Black American Portraits : From The Los Angeles County Museum Of Art by Unknown author

Black American Portraits : From The Los Angeles County Museum Of Art by Unknown author

A celebratory visual chronicle, Black American Portraits, spans more than two centuries to showcase the varied ways in which Black Americans have used portraiture to envision themselves. This book, which accompanies the Remembering Two Centuries of Black American Art exhibition curated by David C. Driskell at LACMA 45 years ago, reframes the concept of portraiture by placing Black American subjects, sitters, and spaces at its center.

Featuring approximately 140 works from LACMA’s permanent collection, Black American Portraits highlights key moments in history, including emancipation, the Harlem Renaissance, the Civil Rights and Black Power eras, as well as the multiculturalism of the 1990s and the spirit of the Black Lives Matter movement.

Contrary to a visual culture that often devalues Blackness and exploits Black pain, the images in Black American Portraits celebrate love, abundance, family, community, and sheer exuberance. These powerful depictions of Black figures encompass a wide range of artistic mediums such as painting, drawing, prints, photography, sculpture, mixed media, and even time-based media.

This collection also features works by artists of various backgrounds who have shown a deep appreciation for and commitment to Black artists, communities, histories, and subjects. Notably, artists such as Alvin Baltrop, Edward Biberman, Bisa Butler, Jordan Casteel, Njideka Akunyili Crosby, Bruce Davidson, Stan Douglas, rafa esparza, Shepard Fairey, Charles Gaines, Sargent Claude Johnson, Deana Lawson, Kerry James Marshall, Alice Neel, Lorraine O’Grady, Catherine Opie, Amy Sherald, Ming Smith, Henry Taylor, Tourmaline, Mickalene Thomas, James Van Der Zee, Carrie Mae Weems, Charles White, Kehinde Wiley, and Deborah Willis are showcased within the pages of Black American Portraits.

Black American Portraits: Exploring Identity, History, and Culture

Today, we are taking a virtual trip to the Black American Portraits Exhibition at the Spelman College Museum of Fine Art in Atlanta. This exhibition, which originally premiered at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA) in 2021, offers a captivating glimpse into the rich history of Black American portraiture. Co-curated by Liz Andrews and Christine Y Kim, the exhibition features a diverse collection of 120 works spanning over two centuries.

Envisioning Black American Identity

Black American Portraits highlights the ways in which Black Americans have used portraiture to express their identities and celebrate their lives. The exhibition focuses on themes of love, abundance, family, community, and exuberance. It presents a compelling narrative that centers Black women portrait artists, showcasing their talents and perspectives.

The exhibition showcases a wide range of mediums, including painting, drawing, prints, photography, sculpture, mixed media, and time-based media. Each artwork tells a unique story, capturing the essence and experiences of Black American subjects, sitters, and spaces.

A Journey Through Artistic Visions

One standout piece in Spelman’s permanent collection is Khalida Rawls’ breathtaking portrait, entitled “Thy Name We Praise.” Rawls masterfully merges hyperrealism with poetic abstraction, using water as a symbol of physical and spiritual healing, as well as historical trauma and racial exclusion. Another remarkable artwork is Amy Cheryl’s compelling portraits, which challenge perceptions of Black identity through vibrant colors, distinctive forms, and grayscale skin tones.

Roberts creates mixed media collages that delve into themes of race, identity, gender politics, and ideal beauty, specifically focusing on black children. Her powerful compositions challenge conventional standards of beauty and encourage viewers to question preconceived notions.

Richard Wyatt Jr, an influential artist in the Los Angeles art scene, brings his intriguing drawings, paintings, and installations to the exhibition. With a strong emphasis on history and culture, Wyatt’s works invite contemplation and reflection.

Castile, a former Artisan Residence at the Studio Museum in Harlem, presents large oil portraits that capture the essence of her community, including the streets of Harlem and New York City. Her artwork confronts traditional notions of gender and race in portraiture, aiming to give voice and visibility to those who are often overlooked.

Sam Doyle’s colorful paintings serve as an important record of the history and people of Saint Helena’s Gullah Community. Often created using house paint on sheet metal and wood, Doyle’s art reflects his deep connections to his roots. His artworks have a permanent place in several prominent museums.

Photographer Deana Lawson’s precise and meticulously staged photographs capture the essence of Black culture. She works closely with her subjects, utilizing symbols and careful arrangements to create powerful images that showcase the beauty and diversity of Black individuals.

Hindi Wiley’s commanding portrait of President Barack Obama, as well as his other captivating figures, explores the power of 90s hip-hop culture in New York. With patterned backgrounds competing for attention, Wiley’s art reinforces the notion that every element in a portrait has its own significance and voice.

Lastly, we find a poignant tribute to the late Kobe Bryant by Fulton Leroy Washington, known as “Wash.” Washington, who taught himself to paint while serving a life sentence for a non-violent drug offense, channels his emotions into art. His tribute to Bryant serves as a testament to the healing power of artistic expression.

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