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Somaya Critchlow, TBT Isis Davis-Marks. Feb 11, am. Sometimes we look at figurative paintings in order to better understand ourselves. We visit museums and galleries to get a glimpse of portraits that appear to gaze back at us—we engage them in a silent back-and-forth, an unspoken negotiation.
The Mona Lisa ca. But how are we ever supposed to see ourselves, to truly engage in that silent exchange, if the subjects of these paintings never resemble us? Historically, it has been difficult for members of the African diaspora to see ourselves represented in such paintings. However, this is beginning to change as contemporary artists like Kerry James Marshall.
Kehinde Wiley. Amy Sherald. Henry Taylor. Jordan Casteel. Importantly, there is a wide swathe of young and lesser-known black artists pursuing figurative painting today, ensuring the longevity and richness of this thriving tradition while also building upon it.
Here, we feature 10 of these artists, each of whom offers a fresh, thoughtful approach to painting the human form. Jerrell Gibbs. Portrait of Jerrell Gibbs by Russell Bunn. Courtesy of the artist and Mariane Ibrahim Gallery. Jerrell Gibbs Uncle Donald Mariane Ibrahim Gallery. View Slideshow. She appears to be aware that someone is watching her or taking her picture; her pose is unguarded and proud. Joy Labinjo. Portrait of Joy Labinjo by Alexander Coggin. Courtesy of Tiwani Contemporary. Her work The Elders shows five people sitting next to one another at what appears to be a family gathering; a man in the painting looks off into the distance, while most of the women in the painting look straightforward.
Labinjo applies color in sharp, discrete blocks. Kassou Seydou. Portrait of Kassou Seydou. Kassou Seydou Akila di e diamenaye Arcmanoro Niles. Portrait of Arcmanoro Niles. Courtesy of the artist and Rachel Uffner Gallery. His figures are backlit by vibrant hues, like luminous oranges, reds, and blues.
She looks at us inquisitively, her head cocked to the side, as she lies down on what looks like a brightly patterned red carpet. She implicates us—like many of the other characters in his paintings do, too. Many of the works in that show deal with themes of loss and disappointment; some paintings feature people in somber interactions. Kenturah Davis. Portrait of Kenturah Davis. Courtesy of the artist. Kenturah Davis, A Sharp Whisper Kenturah Davis paints pictures with her words, making emphatic marks by applying oil paint with stamp letters.
Her portraits encourage the viewer to contemplate the power of language because each line is imbued with a deeper meaning; form becomes intertwined with content. Inher work will be featured in L. Gerald Lovell. Portrait of Gerald Lovell. Courtesy of the artist and P. Gerald Lovell, Tia Swint He encrusts the skin of his subjects with thick layers of paint, placing broad strokes of burnt sienna next to ochre to create the illusion of shade and light. But everything else—the clothes, the objects, the backgrounds—are flatter and more traditionally rendered.
This layering makes his paintings dynamic. The thicker the paint, the more emphasis on the object. Later this year, Lovell will have a solo show in New York at P. Somaya Critchlow. Somaya Critchlow makes small paintings—some so small that they could fit in your hand. Her pint-sized figures are bathed in browns and greens, earthy colors that create a sense of warmth.
Critchlow ponders themes including race, sex, and culture. TBT shows a topless black woman with a large afro. One of her legs is propped up on a plush grey chair, and she looks straight at us while she holds a mug. Wangari Mathenge. Portrait of Wangari Mathenge. Courtesy of the artist and Roberts Projects. Wangari Mathenge The Apothecaries Some of her figures are based on herself or pictures of family members.
Currently, it takes the form of figurative painting, but if it ever morphed into abstraction, it would still feel the same to me—something of me that I offer to the world unsolicited. Tajh Rust. Portrait of Tajh Rust.
In Sleep Day Dreamingthree people—a father, a small child, and a pregnant woman—recline on a tan couch. Seemingly mundane objects in the work, like a crocheted doily draped across the couch or the translucent curtains in the background, seem just as thoughtfully rendered as the figures themselves.
Kudzanai-Violet Hwami. Kudzanai-Violet Hwami Woman and Child Kudzanai-Violet Hwami Antennas to the Ancestors 1 Many of her paintings show individuals in fantastical scenarios, with abstract shapes and blocks of color hovering midair. The works seem to blend surrealism with reality, collage with painting. One example is Eve on Psilocybinin which a woman, presumably on psychedelic mushrooms, reclines on a large tan-and-green surface as large circular shapes hover behind her. Kudzanai-Violet Hwami Family Portrait Hwami layers colors and patterns over one another; she places photographs next to paint and creates an uncanny interplay between different textures and media.
Here, we can see the clear points of departure from photography, the areas where Hwami decided to lean into abstraction. Further reading in Art. Jordan Taliha McDonald.
Oct 13, Aindrea Emelife.Looking for an artsy woman
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