quality to his paintings, emphasizing the importance of skin tone. 

5. Arcmanoro Niles 

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Acmanoro Niles, a representational figurative painter, is best known for his vividly colored works that challenge our perceptions of conventional painting genres. 

He is known for making paintings that hint at his personal life and family, making them immensely personal.

He also adds in universal subjects to engage the viewers, given the fact that he not only portrays people but anything that takes up his mental space.

His paintings truly influence viewers to consider what may have happened before or after the scene, which is their greatest quality.

The Aishti Foundation and the Bronx Museum of the Arts are just two of the many public and private collections that have acquired this contemporary black artist’s artwork. 

Suggested Read: Impressionist Artists 

6. Horace Pippin

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One of the renowned contemporary black artists was Horace Pippin, he was a self-taught modern African American.

Known for his realistic depictions of scenes from World War I as well as landscapes and portraits, Pippin took up painting to rehabilitate his injured arm.

It’s surprising, isn’t it?

With time, he moved on to a larger range of themes for his subjects in the paintings, which often included biblical subjects and political statements.

His major break came when two of his paintings were accepted into a local art show and he was highly praised by critics and artist N.C. Wyeth, among others.

He was also referred to as “a real and rare genius” by the majority of other critics and he was the first black artist to be the subject of a monograph!

7. Chris Ofili 

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What is one of the weird yet unique painting mediums you can think of?

And what if I said the medium is elephant dung?

Surprised? Right? Well, this is the story of Chris Ofili, a contemporary black artist known for his artworks that he created from elephant dung.

Born in Britain, Chris would also use cutouts from magazines, resin, beads, glitter, and oil paint.

He would shape them into forms that would represent his subjects’ everyday environments.

Because of the diversity of these components, these artworks were also categorized as “punk art.”

He won numerous prizes, including the Turner Prize for his glitzy painting Orgena, which was displayed at the Tate in 1998. 

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Bonus Artist: Kara Walker

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When talking about some of the famous contemporary black artists, how can we not talk about the renowned Kara Walker?

Born in Stockton, America, Walker is one of the most influential black artists in the world of contemporary art.

She is famous for her art in general but amongst it she is renowned for her room-size tableaux of black cut-paper silhouettes.

She is not just a painter; she is also a silhouettist, print-maker, installation artist, filmmaker, and professor.

Kara swears to explore the sensitive topics of race, gender, sexuality, racism, etc. with her art.

She has a belt of awards that she proudly possesses, which include the John D. & Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation Achievement Award, the Deutsche Bank Prize, and the Larry Aldrich Award.

Some of her famous artworks that are even stored in Mudam and Tate museums are: Fons Americanus, Kara Walker: Darkytown Rebellion, 2001, etc.


It will always be a magical experience, no matter how hard we try to delve deeper and learn about the art that was created by black contemporary artists. 

With this being said, here comes the end of this blog, in which we finally get a hold of how these extremely talented contemporary black artists paved their way in art.

The fact that their motives were clearly stated and also the fact that they had a burning fire of rebellion in their eyes.

They were tough as nails, these black modern artists disregarded social disapproval. 

They made sure their voices were heard through the medium they chose—modern black art! 

With the help of the sudden outburst of social media, they got a platform to express their ideas and prove that, despite a white-centric community, they are doing a wonderful job.

Do you wish to own a replica of any of these amazing paintings by famous black artists

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Q1. Name 5 female contemporary black artists.

Five female contemporary black artists are: Amy Sherald, Lynette Yiadom-Boakye, Mickalene Thomas, Genesis Tramaine, and Carrie Mae Weens.

Q2. Who is the father of black art?

Aaron Douglas was known as the father of black art and he lead the Harlem Renaissance.

Q3. How do you describe African American contemporary art?

Artworks that are created by African American artists that portray their experiences, perceptions and reality through different mediums can be considered as African American Art.

Q4. Who is the most famous and influential black artist?

Kara Walker is the most famous and influential black artist to date.

Q5. How can you describe contemporary black art?

Contemporary black art can be defined as the strong and sole depiction of the black artist’s life and struggles through the years, as well as their rebellion against modern and racist society.

2 thoughts on “Famous Contemporary Black Artists You Should Know About

  1. Abdul Rashid Sani says:

    Among the female artists, I already know about Amy Sherald and Bisa Butler. Kehinde Wiley is also a great artist I’ve known for a while. But after reading a bit about some of the contemporay black artists on your list, I guess they are all great. What do you make of these artists? Kara Walker and Faith Ringgold?

    • Suyash Pathak says:

      I completely agree that all these artists inspire everyone around us, especially the female ones! Not only are they up and coming in a very male-dominated field, but they are also excelling at it. Both of the other artists, Kara Walker and Faith Ringgold, are amazing too, but we are trying to express some of the unsung ones!

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