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Friday, Jun 9, 2023
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Three artistic visionaries to support during Black History Month

Black art history has a multitude of facets, all of which intersect into a rich history of creative expression and cultural significance. In celebration of Black History Month, here are three Black creatives to support who push the boundaries of contemporary art.

Jacob Lawrence 

Born Sept. 7, 1917, in Atlantic City, New Jersey, Lawrence’s fascination with and career in African American culture and Black individualism began in Harlem. There, he created his first pieces depicting African American visionaries.

One of Lawrence’s most notable pieces of work is a series of paintings he produced on Toussaint L’Ouverture, a Haitian general and significant figure in the Haitian Revolution. The series follows L’Ouverture’s life and achievements. Lawrence’s work incorporates bold colors, striking compositions and candid depictions of Black life.

His work has been published in Fortune Magazine, and in 1941, his work, “Migration of The Negro,” was exhibited at the Downtown Gallery, an art gallery in New York City. He depicts not only the people he paints, but the heart within the people as well, so his pieces serve as an unfiltered glimpse into the African American self.

His work is currently on display at the Museum of Modern Art in New York City.

Kerry James Marshall

Kerry James Marshall pushed the boundaries of creative expression with his contemporary art pieces in the mid-20th century. Born in 1955 in Birmingham, Alabama, Marshall began painting at a young age. He witnessed the beginnings of both the civil rights movement as well as the Watts Riots, a series of race riots in Los Angeles. These events molded his depiction of life for the Black American, and his work reflects his efforts in interpreting that life.

Marshall’s work encompasses the everyday, almost mundane aspects of the Black experience. His most notable piece, “De Style,” depicts Black people cutting hair in a barbershop. He often paints Black complexion with a rich, deep color, creating a stark contrast to the surrounding environment he creates on his canvas.

Marshall creates pieces centered around African American life, and, as a result, has made a space for Black art made by Black people about Black people to exist in a space it has not before.

His work will be on display at the Metropolitan Museum of Art Feb. 7.

Lorna Simpson

Lorna Simpson is a multimedia artist who specializes in vivid photography that accentuates the individuality of the human spirit. Her work challenges the traditional feminine stereotypes by offering a new perspective on identity.

Simpson is best known for her pieces surrounding identity politics. With her piece “Five Day Forecast,” Simpson explores the duality between her identity as an artist and her identity as a woman. The piece consists of five portraits of a Black woman in a white dress. The woman’s face has been cropped out of the photos and her arms are crossed. The portraits are of the same woman, taken five different times. Under the photos, multiple words are displayed, all with the prefix “mis” in front of them. Simpson uses this piece specifically to delve into the complex relationship between her identity as an individual with a 9 to 5 job and her identity as an artist.

You can view her work here.

Black art is an integral part of Black history, and these artists commit to telling Black stories from their perspectives, paving the creative path for future artistic visionaries with their work and ultimately creating a space for artists to explore the nuances of Black culture and identity.


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