22 contemporary black artists who altered the perspective of the art community.

Contemporary Black Artists

Over the past few centuries, art has led various movements that have fought alongside many protests and actually formed the foundation for many struggles in all parts of the world.

But unfortunately, we live in a world that is divided by race, caste, religion, and sex.

The hatred and discrimination against the minority have prompted several famous black artists to unite in order to fight it.

In music, sculpture, or just painting, African American artists have fought tooth and nail for an equal voice in this world, inspiring millions.

Coming back to the present, as the world becomes more and more educated against racism, we want to bring to your attention these amazing contemporary black artists who are reforming the future of art.

Top 11 Female Contemporary Artists.

In a field dominated by male contemporary artists, our female warriors are not falling behind either.

These artists are an inspiration to millions of women around the world and compete favorably with the top black artists and anti-racism leaders.

In the past, white artists have led the female art world. Now, it’s time for these female black artists to take the helm.

11. Bisa Butler

Bisa Butler

One of the most famous fiber artists from the African American community is Bisa Butler, who transformed the art form of quilting by inventing a brand-new subgenre.

Her portraits are vibrant, quilted works that celebrate black life and portray the everyday lives of common black people.

Through these artworks, Bisa aimed to tell the stories that “have been forgotten over time.”

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

During an interview, she even stated that, as a child, she always enjoyed watching her mother and grandmother sew on cloth and that she always enjoyed quilting.

Because of her passion for sewing and quilting, she later went on to major in fine arts and graduated with a Magna Cum Laude from Howard University. 

Here she studied the works of Romare Bearden and attended lectures by other contemporary black artists like Lois Mailou Jones.

After a stint in the art world, she completed her master’s degree in art education from Montclair State University in 2004.

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.

10. Carrie Mae Weens

Carrie Mae Weens

One of the most famous contemporary black artists, Carrie Mae Weens is especially known for her works in text, fabric, audio, digital images, and installation videos.

Her fame is mostly credited to her portrayal of the grievances the black community faces day in and day out.

Her artworks take huge jabs at racism, sexism, politics, and personal identity.

In her latest interview, she also mentioned that the main objective of her artwork is to lift the status of the African American community in the USA.

But she soon gave up, returning 30 years later to the Savannah College of Art and Design. This time for a personal project of hers called Constructing History.

Eventually, she decided to continue her art schooling, graduating from the California Institute of Arts at the age of 28.

In 1983, she completed her first panels of photographs and texts called Family Pictures and Stories.

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

But despite the efforts, the first retrospective of her work opened in 2012 at the Frist Center for the National Arts in Nashville.

Besides, Carrie’s other artworks, the Kitchen Table Series and Shape of Things, also received massive love and appreciation.
She was the honorary recipient of many awards, like the Distinguished Photographers Award, the National Artists Award from the Anderson Ranch Arts Center, and the Honorary Fellowship of the Royal Photographic Society of Bristol.

9. Mickalene Thomas

Mickalene Thomas

Mickalene is known as one of the most famous female painters and is renowned for her works with complex words. She’s popular for using acrylic, rhinestones, and enamel to visually increase the appeal of her contemporary artworks.

These artworks mostly consist of collage works that are inspired by historical art movements like cubism, dadaism, and the Harlem Renaissance.

It is also drawn from western art history and pop art paintings. In addition, it discusses gender issues as well as ideas about beauty, race, and sexuality.

Being a model, her mother exposed her and her brother to art at an early age and then enrolled them in after-school programs at the Newark Museum and the Henry Street Settlement.

Apart from that, Mickalene indulged herself in the study of pre-law and theater arts in the early 90s.

Her depictions of African American women engage in their identity and explore the representation of their femininity and black power.

As a result, her most famous contemporary black artist paintings—the Kitchen Series and Ain’t Joking Series—were featured by the Portland Art Museum in 1994.

In her 2017 solo exhibition, “Mentors, Muses, and Celebrities,” Mickalene portrayed the power of black women by giving the narrative of their lives through multimedia installations.

Even her portrait of the then-first lady, Michelle Obama, was the first of its kind and was displayed in the National Portrait Gallery.

Mackalene is the recipient of multiple awards and honors, but the most prominent of them are the Bomb Magazine Honor (2015), the MoCADA Artists Advocacy Award (2015), and the Timehri Award for Leadership in the Arts (2010).

8. Lynette Yiadom-Boakye

Lynette Yiadom-Boakye

Lynette Yiadom-Boakye is one of the most exceptional British painters and writers. 

She is also known for her portraits of imaginary subjects, which are painted in muted colors.

But most of her most famous paintings of all time are the ones that actually played a key role in the painting of the black figure.

Later in 2017, she created her own show, which brought about a new shift in the colors of her artwork.

They host with more of a warm tone now, and her subject includes more vibrant details like checkered floors, detailed expressions, and colorful backgrounds.

Most of her paintings contain only one subject, but if held together, they seem like one big family portrait, and that’s what makes her one of the most famous contemporary artists.

Owner of many accolades, Lynette has also won the Turner Prize and the Carnegie Prize.

7. Ronni Nicole Robinson

Ronni Nicole Robinson

Ronni Nicole Robinson, or the “Forever Florist,” as she is most famously known online, has gathered a cult-like following all over the world.

When asked about her artwork, she referred to them as “flower fossils,” as they are known to have been nature inspired and mostly consisted of flowers as their subjects.

She was known to have a liking for flowers from her childhood; she’d say that since she could remember, she had always been into drawing flowers.

Her technique involves laying out a piece of clay and taking impressions of it.

Since 2019, she has also added paper relief impressions to her repertoire.

6. Amy Sherald

Amy Sherald

Amy Sherald is an African American contemporary artist best known for her realistic depictions of black people’s daily lives and their experiences in her paintings.

Her works are mostly famous for using grisaille to represent the skin tones of her subjects in her paintings.

Her evident intentions to challenge conventions about racism drove her towards this.   

She’d spend most of her time in Baltimore, where she’d capture the black people in the United States, mostly by photographing strangers as subjects for her paintings.

In 2016, Sherald became the first black woman to win the National Portrait Gallery’s Outwin Boochever Portrait Competition with her painting, “Miss Everything.”

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.

She was also the first black artist to receive this call-up, making her one of the most famous contemporary black artists of the modern era.

5. Genesis Tramaine

Genesis Tramaine

One of the most famous contemporary black artists, Tramaine is known for the provocative use of color and the confrontational nature of her paintings.

An expressionist devotional painter who is known for creating famous abstract paintings of men and women who transcend gender, race, and the social structure of society.

Her works are powerfully influenced by the bible verses and her studies on churches.

The spiritual influences had a lasting impact on the depth and meaning of her paintings. 

She was internationally recognized for her first solo exhibition, which was held at Almine Rech in London in February 2020.

Nowadays, most of her work resides in prominent museum collections like the Institute of Contemporary Art.

4. Wangari Mathenge

Wangari Mathenge

Wangari Mathenge’s artworks are all about capturing simple moments in life.

They primarily consist of her family but also include random life events.

She is not only expressing herself but also transposing it into a typical black person’s life, so it kind of serves as the catharsis of the situation.

It’s as if she is trying to tell the story of her own life through her contemporary artwork.

She intends to use her background in business and law and her defiant attitude toward women to portray the strength and self-possession of women.

Embracing and expressing her own culture and style.

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.

3. Jordan Casteel

Jordan Casteel

Jordan Casteel is an African-American figurative artist and is mostly known for painting intimate portraits of friends, lovers, and family as well as strangers.

After graduating from Yale, she moved to New York and held his first exhibition, which was called Invisible Man.

It portrayed a large number of large murals, mostly nude paintings, of black seated men in various places in their homes.

This was because she was exploring the balance between sexuality and sensuality in both her subjects and her viewers.

Nevertheless, most of her work comes from personally taken photographs of her subjects, which entangle a deeper meaning and target representation of her surroundings.

Some of Casteel’s famous works now hang in various museums and galleries around the world, like the Denver Art Museum and the Modern Museum of Fort Worth.

2. Somaya Critchlow 

Somaya Critchlow

Somaya is recognized for her paintings of black women from the Renaissance and the Rocco tradition, as well as her small, portable portraits.

She skillfully blended high and low culture to create a glorious representation of black womanhood and to portray their struggles.

While learning, she also created voluptuous paintings that combined the art of Renaissance masters like Diego Velazquez and Rubens.

Considered to be one of the most famous contemporary black artists, she created a captivating, female-dominated universe in her paintings 

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

1. Kenturah Davis

Kenturah Davis

Kenturah Davis is a famous contemporary black artist who is known for working between Ghana and Los Angeles.

Each of her contemporary artworks tells a story through words.

By layering oil paints over stamped letters, she creates empathetic marks that give the impression that the text is a web of threads weaving into a portrait.

The majority of her other works also alternate between various portrait and design facets.

But by using textual methods, she strips away the color part of art and focuses more on the construction of her personal and collective identities.

By imbibing her work with more inspirational quotes and mantras, her artworks are some of the most unique and coveted, making her one of the most famous African American artists of the 21st century.

And now, departing from our queens, it’s time for the kings of contemporary art to showcase their unique artworks.

Top 11 Male Contemporary Artists.

We live in a world where the color of your skin matters more than the skills that you possess.

However, these black people aim to defy all preconceived notions and demonstrate that regardless of the creator’s race, people still enjoy looking at art.

They don’t need a regular art community because they are moving to create their own space that is free from the bounds of skin color.

And I must say, I enjoy this community of black contemporary artists more than anything!

11. Jack Whitten

Jack Whitten

Known for his innovative manipulations of acrylic paint and interest in materials that are not commonly found in art, Jack Whitten is considered one of the most influential contemporary black artists to have ever touched a canvas.

Although contemporary, most of his artworks were based on the principles of abstraction of art, which he infused with “truth and soul.”

In the early 1960s, most of Whitten’s work was said to have a feathery and soft effect.

This was the result of a new technique he discovered in which he placed a nylon mesh fabric over the wet acrylic paint.

He would also use different tools across the surface of his art in motions to give depth to his paintings.

Throughout Whitten’s long career, he only cared about techniques, materials, and his relationship to the inspirations of his contemporary works.

At times, he would dabble in photography and printmaking and eventually experiment with gestural strokes in his artwork.

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

10. Tajh Rust

Tajh Rust

Hailing from Brooklyn, New York, Rust is said to investigate the concept of representation and environmental portrait paintings drawn on films.

He is also said to develop his artworks framed with the interior as well as exterior spaces and complement perfectly with their subjects.

This method also explores the relationship between the black colors used by the contemporary black artist and the empty white space on the canvas.

He is also said to have worked in other contemporary arts like multimedia assemblage to express the effects of American Expressionism in modern-day America.

His most recent works are said to have been influenced by his stay at the residence of another famous contemporary black artist, Kehinde Wiley, in Senegal.

9. Kehinde Wiley

Kehinde Wiley

Kehinde Wiley is the most revered African American painter and is mostly known for his portrait of then-US President Barack Obama.

His artworks mostly blur the boundary between traditional and contemporary modes of representation.

He creates a fusion of period styles and influences from Islamic culture, architecture, and west African textile design.

But apart from the background, the foreground of his paintings consists of black protagonists in his old master paintings.

They are based on the photographs of young men whom he saw on the streets and 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.”

The figurative sort of his paintings quote “ Historical sources and position young black men within that field of power”.

Along with Amy Sherald, he was the first black artist to paint the portrait of an American president and display it in the Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery.

In October of 2011, Wiley received the Teacher of the Year award from the New York City Art Teachers Association, and two of his paintings were featured on the top 500 New York City taxi cabs in early 2011.

8. Joshua Johnson

Joshua Johnson

Joshua Johnson, one of the oldest black artists in American history, was a painter from the Baltimore area of African and European descent.

He is mostly famous for his naive paintings of prominent Maryland residents.

Johnson would call his portraits the work of “a self-taught genius, deriving from nature and industry in his knowledge of art.”

However, his work is similar to lesser-known liners like other famous artists like Jacob Frymire, Caleb Boyle, and Frederick Kemmelemeyer.

Still, we can’t consider him as one of the contemporary black artists but was worth a mention.

After all, he started the revolt against suppression in the art world.

7. Henry Taylor

Henry Taylor

Born in 1958, Henry Taylor is an American Artist as well as a painter who is mostly known for his acrylic paintings, mixed media sculptures and installations.

A lot of attention was devoted to his acrylics because they were able to maintain an impossible balance between careful and sophisticated references to art world traditions and natural expression.

His contemporary artwork boasts subjects like his family, friends, and strangers he met on the streets of California. 

The message that he wanted to convey through his paintings was that of an imaginary world that consisted of even famous professional sports heroes and cultural figures.

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

But now some of his recent works feature the harsh reality of today’s world, focusing on shootings, corruption, and racism.

6. Kassou Seydou

Kassou Seydou

One of the most famous literary painters of the current generation, Kassou Seydou’s paintings are called “writings in the world.”

His artwork narrates the vision of the ideal world through his eyes.

Each painting is a combination of symbols that match the elements of the contemporary black artist’s grammar and form.

The main goal of the artist is to make us decipher the actual meaning behind the paintings and symbols.

These symbols sometimes cross the line, making the painting go in an almost abstract direction.

5. Gerald Lovell

 

Gerald Lovell

For Gerald Lovell, who is relatively new to the painting scene, painting is an act of biography.

The contemporary black artist is mostly known as an impasto artist who adds thick layers of paint to the skin of the subjects of his paintings.

Because most of his subjects are African Americans, he emphasizes their skin color, thereby emphasizing the racism they face today.

The way he selects the shades of his colors gives a dynamic touch to his paintings, which helps bring out the emphasis on skin color.

4. Arcmanoro Niles

Arcmanoro Niles

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

His paintings are intensely personal, engaging the viewer in universal subjects of family life while making references to the history of painting.

Not only does he portray those who are close to him, but also those who take up the majority of his mental space.

The best part about his paintings is that they actually persuade viewers to think about   events that have occurred before or after the scene.

Arcmanoro’s works made it to countless public and private collections, including the Aishti Foundation and the Bronx Museum of the Arts. 


Which is why he’s, in today’s times, regarded as the most famous contemporary black artist.

 

3. Yinka Shonibare

Yinka Shonibare

Yinka Shonibare is the pinnacle of inspiration for all the differently abled people all around the world.

Having one side of his body completely paralyzed, he uses assistants to make artwork under his direction.

A hallmark of contemporary black artists, Yinka’s work is the embodiment of cultural identity, colonialism, and post- colonialism within the contemporary context.

While most of his works are inspired by his own life experiences, he also takes inspiration from around the world, as he said, “I’m the citizen of the world.”

The key material in most of his works is the brightly colored “African” fabric .

With these, he creates life-sized sculptural figures that are meticulously positioned and dressed in vibrant wax cloth.

2. Horace Pippin

Horace Pippin

A self-taught African American painter, Horace Pippin is renowned for his realistic depictions of scenes from World War I as well as landscapes and portraits.

The only reason Horace took up painting was to rehabilitate his injured arm.

He would start painting on a fabric stretched by some clamps.

Slowly, he moved on to a larger range of themes for his subject, often including biblical subjects and political statements.

His big breakthrough arrived when he submitted two paintings to a local art show and received great praise from critics like Christian Brinton and artist N.C. Wyeth.

Most other critics described him as “a real and rare genius.” 

He was also the first black artist to be the subject of a monograph, making him one of the most famous contemporary black artists.

1. Chris Ofili

Chris Ofili

Chris Ofili is a British born contemporary black artist who is mostly famous for his paintings made from elephant dung.

Apart from that, he would use resin, beads, oil paint, glitter, and cutouts from magazines.

He would form them into shapes that would be used to depict the common surroundings of his subjects.

These elements’ variety in artworks also categorized them as “punk art.”

He received many prizes, like the Turner Prize-winning exhibit at the Tate in 1998 for his glittery painting called Orgena. 

And that’s how we end our list with a bang!

So, for all you know, these people were artists, and with nerves of steel, they stood up to society’s rejection.

But they didn’t just break their chains; they went out of their comfort zones and tried to uplift the African American community.

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.

Heya Art Readers,

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