Artists Kehinde Wiley and Amy Sherald to Paint Portraits of Barack and Michelle Obama for Smithsonian

Barack Obama and Michelle Obama (photo via artnews.com)

by  via artnews.com

The National Portrait Gallery in Washington, D.C. has commissioned Kehinde Wiley and Amy Sherald to paint Barack and Michelle Obama’s portraits, respectively, the Wall Street Journal reports. Both portraits will be unveiled next year when they are added to the museum’s collection.

Wiley is known for Old Masters–style portraits of contemporary black sitters. He has occasionally discussed the positive impact Barack Obama’s presidency had on artists creating images of non-white sitters. “The reality of Barack Obama being the president of the United States—quite possibly the most powerful nation in the world—means that the image of power is completely new for an entire generation of not only black American kids, but every population group in this nation,” he told BBC News in 2012.

The Baltimore-based Amy Sherald, who paints minimalist pictures of black Americans is less well-known than Wiley. She has had two shows with Monique Meloche Gallery, and next year will have a solo exhibition at the Contemporary Art Museum St. Louis.

Source: Kehinde Wiley and Amy Sherald to Paint Portraits of Barack and Michelle Obama | ARTnews

Njideka Akunyili Crosby, Dawoud Bey, Rhiannon Giddens, Nikole Hannah-Jones, Tyshawn Sorey and Jesmyn Ward Receive 2017 MacArthur “Genius” Grants

2017 MacArthur Fellowship Recipients Dawoud Bey, Rhiannon Giddens, Njideka Akunyili Crosby, Nikole Hannah-Jones, Tyshawn Sorey and Jesmyn Ward (Photo collage via blavity.com)

via blavity.com

The John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation has announced the winners of this year’s fellowship, better known as the “genius” grant. 24 fellows were chosen, whose professions range immensely across the board. There are historians and musicians, computer scientists and social activists, writers, and architects.

What they all have in common is that each of the recipients has been selected for having “shown extraordinary originality and dedication in their creative pursuits and a marked capacity for self-direction” — and each will receive a $625,000 award from the foundation “as an investment in their potential,” paid out over five years with no strings attached. This year, there were six black recipients of the amazing award:

1. Njideka Akunyili Crosby, 34, painter living in Los Angeles

“Njideka Akunyili Crosby is visualizing the complexities of globalization and transnational identity in works that layer paint, photographic imagery, prints, and collage elements.”

2.  Dawoud Bey, 63, photographer and educator living in Chicago

“Dawoud Bey is using an expansive approach that creates new spaces of engagement within cultural institutions, making them more meaningful to and representative of the communities in which they are situated.” Continue reading

National Museum of Women in the Arts in D.C. to Host “Magnetic Fields” Exhibition on October 13; 1st in U.S. of Abstract Art by Intergenerational Black Women Artists

Mildred Thompson, Magnetic Fields, 1991; Oil on canvas, triptych, 70 1/2 x 150 in.; Courtesy of the Mildred Thompson Estate, Atlanta, Georgia

by Lori Lakin Hutcherson (@lakinhutcherson)

A landmark exhibition of abstract paintings, sculptures and works on paper by 21 black women artists will be on view at the National Museum of Women in the Arts (NMWA) from Oct. 13, 2017–Jan. 21, 2018. Magnetic Fields: Expanding American Abstraction, 1960s to Today places the visual vocabularies of these artists in context with one another and within the larger history of abstraction. This exhibition celebrates those under-recognized artists who have been marginalized, and argues for their continuing contribution to the history and iconography of abstraction in the United States. Magnetic Fields is the first exhibition dedicated exclusively to the formal and historical dialogue of abstraction by black women artists.

Chakaia Booker, El Gato, 2001; Rubber tire and wood, 48 x 42 x 42 in.; Collection of the Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art, Bebe and Crosby Kemper Collection,; (Photo by E. G. Schempf)

From the brilliant colors and energetic brushwork of Alma Woodsey Thomas’s paintings to shredded tire sculptures by Chakaia Booker, works featured in this exhibition testify to the enduring ability of abstraction to convey both personal iconography and universal themes. The exhibition underscores the diversity of abstract art, which lies in its material construction and conceptual underpinnings, as well as in its practitioners.

Magnetic Fields features a range of works, including early and later career examples, several exhibited for the first time, and the long-awaited reappearance of iconic works such as Mavis Pusey’s large-scale painting Dejyqea (1970), featured in the Whitney Museum of American Art’s landmark 1971 exhibition Contemporary Black Artists in America.

“By highlighting each artist’s individual approach to materials, composition, color and content, Magnetic Fields creates a context for a lively and visual conversation among these artists,” said NMWA Director Susan Fisher Sterling. “The project also vigorously expands the art-historical narrative on post-war American abstract art. This exhibition shifts our attention to key practitioners who have not received their due, fostering a deeper appreciation of their accomplishments and asserting a new parity of value for their work.”

Magnetic Fields also pays tribute to the lived experience of each of the featured artists who have come individually to pursue abstraction, disrupting the presumption that only figurative works can convey personal experience. Collectively, work by the select group of prolific creators, born between 1891 and 1981, represents a range of approaches rooted in Abstract Expressionism, Color Field painting and Minimalism, with emphasis on process, materiality, innovation and experimentation. The artists in the exhibition are:

  • Alma Woodsey Thomas, Orion, 1973; Acrylic on canvas, 59 3/4 x 54 in.; Courtesy of the National Museum of Women in the Arts, Gift of Wallace and Wilhelmina Holladay (Photo by Lee Stalsworth)

    Candida Alvarez (b. 1955)

  • Chakaia Booker (b. 1953)
  • Betty Blayton (b. 1937, d. 2016)
  • Lilian Thomas Burwell (b. 1927)
  • Nanette Carter (b. 1954)
  • Barbara Chase-Riboud (b. 1939)
  • Deborah Dancy (b. 1949)
  • Abigail DeVille (b. 1981)
  • Maren Hassinger (b. 1947)
  • Jennie C. Jones (b. 1968)
  • Evangeline “EJ” Montgomery (b. 1930)
  • Mary Lovelace O’Neal (b. 1942)
  • Howardena Pindell (b. 1943)
  • Mavis Pusey (b. 1928)
  • Shinique Smith (b. 1971)
  • Gilda Snowden (b. 1954, d. 2014)
  • Sylvia Snowden (b. 1942)
  • Kianja Strobert (b. 1980)
  • Alma Woodsey Thomas (b. 1891, d. 1978)
  • Mildred Thompson (b. 1936, d. 2003)
  • Brenna Youngblood (b. 1979)

“As curators, we are honored to present this incredible, intergenerational group of artists,” stated co-curators Erin Dziedzic and Melissa Messina. “This exhibition is intended to be a platform to further their visibility, as well as to generate more inclusive conversations about the history of American abstraction that consider the accomplishments and contributions of women artists of color going forward.” Continue reading

Northwestern Professor and Poet Natasha Trethewey Wins the $250,000 Heinz Award in Arts and Humanities

Natasha Trethewey (photo via creativeloafing.com)

via jbhe.com

Natasha Trethewey, the Board of Trustees Professor of English at Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois, has been selected to receive the Heinz Award in the Arts and Humanities. The award comes with an unrestricted $250,000 prize. Teresa Heinz, chair of the Heinz Family Foundation, stated that Professor Trethewey’s “writing captivates us with its power and its ability to personalize and fearlessly illuminate stories of our past as a people and a nation. We honor her not only for her body of work, but for her contributions as a teacher and mentor dedicated to inspiring the next generation of writers.”

Professor Trethewey is the author of the Pulitzer Prize-winning poetry collection, Native Guard (Houghton Mifflin, 2006) and three other poetry collections. She is also the author of Beyond Katrina: A Meditation on the Mississippi Gulf Coast (University of Georgia Press, 2010). Professor Trethewey served two terms as poet laureate of the United States. A native of Gulfport, Mississippi, Professor Trethewey is a graduate of the University of Georgia. She holds a master’s degree from Hollins University in Roanoke, Virginia, and a master of fine arts degree from the University of Massachusetts at Amherst.

Professor Trethewey will be honored with three other Heinz Award winners at a ceremony in Pittsburgh on October 18.

Source: Natasha Trethewey Wins the $250,000 Heinz Award in Arts and Humanities : The Journal of Blacks in Higher Education

‘Orange Is The New Black’ Character Poussey Washington Honored by Netflix With Commissioned Fan Art

(collage via eurweb.com)

article via eurweb.com

Netflix is celebrating “Orange is the New Black’s” dearly departed Poussey Washington with a series of portraits created by fans from around the world. Eight artists were chosen by the streaming service to create the pieces, and each were to include the slogan “Stand Up.” They’ll be unveiled in eight cities before the show’s June 9th season premiere: New York, Los Angeles, Toronto, Melbourne, Sydney, Chicago, Detroit and San Francisco.

“I want to do the character justice and do the show justice because I think they have so many strong messages that are really relevant today,” said Detroit-based artist Michelle Tanguay, who created the above portrait. Tanguay told the AP that she cried while watching Poussey die at the hands of a white prison guard. “I’m a huge, huge fan of the show. I actually watch it while I paint.”

Tanguay said Netflix gave her free reign to do whatever she wanted with the piece, as long as she showed the character and used the show’s hashtag and slogan. Her hand-painted portrait (in black, blue and white) is 24-by-25 feet, and stands on a brick wall at the corner of Detroit’s Broadway Street and Grand River Avenue. “I viewed this project as paying tribute to the character,” Tanguay added. “I wanted to make it very positive and that’s why I chose the bright colors, the bright blues, to just do her justice.. I just wanted to be able to see her again… To see an African-American woman on the wall in Detroit, blown up huge, with the words ‘Stand Up’ — it’s just so empowering and that’s what I wanted everyone to feel when they see the mural.”

Samira Wiley, the actress who played Poussey, says she is honored by the portraits. “I think it’s our responsibility as artists to be able to reflect the time that we’re living in… she’s a fictional character that can elicit real change in thought and action from people.”

To read more, go to: Netflix Honors ‘OITNB’ Character Poussey Washington With Commissioned Fan Art | EURweb

ART: Kerry James Marshall’s Masterful “Mastry” Exhibit Opens Sunday at the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles

Works from Kerry James Marshall’s “Mastry” exhibition (collage by Maeve Richardson)

by Callie Teitelbaum

The “Mastry” Gallery, created by African-American artist Kerry James Marshall, walks you through Marshall’s journey of making it as a fine artist – a field dominated by whites for centuries.  Marshall was born in Alabama in 1955, and as a child was a part of the last wave of The Great Migration to the west, a region still full of promise and opportunity. Marshall’s family settled in South Central Los Angeles and while growing up in Watts, Marshall pursued art and was an active participant in the movement that encouraged an increase of black artists in the art community.  All of Marshall’s work contributed to his mission to prove that art by blacks was just as challenging and beautiful as the white art which was typically celebrated.

The exhibit shows Marshall’s earlier works such as “The Invisible Man,” which is a collection of small scale portraits of people using the darkest shades of black, emphasizing Marshall’s idea that black people in society blend into the background.  The exhibition displays how Marshall’s work developed, and include many of his large scale paintings.

Marshall changed the style of his work because he realized that a big statement called for a grander canvas.  A large three-piece work called “Heirlooms and Accessories,” appears to be a necklace with a woman’s face in it at first glance.  However, once one’s eyes adjust to the painting, fine lines start to become more distinct, and it is clear that there is a lynching occurring in the background.  The faces in the painting are witnesses at the lynching, and the expressions of indifference are utterly shocking. While “Heirlooms and Accessories” seem to be referring to the necklaces, accessories serves as a double meaning because it also refers to those who were accessories to murder.  This is a prime example of the depth and meaning behind each of Marshall’s work.

“Harriet Tubman” by Kerry James Marshall

All of the paintings reflect Marshall’s commentary on black identity in the U.S. and in traditional western art.  In his piece “Harriet Tubman,” Marshall paints an image of Harriet Tubman on her wedding day, with hands with white gloves essentially hanging this piece of art in a museum.  Marshall’s feeling that museums are responsible for the lack of black art is portrayed in this piece.  Museums typically hold the standard of what is beautiful and worthy, and Marshall makes the direct statement of what should be celebrated in this work.

The exhibition is especially engaging because of the varying emotions each work provokes.  While pieces such as “Slow Dance,” which illustrates two people peacefully dancing, provokes calmness and peace, other pieces express injustice and anger.  Marshall’s versatility and innate talent for art is clear as his work consists of completely different mediums and subjects.  The exhibition allows you to fully observe all of Marshall’s different forms of art and varying ideas, and is not limited to a specific time period or brand of art.

Marshall’s range of mediums and subjects include large to small scale, canvas paintings to comics, common people to historical figures, and glittery mediums to the blackest of paint.  This ability to effectively utilize different forms of art makes Marshall a unique artist, and a unique person who has learned to effectively communicate in a way people of all race, gender, and social class can understand.  Marshall’s works are visually stunning to say the least, and his success in spreading the meaning of his art and pursuing his career despite the circumstances of racial discrimination, is truly inspiring.

The Mastry exhibit opens on March 12 at the Museum Of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles and runs through July 3.

Black Female Artists Tackle The Dangerous Stereotypes That Have Never Defined Them

Mildred Howard, “I’ve Been a Witness to this Game IX,” color monoprint/digital on found paper with collage, 2016.

article by Priscilla Frank via huffingtonpost.com

The pop culture landscape is littered with lazy images of black women ― the nurturer, the hussy, the angry bitch. Hovering around the all-encompassing myth of the “strong black woman,” those paper-thin characterizations fail to represent real women in all their complexity and vulnerability.

Despite the monolithic representations that appear so often in TV series, advertisements, films and the imaginations of those who digest them, artists have long worked to provide images that speak to the depth and sweet fallibility of all human beings ― black women included.

An exhibition at the Alexandria Museum of Art, titled “Beyond Mammy, Jezebel, & Sapphire: Reclaiming Images of Black Women,” deconstructs the limiting categorizations mainstream culture allows black women. The artists on view reveal the shoddy nature of the stereotypes in favor of challenging, poetic and thorough visualizations of black culture ― the myth, the archetype, the self-portrait and beyond.

Characterizations commonly ascribed to black women in America are both historical and insidious. The Mammy ― a big-bosomed, jolly mother figure ― was written fictitiously into history to make slavery appear more humane. Her illusory existence suggested that there could, in fact, be such a thing as a happy slave. Today, the Mammy is often framed as a sexless, selfless nurturer.

Then there’s the Jezebel ― an overly sexualized, promiscuous black woman ― with a similarly atrocious origin story: her image was used to justify the sexual violence systematically inflicted upon black women in the antebellum South. Its influence persists to this day, making it more difficult for rape allegations by black women to be taken seriously.

And finally, the show addresses the image of Sapphire, named for the one-dimensional character on the radio and TV show “Amos ‘n’ Andy” ― an angry black woman. This cultural generalization, too, is a corollary of slavery and oppression. It calls back to a time when history overlooked the atrocities committed against black families and suggests instead that black women are inherently hostile, a foil to the delicate femininity of white women.
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