While an entire world is broken into fragments of race, caste, religion, and ethnicity, contemporary black artists are struggling to stitch the fragments.
Throughout history, people of ethnicity and race have been marginalized.
But now is the time that the black artists have joined hands to break the lines of difference and emerge as a power.
We all know that art has been the foundation of protests and struggles to achieve equality in the major part of the world including the United States. Doesn’t matter if it is music, art, dance, or any other forms of expression, art has been a medium to communicate anger, suppression, and biasness.
The contemporary black artists fought like brave warriors against the cruelties of racism.
It has been a strive to bring to the forefront the African diaspora of art and PortraitFlip is trying its best to support them in the struggles.
Now, art is particularly important to eradicate how racism works in organizations and institutes.
And this is why we want to bring in the eyes of our readers these wonderful contemporary black artists who are shaping the future of art.
10 Male Contemporary Black Artists (2021)
In a world full of people trying to be cool with their content on Instagram, we have a list of wonderful contemporary male black artists who have been radicalizing art for a sake.
I have been in touch with the art community daily and it is nothing but a platform for a pretentious elitist who tries to promote other elite artists.
The art by the black artist may be appreciated but the underline remains “They want the art, not the people.”
And this is the thought that these contemporary black artists are trying to shatter.
They do not need a place in the regular art community because they are moving towards slowly making a space for themselves.
And I must say that it is wonderful.
10. Tyler Mitchell
A photographer and a filmmaker, Tyler is the first black to shoot for American vogue for Beyonce’s shoot.
In fact, he has also been the youngest to make it to a vogue shoot.
He has been working across many genres and as his website says, Tyler is trying to find “and document new aesthetic of Blackness.”
Tyler shifted from conventional fashion photography and gave a head start to his career with shooting music videos and made an amazing commercial career out of it.
When I saw his website, I realized that he has a sense of capture black men and women alike – with a sense of power and authority.
His series I’m Doing Pretty Hood in My Pink Polo brings modern black masculinity to the foreground making it one of his most unique exhibitions.
9. Glenn Ligon
The pioneer of a conceptual art movement, Glenn Ligon gained fame in the 1990s.
Now living and working in New York, Glenn has extensively explored American history, literature, and society and how it was critical in building the modern tree of painting and conceptual art.
But he is famous for his text-based paintings based on the influential writings and speeches of 20th– century cultural figures like James Baldwin, Jean Genet, and Richard Pryor.
His artworks have been a permanent collection in museums including the Tate Museum.
Glenn’s artwork is not just about colors, it is about the revolution that was started by important leaders and stands more as a verbal-visual scream against social construct.
He used lines from African-American literature and painted it in bold white background with black texts.
The artwork featured written word on canvas that challenged the concerns of race, gender, and sexuality.
8. Jerrell Gibbs
Jerrell Gibbs is known to paint vibrant, almost alive backgrounds. His idea is to recreate mundane experiences into a joyous affair.
However, what’s striking are the expressions of the subjects that speak of the multilayered experience of African-Americans.
He uses the realms of his childhood to depict the lives of black identities through an empathetic perspective.
These figurative portraits Gibbs invigorates banal representation of black people and the power that exists within them – in a way generating a spiritual connection.
The works of Gibbs are mostly photo to painting, adapted from small size polaroids into a life-size painting.
There is a lot of love, intimacy, and care in his paintings, and a constant reflection of Gibbs’s own being.
“I choose to highlight the people who are important to me; ordinary, hardworking, loving people. They’re real moments. I believe it’s important in an age of social media, where everyone posts about their ‘best,’ that all aspects of life should be significant, not just the most extravagant.”– Jerrell Gibbs
7. Joshua Johnston
One of the earliest documented black artists whose presence dates back to the late 18th century.
However, we have very little evidence about his background and lifestyle. The only thing evident from his art was a slight hint that he was a former slave.
Most of his paintings depicted white slaveholding the elite of Baltimore.
We can consider him a self-taught “folk” artist who was trying to earn some extra bucks by painting post his free
Although we cannot consider Joshua to be one of the contemporary black artists, he deserves a mention.
It was with Joshua that the revolt against suppression in the art world began after all.
6. Kehinde Wiley
The stereotypical notion of a black man has often been of a tough, rugged guy.
This black artist, Kehinde Wiley, has been shattering this notion by painting young African American men against floral backgrounds.
His painting can be traditional in strokes but are absolutely radical in content.
Most people know Kehinde Wiley from his powerful depiction of Barack Obama for the National Portrait Gallery in 2017.
Interestingly, he has brought in concepts of early European royal portrait backgrounds to paint the boys.
5. Arcmanoro Niles
Arcmanoro Niles is a Washington-based artist who has been painting the domestic lives of black people in America.
Mostly electric, his figures are mostly backlit with vibrant hues of orange, red, and blues.
He has, in fact, painted florescent pink eyes of a woman who looks at us with curiosity while a man with a pink beard lies down on the floor.
Most of his paintings implicate us and are interestingly painted.
He has procreated a lot of classical portraits and sculptures by replacing white people with people of color.
Each painting of Niles has a narratively rich concept and stands out in our entire list of contemporary black artists.
It is not just art; it is a revolt in form of art!
4. Gerald Lovell
Gerald Lovell can be called an impasto artist and is mostly known to layer the skin of his subject with thick layers of paint.
The layers of paint on the skin have made his paintings look dynamic especially due to the sharp contrast between the foreground and background makes the viewer focus on the face of the subject.
His untraditional and contemporary style has made him stand out amongst all the emerging black artists.
The layers that form depth to his painting making it unique in approach and vision.
The most interesting part of his impasto is the wisely selected black identities.
I personally feel that the impasto on the skin adds to the struggles of being black in America with the layers subject a very intimate turn.
3. Tajh Rust
Tajh Rust has been making portraits of intimate scenes of black people alone or together.
The use of pastel shades and his experiments with shadows shows a strong relation of black identities with nature.
Rust investigates the concept of representation and his environment in his portrait paintings that are mostly drawn from film and literary references.
Most of his portraits explore the relationship between black identity and space.
But he has also envisaged in multimedia assemblage, investigating the lived experience and effects of American exceptionalism and whiteness in modern-day America.
2. Jack Whitten
Jack Whitten’s work particularly reflects his love for the abstract expressive political style of art.
It is of such relevance today, as the starting point is a piece of newspaper, where one can decipher an image of an African American protester being attacked by a police dog.
This event took place during a civil rights campaign in Birmingham, Alabama, in 1963.
The artist covered up the image with darkly painted black canvas, to then tear it apart in a raw and scary way.
The painting represented resembles a layer of skin, letting appear a deep scar, symbolized by the image left behind.
With the growing torture on Blacks in America, this art stands as a very crucial symbol of protest and shame.
1. Chris Ofili
Christ Ofili has been famous for one of his most sensitive art: No Woman, No Cry.
The painting is a clear depiction of Doreen Lawrence, the mother of Stephen Lawrence.
Stephen was murdered in London in an unprovoked racist attack.
In this oil painting, the mother is seen crying seeing images of her son, which the artist collaged in the tears of his mum.
This painting has an impact.
It is packed with symbolism, especially as it sits on two big piles of elephant dung that could be interpreted as an allegory for the establishment that we rely on.
Chris Ofili won the Turner Prize with this work.
And with this, we move on to the list of black female artists.
10 Contemporary Black Female Artists (2021)
With the advent of feminism, the trajectory changed from white man’s burden to white woman’s burden.
In fact, half of feminist history did not talk about marginalized women of color, culture, and ethnicity.
The war of black female artists was not just with a patriarchal society but also with the double standards of feminism that were supposed to save women.
Throughout history, white female artists have outshone the world but it is now time for the black female artist to take the front seat.
These black female artists have been redefining art and history, and you should definitely know about them.
10. Joy Labinjo
Joy Labinjo is all about exploring the African diaspora by giving the British-Nigerian identity a homage.
Labinjo wanted to understand her identity and was caught between being British and Nigerian. Art was a way to find her unique still of a misplaced Nigerian.
Her paintings mostly have a nuance theme and don’t concentrate on one particular idea.
The idea of a misplaced identity has often created a lot of layers to a person’s being and it becomes absolutely difficult to live in a single dimension.
Family, gatherings, and friends take up a huge space in her artworks with colorful, large-scale domestic paintings.
She uses striking colors and clean lines with minimal brushstrokes.
What’s interesting is the way the change in the subject’s skin tone comes out distinctively.
The use of fractured, complex results against solid hues and simple patterns is astonishing.
Indeed, a praiseworthy black female artist.
9. Kenturah Davis
Kenturah Davis is known to paint pictures with her words.
She makes emphatic marks by applying oil paint over stamp letters. It is as if the text is thread together to form a portrait of text blocks and writings.
Her portraits generally encourage the viewer to contemplate the power of language because each line is imbued with a deeper meaning.
It is wonderful to see two art forms become intertwined bringing out so much sense together.
There are places where her sketch overlaps with the written content but it hardly made any difference to her paintings.
In fact, now, she has started marking specific pages to sketch so that the meaning of the content complements the embodiment of the same.
8. Somaya Critchlow
Critchlow is known to make small portraits of Black women on Renaissance and Rocco painting traditions.
She includes concepts of race, sex, and culture into her pocket-sized portraits which are mostly self or imagined portraits of women.
Critchlow challenges the especially fraught history of the female nude. The nude woman in her paintings just doesn’t lie down passively. Instead, they stare us down with agency, aware of us and unwavering.
His nude paintings have a power within them. A power that these rising black female artists are acquiring.
There may be an umpteen number of artists but such works can only come from these contemporary black artists.
7. Wangari Mathenge
If paintings were about capturing simple moments, Wangari Mathenge would have been the leader.
Her paintings have mostly been random moments from people’s life including her family.
You can see a woman enjoying her coffee, or looking at something wistfully beyond the frame. Most of these figures are based on her friends and family.
These paintings have mostly come off as empowering and inspiring for Black people but according to her, these paintings are an expression of herself.
It sort of forms the catharsis of the situation wherein she is not only expressing herself but also morphing it into a regular Black person’s life.
“I enjoy expressive brushwork. It’s the one part of painting that is always a surprise, as it is often dictated by mood and energy.”– Wangari Mathenge
6. Kudzanai-Violet Hwami
Kudzanai-Violet Hwami’s paintings are personal reflections on her family. Most of them speak of her upbringing in South Africa.
The paintings have individuals in fantastical scenarios.
And the most interesting part of the painting is abstract shapes and blocks of color appearing randomly.
A lot of her paintings have had photographs positioned next to paint and creates an uncanny play between different textures and media.
She layers colors and patterns over one another making the entire thing look surreal.
Her canvases come off as intimate and chaotic at the same time making the art piece look timeless.
The brushstrokes look free like a bird and have often given an impression of tender portraits.
If contemporary black artists could do any better, it is with Kudzanai-Violet Hwami.
5. Bisa Butler
This black female artist is a trailblazing fiber artist.
Bisa Butler’s work embodying the Black community is featured everywhere from the Smithsonian Museum of American History to the Art Institute of Chicago, but her reason for getting into the art form started at home.
“I come from a family of people who sewed; my grandmother, mother, and all six of her sisters knew how to sew,” she says.
This inspired her to choose to study fashion and sewing in college. She started with a quilted portrait of her grandparents.
And today Bisa continues her family legacy of sewing and connects to her roots by creating quilts, which she makes mainly of African fabrics that resemble those of Kente cloth and wax-printed fabric well-known in Ghana.
“I want to show the world who we really are; we are people of grace, of dignity, of pride, of love,” she says.
I believe that art is not limited to painting on canvas. It has more to it, and it will always keep adding.
Contemporary black artists have been making a mark, and the more the better.
4. Ronni Nicole Robinson
Ronni Nicole Robinson describes her environment growing up as a concrete jungle, but that landscape is actually where her love for flower preservation took root.
“[Dandelions] grew up through the cracks in the sidewalk, and each one was like a little ray of sunshine. My grandmother would walk me to church, and I would pluck the dandelions along our route and press them into my Bible.”– Ronni Nicole Robinson
Ronni creates “Flower-Inspired Fossils,” which is her signature form of botanical art using hand-pressed clay, a bloom from her land, and white plaster to create one-of-a-kind reliefs.
While she draws inspiration organically through details like the shape of the leaves, the curve of the stems, and the way the flower blooms, her art that graces global magazine platforms is meant to be subtle and nuanced.
“It’s meant to hang in the background of your everyday life without consuming the room it’s in,” she explains.
“Meant to blend into your environment, much like nature itself. It’s only when you give yourself permission to slow down that you would even notice it being there.”
Ronnie wants to encourage people to daydream and connect with the environment.
Most people paint for their own growth, speaking of their struggles.
Very few people take into consideration the struggles of people around them and make art out of them.
Ronnie is one of such black female artists that the world of contemporary black artists need.
3. Genesis Tramaine
Genesis Tramaine is an urban expressionist artist who is known for her abstract painting of men and women who transcend gender, race, and social structures.
Her art is distinct and it combines the urban New York graffiti and imagined images of gospel hymns sung on Sunday morning during church.
Breaking all the norms her art mainly focuses on shaping the definition of American Black Face capturing the emotions and the underrepresented soul of Black people with exaggerated features.
Her art is filled with spiritual hints taking hymns for Bible and other readings she studied in church.
I personally believe that her art is not for the regular.
She digests every day and regurgitates it as work that evokes déjà vu, beckoning memories of past lives and glimpses of undiscovered futures.
She uses provocative colors with an urban-inspired and mixed-media technique.
Interestingly, all her artwork is made in oil and acrylic mediums with themes including ethics and insanity, the mundane and the inhumane, spirituality, sexuality, and sentimentality.
I’d like to reiterate: this one is not for the regular people.
2. Jordan Casteel
Jordan Castell will not let you look away.
An American contemporary artist, this black female artist has developed a distinctive figurative language of portrait painting.
She captures her subjects in larger-than-life depictions combined with domestic details and psychological insights.
She is rooted in community engagement, and her portraits portray people from communities in which she lives and works.
Sometimes she is known to use her photographs of people she encounters, posing her subjects within their natural environments.
You can also see her drawing upon ongoing conversations on portraiture that encompass race, gender, and subjectivity, these works reveal her observations of the human experience.
Most of the time, Casteel’s subjects have a front-facing seated position which reflects a very intimate bond between the artist and the poser. It also stirs a connection, a conversation of the portrait with the viewer.
By painting a very mundane day-to-day scene, Casteel promotes viewers to recognize shared humanity.
1. Amy Sherald
An American painter based in Baltimore; Amy Sherald is best known for her portrait paintings that document the contemporary African-American experience in the United States.
Working in a simplified realism from photographs she stages, she paints her vibrantly dressed subjects singly against bright monochrome grounds.
These subjects are rendered in grayscale skin tones, excluding color from the notion of race. In this way, she wants her black subjects to become a part of the mainstream art historical narrative.
It is as if she is trying to blend the familiar with the fantastical.
Most of her imaginative paintings are infused with intense color and often punctuated with quirky objects, a balloon bouquet, an oversized teacup, or a rabbit in a hat.
The choice of color shifts the focus away from their race toward their humanity and individuality, which she further defines through their clothing and accessories.
With her, we end our list of contemporary black female artists.
And It Is Time To Move Over To You
We cannot deny the fact that all these contemporary black artists have a heart of steel to fight the struggles through art.
In recent, years and with the huge support of social media, they have gotten the platform and the recognition they deserve.
Despite a white-centric and predominantly male industry, these artists especially female artists, are doing wonderful work reclaiming it.
All these artworks need an eye, for this is going to examine and document the Black experience and culture and will be a representation of blackness in both the contemporary world and history of art.
Their art may have been overpowered, removed, or entirely marginalized in history but the future is now.
And these 20 artists are shaping it for you.
That’s all folks!
If you are reading this, thank you!
I hope this article could enlighten you about contemporary black artists.
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