A photographer and self-proclaimed visual activist, Zanele Muholi explores black lesbian and gay identities and politics in contemporary South Africa. For their series “Faces and Phases” (2006-11), Muholi photographed more than 200 portraits of South Africa’s lesbian community. “The portraits are at once a visual statement and an archive,” they have said, “marking, mapping, and preserving an often invisible community for posterity.” Muholi’s sensitive portraits challenge the stigma surrounding gays and lesbians in South Africa, debunk the common rhetoric that homosexuality is un-African, and address the preponderance of hate crimes against homosexuals in their native country. Among other subjects, they have captured the survivors of “corrective rape”. In April 2012, thieves broke into Muholi’s Cape Town apartment and stole over 20 hard drives holding years of photographic documentation, suggesting the continued controversy and sensitivity surrounding the issues that Muholi’s works confront.
Photo credit: https://twitter.com/muholizanele
Yinka Shonibare MBE is a British-Nigerian contemporary artist known for his sculptural installations that explore issues of Post-colonialism. Utilizing Dutch wax-printed fabrics in his work, Shonibare produces dresses, grounds for paintings, and elaborate sculptures, as see in his The Swing (after Fragonard) (2001), a take on Jean-Honoré Fragonard’s famed Rococo painting. For the artist the material signifies issues of commerce, race, and politics, as it was produced by Europeans to be sold in Indonesia as a native style and subsequently became popular in West African countries. “My work addresses the idea of having this fusion or hybrid cultural identity and what that produces,” he explained. “People always want to categorize things: I’m much more interested in this idea of a hybrid.” Born on February 10, 1962 in London, United Kingdom, he grew up in Lagos, Nigeria, but returned to England throughout his childhood. At 17, Shonibare fell ill with transverse myelitis, an inflammation of the spinal cord that left him paralyzed in half his body. Despite this disability, the artist attended Byam Shaw College of Art in London and later received his MFA from Goldsmiths in 1991. In 2005, he was appointed a Member of the Order of the British Empire, or MBE, a moniker he continues to officially attach to his name. Shonibare continues to live and work in London, United Kingdom. Today, his works are held in the collections of the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C., the Victoria and Albert Museum in London, and the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis, among others.
Photo credit: Sophie Laslett Eyevine / Redux
Wangechi Mutu is a contemporary Kenyan artist noted for her work conflating gender, race, art history, and personal identity. Creating complex collages, videos, sculptures, and performances, Mutu’s work features recurring mysterious leitmotifs such as masked women and snake-like tendrils. Her pastiche-like practice combines a variety of source material and textures to explore consumerism and excess: for a 2005 work titled Cancer of the Uterus, Mutu employed a medical pathology diagram, facial features cut from a magazine, fur, and a heavy application of black glitter to create an eerily distorted face. The almost science fiction-like nature of her imagery has placed her work within the realm of Afrofuturism, and her practice is often discussed as providing an alternate course of history for people of African descent. Deeply concerned with Western commercialism, Mutu has explained that “a lot of my work reflects the incredible influence that America has had on contemporary African culture. Some of it’s insidious, some of it’s innocuous, some of it’s invisible. It’s there.” Born on June 22, 1972 in Nairobi, Kenya, she received her BFA from Cooper Union in 1996, and subsequently her MFA in sculpture from Yale University in 2000. Her work has been exhibited worldwide, including a major retrospective that opened in the Nasher Museum of Art in North Carolina in 2013, and traveled globally. The artist lives and works in Brooklyn, NY.
Photo credit: Jennifer Trahan
Artist Virginia Chihota works with drawing, printing, and silkscreen to evocatively portray the often marginalized bodies of African women. Chihota lived in Tripoli for several years and now works and lives between Tunisia, Austria, and Zimbabwe, which she represented at the 55th Venice Biennial. Her personal experiences living in Africa inform her work’s haunting and introspective contemplations of death, fertility, and isolation. Through rich, fluid color that appears to float atop the barren white page, Chihota captures the personal suffering that results from the political and social upheavals she witnesses in her home continent. Ultimately, Chihota hopes that her art will, in her own words, “nurture the love and respect which seems to have been frozen amongst ourselves.”
Photo credit: https://prabook.com/web/virginia.chihota/3755479
Tschabalala Self builds a singular style from the syncretic use of both painting and printmaking to explore ideas about the black female body. The artist constructs exaggerated depictions of female bodies using a combination of sewn, printed, and painted materials, traversing different artistic and craft traditions. The exaggerated biological characteristics of her figures reflect Self’s own experiences and cultural attitudes toward race and gender. “The fantasies and attitudes surrounding the Black female body are both accepted and rejected within my practice, and through this disorientation, new possibilities arise,” Self has said. “I am attempting to provide alternative, and perhaps fictional, explanations for the voyeuristic tendencies towards the gendered and racialized body; a body which is both exalted and abject.”
Photo credit: Lauren Spinelli
Through black ballpoint pen ink, Toyin Ojih Odutola’s drawings question physical and sociopolitical identities as they pertain to skin color. Treating skin as topography, she layers ink as a means of mapping a person’s subjective, individual geography built from real-life experiences. Her interest in surface qualities stems from the history of African textiles, which inspires the artist’s rich textures on flat planes. Concerned with historical representations of black subjects in portraiture, Toyin Ojih Odutola undermines notions of blackness in her drawings by exploring what it means to look or be perceived as black, as, while drawn in black ink, not all of her subjects are of African descent. More recently, Toyin Ojih Odutola has begun to look beyond pen ink, working with charcoal and pastels to reflect the cultural diversity and ambition of American cities.
Photo credit: Beth Wilkinson
Theaster Gates lives and works in Chicago. Gates creates work that focuses on space theory and land development, sculpture and performance. Drawing on his interest and training in urban planning and preservation, Gates redeems spaces that have been left behind. Known for his recirculation of art-world capital, Gates creates work that focuses on the possibility of the “life within things.” Gates smartly upturns art values, land values, and human values. In all aspects of his work, he contends with the notion of Black space as a formal exercise – one defined by collective desire, artistic agency, and the tactics of a pragmatist. Gates has exhibited and performed at Palais de Tokyo, Paris, France; Sprengel Museum Hannover, Germany (2018); Kunstmuseum Basel, Switzerland (2018); National Gallery of Art, Washington D.C., USA (2017); Art Gallery of Ontario, Canada (2016); Fondazione Prada, Milan, Italy (2016); Whitechapel Gallery, London, UK (2013); Punta della Dogana, Venice, Italy (2013) and dOCUMENTA (13), Kassel, Germany (2012). He was the winner of the Artes Mundi 6 prize and was a recipient of the Légion d’Honneur in 2017. He was awarded the Nasher Prize for Sculpture 2018, as well as the Urban Land Institute, J.C. Nichols Prize for Visionaries in Urban Development. Gates is a professor at the University of Chicago in the Department of Visual Arts and the College. Gates also serves as the Senior Advisor for Cultural Innovation and Advisor to the Dean. Gates is Director of Artists Initiatives at the Lunder Institute for American Art at Colby College Museum of Art and the 2018/2019 Artist-in-Residence at the Getty Research Institute (GRI).
Photo credit: Rankin
Taiye Idahor was born and grew up in Lagos Nigeria. She studied Fine Art at the Yaba College of technology Lagos Nigeria where she graduated in 2007 with a Higher National Diploma (HND) in sculpture. In the last six years Taiye Idahor has worked consistently and significantly within the concepts of identity and women using “hair” as a visual language in her work. Tangled through the issues of trade, beauty, the environment and globalisation, she examines how these factors build the woman’s identity including hers in today’s Africa but in particular Lagos Nigeria where she has lived most of her life. The essence of her work may lie more within the process of creating the work than in their finished state. Idahor uses collage, drawing, sculpture and mixed media to contemplate these ideas through the lens of memory, culture and modernity. She seeks to explore the contradictions found with women, culture, modernity and power in today’s Africa, hence she uses objects, materials and forms that reference the African identity. Her work embodies an absence through the voids and the empty spaces apparent in her collages but they only express the artist’s constant questioning on the issues she is exploring while leaving room for the audience to also contemplate them. Her frequent use of female faces even of her own is a direct confrontation to the issues surrounding women in Nigeria, their daily struggle with culture and tradition. In 2014 she had her first solo exhibition titled “Hairvolution” and it has now defined most of the work she makes till date. Her work is included in the collections of the Zeitz MOCAA South Africa, Brooklyn Museum New York, Princeton University Art Museum and Davis museum, Wellesley college Massachusetts.
Photo credit: http://www.taiyeidahor.com/biography/
For more than a decade, multimedia artist Shinique Smith has employed clothing, textiles and objects—items that exist in the realm of what we call belongings—to construct sculptures, paintings, and site-specific installations. Examining the ways in which these objects resonate on a personal and social scale, Smith’s works operate at the convergence of consumption, displacement, and sanctuary. In Smith’s hands, these works reveal connections across space, time, and place to suggest the possibility of constructing worlds renewed by hopeful delight. Born in Baltimore, MD, currently residing in Los Angeles, California, Smith’s art works have been exhibited by and are in the permanent collections of institutions such as, Baltimore Museum of Art, The Barnes Museum, Brooklyn Museum of Art, Bronx Museum, Contemporary Art Center, New Orleans; Denver Art Museum, The Frist Center for Visual Arts, Kemper Museum, Madison Museum of Contemporary Art, Minneapolis Art Institute, MOCA Jacksonville, MOCA North Miami, MOMA PS1, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston; The National Portrait Gallery, Washington, DC, The New Museum, The Studio Museum of Harlem and The Whitney Museum among others.
Photo credit: Keith Bedford
Senzeni Marasela is a cross-disciplinary artist who explores photography, video, prints, and mixed-medium installations involving textiles and embroidery. Her work deals with history, memory, and personal narrative, emphasizing historical gaps and overlooked figures. Senzeni graduated from the University of Witswatersrand, Johannesburg, in 1998, and shortly thereafter completed a residency at the South African National Gallery, culminating in her work for the Gallery’s Fresh exhibition series. Senzeni Marasela’s work in media which includes embroidery, print and video as well as performance has been widely exhibited in South Africa, Europe and the US. Her work features in prominent local and international collections, including MoMA, New York. She was recently part of the Johannesburg Pavillion at the last Venice Biennale. “Born in Thokoza, South Africa, Marasela studied at the University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, where she obtained a BA Fine Arts in 1998. In 2003 she started a project titled Theodorah comes to Johannesburg, a durational performance based on her mother Theodorah’s stories about travels from the rural area of Mvenyane to Johannesburg, a journey of 11 hours. Like many young black women in the city, her mother was traumatised by events that took place in apartheid South Africa during the 1960s. Many black women returned to live in the countryside and many more were forced to undertake journeys into strangeness.
Photo credit: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Senzeni_Marasela
Sanford Biggers’ work is an interplay of narrative, perspective and history that speaks to current social, political and economic happenings while also examining the contexts that bore them. His diverse practice positions him as a collaborator with the past through explorations of often overlooked cultural and political narratives from American history. Working with antique quilts that echo rumors of their use as signposts on the Underground Railroad, he engages these legends and contributes to this narrative by drawing and painting directly onto them. In response to ongoing occurrences of police brutality against Black Americans, Biggers’ BAM series is composed of bronze sculptures recast from fragments of wooden African statues that have been anonymized through dipping in wax and then ballistically ‘resculpted’. Following a residency as a 2017 American Academy Fellow in Rome, the artist recently began working in marble. Drawing on and playing with the tradition of working in this medium, Biggers creates hybridized forms that transpose, combine and juxtapose classical and historical subjects to create alternative meanings and produce what he calls “future ethnographies”. As creative director and keyboardist, he fronts Moon Medicin, a multimedia concept band that straddles visual art and music with performances staged against a backdrop of curated sound effects and video. Moon Medicin performed at Open Spaces Kansas City in October 2018 and at the Kennedy Center in Washington D.C. in 2019. Sanford Biggers (b. 1970) was raised in Los Angeles and currently lives and works in New York City. He was awarded the 2017 Rome Prize in Visual Arts. He has had solo exhibitions at the Contemporary Art Museum St. Louis (2018), the Museum of Contemporary Art Detroit (2016), the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art (2012) and the Brooklyn Museum (2011), among others. His work has been shown in several institutional group exhibitions including at the Menil Collection (2008) and the Tate Modern (2007), and also recent exhibitions at the Metropolitan Museum of Art (2017) and the Barnes Foundation (2017). Biggers’ work is held in the permanent collections of the Museum of Modern Art, New York; the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; the Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago; the Walker Center, Minneapolis; the National Museum of African American History and Culture, Washington D.C.; the Dallas Museum of Art, Dallas; and the Legacy Museum, Montgomery, among others.
Photo credit: https://www.ted.com/speakers/sanford_biggers
First rising to prominence in 1992 after his inclusion in Saatchi Gallery’s Out of Africa show, Benin-born mixed media artist Romuald Hazoumè has become celebrated for his found-object installations and “mask” works. Slavery, racism and colonization are frequent themes in his practice, which incorporate found materials such as plastic gas containers, rubber tubing, and other discarded items such as toilet brushes, high heeled shoes, and rusty spoons. Hazoumè’s most iconic pieces are his mask works, which recreate African faces with these discarded materials. Photography is also a major element in Hazoumè’s practice, capturing the black market fuel-transportation system known as Kpayo, in which Beninese men are forced to ferry contraband petrol from Nigeria precariously balanced on motorbikes. His installation works often feature stacks of these plastic petrol containers. Displayed at the The British Museum in London for the bicentenary of the abolition of the British slave trade, Hazoumè’s La Bouche du Roi (2007) consists of 304 petrol can masks arranged in the shape of a slave ship. Hazoumè’s work has been widely shown in many of the major galleries and museums including the British Museum, London, the Guggenheim, Bilbao, the Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris, ICP, New York, and the Victoria &Albert Museum, London. His 2009 show, “Made in Porto-Novo” received international acclaim, solidifying Hazoumè’s position as one of the most important African contemporary artists working today. Hazoumè recived the 2007 Arnold Bodé Prize at documenta 12 in Kassel, Germany.
Photo credit: Jean-Dominique-Burton
Rashid Johnson is an African-American Conceptual artist often hailed as a standard bearer for post-black art. Working in sculpture and photography, the artist employs vernacular yet culturally loaded objects, including shea butter, funk albums, and space rocks, to create works like Cosmic Slop (2011). “When I was younger, I would see shea butter being sold on the street, and I was interested in how people were still coating themselves in the theater of Africanism,” Johnson said. “You see that in dashikis and hairstyles and music.” Born in 1977 in Chicago, IL, he grew up in an Afrocentric family which influenced many of his ideas about identity. After earning a BFA from Columbia College Chicago in 2000, he went on to receive an MFA from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. Johnson first rose to prominence at the age of 21, when he participated in the seminal group exhibition “Freestyle” at the Studio Museum in Harlem. He has since been the subject of solo exhibitions at Hauser & Wirth in New York and the Kemper Art Museum in St. Louis. Today the artist’s works can be found among the collections of the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York, the Museum of Contemporary Art in Chicago, and the High Museum of Art in Atlanta. Johnson currently lives and works in Brooklyn, NY
Photo credit: Sim Canetty-Clarke (courtesy Hauser & Wirth)
Meleko Mokgosi (born in Francistown, Botswana; lives and works in New York, NY) is an artist, Associate Professor at the Yale School of Art, and co-director of the Interdisciplinary Art and Theory Program (https://www.artandtheoryprogram.org). He received his BA from Williams College in 2007 and participated in the Whitney Museum of American Art’s Independent Study program from 2007-2008. Mokgosi received his MFA from the Interdisciplinary Studio Program at the University of California Los Angeles in 2011. He participated in the Rauschenberg Residency at the Robert Rauschenberg Foundation, Captiva, FL in 2015 and the Artist in Residence Program at the Studio Museum in Harlem, New York, NY in 2012. By working across history painting, cinematic tropes, psychoanalysis, and post-colonial theory, Mokgosi creates large-scale project-based installations that interrogate narrative tropes and the fundamental models for the inscription and transmission of history. In 2018 he co-founded the Interdisciplinary Art and Theory Program in New York City. Solo exhibitions of his work have been organized at venues such as Jack Shainman Gallery, New York City; Stevenson Gallery, Cape Town and Johannesburg; Honor Fraser Gallery, Los Angeles; Perez Art Museum Miami (2020); The Smart Museum of Art (2019); University of Michigan Museum of Art (2019); Baltimore Museum of Art, Baltimore (2018); The Fowler Museum at UCLA (2018); Williams College Museum of Art, Williamstown (2017) Rochester Contemporary Art Center (2017); The University of Rochester’s Memorial Art Gallery (2017); and Institute of Contemporary Art, Boston (2015).
Photo credit: Paul Mpagi Sepuya
Lubaina Himid is the 2017 Turner Prize winner and Professor of Contemporary Art at the University of Central Lancashire. During the past 30 years she has exhibited widely, both in Britain and Internationally, with solo shows that include Tate St Ives, Transmission Glasgow, Chisenhale London, Peg Alston New York and St Jorgens Museum in Bergen, Lubaina represented Britain at the 5th Havana Biennale and has shown work at the Studio Museum in New York, Track 17 in Los Angeles, the Fine Art Academy in Vienna and the Grazer Kunstverein. Himid’s work can be found in public collections including Tate, the Victoria & Albert Museum, The Whitworth Art gallery, Arts Council England, Manchester Art Gallery, The International Slavery Museum Liverpool, The Walker Art Gallery, Birmingham City Art Gallery, Bolton Art Gallery, New Hall Cambridge and the Harris Museum and Art Gallery Preston.
Photo credit: Edmund Blok for Modern Art Oxford
Wa Lehulere was born in 1984 in Cape Town, and lives there. He has a BA Fine Arts degree from the University of the Witwatersrand (2011). The artist presented Laying bare: Studio process at the museum at Zeitz MOCAA, in which he occupied the institution as a live working space. His installation, I cut my skin to liberate the splinter was recently shown at the Tate Modern, London (2019). Previous solo exhibitions have taken place at Pasquart Art Centre, Biel (2018); MAXXI, Rome (2017); Deutsche Bank KunstHalle (2017); the Art Institute of Chicago (2016); Gasworks, London (2015); Lombard Freid Projects, New York (2013); the Goethe-Institut, Johannesburg (2011), and the Association of Visual Arts in Cape Town (2009), in addition to Stevenson (2018; 2016; 2015; 2012) and Marian Goodman Gallery (2018). Wa Lehulere featured in Ernest Mancoba: I Shall Dance in a Different Society at Center Pompidou, Paris (2019); notable group exhibitions include Beyond the Black Atlantic, Kunstverein Hannover, Germany (2020); May You Live in Interesting Times, the 58th Venice Biennale (2019); Leaving the Echo Chamber, the 14th Sharjah Biennale (2019); Hacer Noche, Oxaca, Mexico (2018); Sculpture at the Institute of Contemporary Art Indian Ocean (2018); O Triângulo Atlântico, 11th Mercosul Biennial (2018); The South African Pavilion without Walls, Performa 17, New York (2017); Art/ Afrique, le nouvel atelier at Fondation Louis Vuitton, Paris (2017); African Odysseys at Le Brass Cultural Centre of Forest,Belgium (2015); the 8th Berlin Biennale (2014); Public Intimacy: Art and Other Ordinary Acts in South Africa at the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, San Francisco (2014); The Ungovernables, the second triennial exhibition of the New Museum in New York (2012); A Terrible Beauty is Born, the 11th Lyon Biennale, France (2011), and When Your Lips Are My Ears, Our Bodies Become Radios at the Kunsthalle Bern and Zentrum Paul Klee in Bern, Switzerland (2010). Wa Lehulere was the winner of the inaugural Spier Contemporary Award in 2007, the MTN New Contemporaries Award in 2010, and the Tollman Award for the Visual Arts in 2012; he was one of two young artists awarded the 15th Baloise Art Prize at Art Basel in 2013, won the first International Tiberius Art Award Dresden in 2014 and was the Standard Bank Young Artist for Visual Arts in 2015. In 2017 he was Deutsche Bank’s ‘Artist of the Year’, the recipient of the fourth Malcolm McLaren Award and was shortlisted for the Future Generation Art Prize. Wa Lehulere was a co-founder of the Gugulective (2006), an artist-led collective based in Cape Town, and a founding member of the Center for Historical Reenactments in Johannesburg.
Photo credit: Paul Samuels
Ibrahim El-Salahi is a Sudanese painter recognized as the father of African and Arab Modernism. He combines painting and drawing often using motifs from African, Arab and Islamic art as well as Western references. He is a pioneer of Sudanese art and was a founding member of the movement known as Khartoum School. “I work on a new piece, and because I do not know what shape it is going to take, I add pieces.” The artist has said of his work. Born in 1930 in Omdurman, Sudan, He completed his degree at the Slade School of Art in London and then returned to Sudan. From the late 60’s to early 70’s El-Salahi worked for the Sudanese governments’ Ministry of Culture until he was accused of anti-government activities in 1975 and was then jailed for six months. After being released, El-Salahi went into exile and now lives and works in Oxford, England. In 2013, he was the subject of a major solo retrospective at the Tate Modern, the first devoted to an African born artist. In addition to his career as a painter he is widely regarded for his numerous critical essays and is the recipient of dozens of honors and fellowships. His work is included in the permanent collections of the Museum of Modern Art in New York, Metropolitan Museum in New York, The British Museum in London, The Smithsonian Institute in Washington DC, and many others.
Photo credit: Beth De Woody. Courtesy of Vigo Gallery.
Chris Ofili is a British contemporary painter, working in a vibrant palette and a variety of applied textures to examine both the contemporary and historical black experience. In intricately detailed works, Ofili deploys inventive figuration rendered in paint and collaged materials such as glitter, magazines cut-outs, and resin. Born on October 10, 1968 in Manchester, England, he went on to study at the Chelsea School of Art and the Royal College of Art in London. He received the prestigious Turner Prize for his work in 1998, cementing his status as one of the most influential members of the Young British Artists. Ofili is perhaps best known for the controversy created by his painting The Holy Virgin Mary (1996) which, when exhibited at the Brooklyn Museum as part of the seminal 1998 “Sensation” exhibition, sparked a series of protests. For its subject matter and its use of lacquered, glittered elephant dung as a material, then-Mayor Rudolph Giuliani dismissed the work as “sick,” and the painting was later vandalized—though it was successfully restored. Nevertheless, Ofili’s work has continued to be exhibited worldwide, notably back in New York with a critically acclaimed mid-career retrospective at the New Museum of Contemporary Art in 2014, “Chris Ofili: Night and Day.”
Photo credit: Grant Delin
Driven by a fascination with ancient mythologies and scientific theories, Sunstrum muses on the origins of time, geological concepts, and ideas about the universe. Her works on paper, large-scale installations, and stop-motion films are rooted in autobiography, addressing the development of transnational identities, human connections, and cross-border rituals. Having lived in Africa, Southeast Asia, and the United States, Sunstrum developed an alter-ego, Asme, to convey her unfixed, evolving selfhood. The image of Asme is often superimposed with overlapping gestures as a means of suggesting compounded time, illustrating her universal, atemporal existence. Sunstrum’s landscapes also expand on themes of timelessness; she reconstructs sites both real and imagined to reveal the small scale of individuals within the vast universe, a concept that is reminiscent of 18th-century notions of the sublime.
Photo credit: Laure Charrier
Using materials ranging from construction paper to gingerbread cookies, London-based artist Mary Evans takes imagery from popular culture and transforms it into “visual Esperanto”—universally understandable symbols about human experience. Her work is grounded in research on the relationship between contemporary Britain and its imperial past in Africa. Through sculptures and installation, Evans composes narratives based on her experience growing up in England and the difficulty of maintaining her African heritage. Each handcrafted artwork addresses the tenuous relationship between alienation and belonging, and examines how these feelings shape cultural identities.
Photo credit: http://www.mary-evans.com/image/17234
Lauren Halsey (b. 1987, Los Angeles) is rethinking the possibilities for art, architecture, and community engagement. She produces both standalone artworks and site-specific projects, particularly in the South Central neighborhood of Los Angeles where her family has lived for several generations. Combining found, fabricated, and handmade objects, Halsey’s work maintains a sense of civic urgency and free-flowing imagination, reflecting the lives of the people and places around her and addressing the crucial issues confronting people of color, queer populations, and the working class. Critiques of gentrification and disenfranchisement are accompanied by real-world proposals as well as celebration of on-the-ground aesthetics. Inspired by Afrofuturism and funk, as well as the signs and symbols that populate her local environments, Halsey creates a visionary form of culture that is at once radical and collaborative. Lauren Halsey was recently the subject of a solo exhibition at Fondation Louis Vuitton, Paris (2019). In 2020 she will open a solo show at David Kordansky Gallery. In 2018 Halsey was the subject of a solo exhibition at the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles (2018), and was included in Made In L.A. 2018, Hammer Museum, Los Angeles (2018), where she was awarded the Mohn Award for artistic excellence. A major public monument by the artist is currently in development for construction in South Central Los Angeles. Halsey lives and works in Los Angeles.
Photo credit: Columbine Goldsmith
Kara Walker is a contemporary African-American artist known for her exploration of race, stereotypes, gender, and identity throughout American history. She is best known for her large-scale tableaux of collaged silhouettes amidst black-and-white pastoral landscapes. Often filled with brutal and harrowing imagery, Walker provocatively illustrates the country’s origins of slavery in the antebellum South. “I didn’t want a completely passive viewer. Art means too much to me. To be able to articulate something visually is really an important thing,” the artist explained. “I wanted to make work where the viewer wouldn’t walk away; he would giggle nervously, get pulled into history, into fiction, into something totally demeaning and possibly very beautiful.” Born on November 26, 1969 in Stockton, CA, the artist received her BFA from Atlanta College of Art in 1991 and her MFA in painting and printmaking from the Rhode Island School of Design three years later. Success came just out of school, with Walker becoming one of the youngest recipients of the MacArthur Fellowship at age 28. Her Gone: An Historical Romance of a Civil War as It Occurred Between the Dusky Thighs of One Young Negress and Her Heart (1994) was an early example of the artist’s hallmark style. Influenced by Lorna Simpson and Adrian Piper, Walker continues to engage with feminism and ideals of beauty, as seen in her monumental sugar sculpture A Subtlety, or the Marvelous Sugar Baby (2014), which portrayed a black woman as a sphinx at the former Domino Sugar Factory in Brooklyn. She currently lives and works in New York, NY. Walker’s works are held in the collections of The Museum of Modern Art in New York, the Tate Gallery in London, the National Gallery in Washington, D.C., and the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis, among others.
Photo credit: Ari Marcopoulos. Courtesy of Sikkema Jenkins & Co.
Hank Willis Thomas (b. 1976, Plainfield, NJ; lives and works in Brooklyn, NY) is a conceptual artist working primarily with themes related to perspective, identity, commodity, media, and popular culture. His work has been exhibited throughout the United States and abroad including the International Center of Photography, New York; Guggenheim Museum Bilbao, Spain; Musée du quai Branly, Paris; Hong Kong Arts Centre, Hong Kong, and the Witte de With Center for Contemporary Art, Netherlands. Solo exhibitions of his work have been featured at Portland Art Museum, Portland, OR; Crystal Bridges Museum of Art, Bentonville, AK; SCAD Museum of Art, Savannah, GA; California African American Museum, Los Angeles, CA; Philadelphia Photo Arts Center, Philadelphia, PA; Cleveland Museum of Art, Cleveland, OH; The Art Museum at the University of Kentucky, Lexington, KY; The Aldrich Contemporary Art Museum, Ridgefield, CT; Corcoran Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.; Brooklyn Museum, Brooklyn, NY; Baltimore Museum of Art, Baltimore, MD; Nerman Museum of Contemporary Art, Kansas City, MO, and the African American Museum, Philadelphia, PA, among others. Major group exhibitions of his work include the 2017 inaugural show at Zeitz Museum of Contemporary Art Africa, Cape Town, South Africa; P.S. 1 Contemporary Art Center, New York, NY; The Studio Museum in Harlem, New York, NY; Zacheta National Museum of Art, Poland; Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, San Francisco, CA, and the 2006 California Biennial at the Orange County Museum of Art, Orange County, CA. Thomas’ work is included in numerous public collections including the Museum of Modern Art, New York, NY; Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York, NY; Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, NY; Brooklyn Museum, New York, NY; High Museum of Art, Atlanta, GA, and the National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C. His collaborative projects include Question Bridge: Black Males, In Search Of The Truth (The Truth Booth), The Writing on the Wall, and For Freedoms. In 2017, For Freedoms was awarded the ICP Infinity Award for New Media and Online Platform. Thomas is a recipient of the Gordon Parks Foundation Fellowship (2019), The Guggenheim Fellowship (2018), AIMIA | AGO Photography Prize (2017), Soros Equality Fellowship (2017), Aperture West Book Prize (2008), Renew Media Arts Fellowship from the Rockefeller Foundation (2007), and the New York Foundation for the Arts Fellowship Award (2006). He is also a member of the Public Design Commission for the City of New York. Thomas holds a B.F.A. from New York University, New York, NY (1998) and an M.A./M.F.A. from the California College of the Arts, San Francisco, CA (2004). He received honorary doctor
Photo credit: Andrea Blanch
Andrew Esiebo is a visual story telling who started out in photography by chronicling the rapid development of urban Nigeria as well as the country’s rich culture and heritage. As Andrew progressed with his career he started to explore new creative territory, integrating multimedia practice with the investigation of themes such as sexuality, gender politics, football, popular culture, migration, religion and spirituality. He is a Winner of the Visa Pour La Creation Prize of the Institut Francias, France. He is a winner of the Musee du Quai Branly Artistic creation prize. He has been nominated for the Prix Pictet, Magnium Emergency Fund, Sovereign African Art Prize and Joop Stewart masterclass and many others. In 2010, he was selected for the Road to twenty ten project to form an All-Africa Dream Team of 16 journalists / Photographers to provide alternative stories from the World Cup in South Africa. His work has been exhibited at the Sao Paulo biennial in Brazil, Dakart Biennial in Senegal, Biennale Cuvee, Linz, Austria, Photoquai biennial in France, Guangzhou Triennial in China, Chobi Mela V Photo Festival in Bangladesh, Noorderlitch Photo Festival in Netherlands, Bamako Photography biennial in Mali and the Lagos Photo Festival in Nigeria and among others. His works have been published in books, magazines and websites such as New York Times, Courrier International, Le Point, CNN African Voices, Washington Post Financial Times, guardian.co.uk, Marie Claire Italia, Le Monde-M Magazine, Time Out Nigeria, Mail & Guardian online, Laia Books, Geo-Lino, KIT and African style magazine Arise and Science Magazine.
Photo credit: www.biennaledakar.org
Rooted in his daily experiences and his upbringing in the remote town of Bakenberg, South Africa, Moshekwa Langa’s drawings, installations, sculptures, photographs, and videos reflect an anthropological approach to his own life and to his contemporary context. Through his work, he makes sense of himself and the world. His diverse output—including photographic portraits of the residents of Bakenberg; mixed-media drawings composed of text and image fragments; and installations of objects resonant with personal meaning—may be seen as a map of his emotions, memories, and experiences. As he describes: “For me it is interesting to work in that liminal space between losing consciousness of the real and falling into a fantastical wakefulness, of making sense of what is around me, and what I imagine [and] hope to be around me and what I wish to be away from me.”
Photo credit: Maurine Tric
Lynette Yiadom-Boakye is a contemporary British portrait painter and 2013 Turner Prize finalist. Yiadom-Boakye describes her work as being ahistorical, set amidst fictional scenes which are enhanced by the titles of each piece and cites artists like Chris Offili and Lisa Yuskavage as influences on her practice. Working in a loosely gestural style, she often depicts people of color set amidst muted backgrounds. As a black artist of Ghanian descent, Yiadom-Boakye has said that “race is something that I can completely manipulate or reinvent or use as I want to,” and notes that the material and historical aspects of paint as essential to her practice. “There’s something very particular to oil painting, especially. It’s just very dirty, it’s very messy; it doesn’t always do what you want it to do,” she has explained. “It’s fleshy and unpredictable—it has a kind of human quality to it.” Born in 1977 in London, United Kingdom, she studied at St. Martins School of Art and Design, Falmouth College of Art in Cornwall, and finally received her MA from the Royal Academy of Arts in 2003. Today, her works are in the collections of The Museum of Modern Art in New York, the Tate Gallery in London, the Museum of Contemporary Art in Chicago, and the National Museum of African Art at the Smithsonian Institute in Washington D.C. among others. Yiadom-Boakye lives and works in London, UK.
Photo credit: Corvi Mora
udzanai-Violet Hwami was born in Gutu, Zimbabwe in 1993, and lived in South Africa from the ages of 9 to 17. She currently lives and works in the UK. In 2016, the same year she graduated from Wimbledon College of Arts with a Bachelor of Fine Arts, she was awarded the Clyde & Co. Award and the Young Achiever of the Year Award at the Zimbabwean International Women’s Awards, as well as being shortlisted for Bloomberg New Contemporaries. In 2017, she mounted her first solo show, If you keep going South, you’ll meet yourself, at Tyburn Gallery, which was critically acclaimed by critics and the press. Hwami’s courageous and tender oil paintings reveal a deeply personal vision of Southern African life. Many of her paintings feature self-portraits and images of her immediate and extended family. Powerful nudes are another point of departure, boldly raising questions about the black body and its representation, as well as sexuality, gender and spirituality. Her influences include music, such as ZimHeavy & Afrobeats; literature, including the works of Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn and Carl Jung; and her own ongoing voyage of self-discovery. The artist’s vivid work raises issues surrounding diaspora, displacement and identity. Her process involves experimenting with photography and digitally collaged images, using these to create large works on paper or canvas with intensely pigmented oil paint, and often incorporating other media and techniques, such as silkscreen, pastel or charcoal. Recent group exhibitions include Les Ateliers de Rennes – Biennale d’Art Contemporain, curated by Céline Kopp and Étienne Bernard, Rennes, France (2018); Five Bhobh – Painting at the End of an Era, Zeitz MOCAA, Cape Town, South Africa (2018); Vos désirs sont les nôtres, Triangle France, Marseille, France (2018); Talisman in the Age of Difference, curated by Yinka Shonibare MBE, Stephen Friedman Gallery, London, UK (2018); Ladies by Ladies, Espace Art Absolument, Paris, France (2018); Afriques: artistes d’hier et d’aujourd’hui, Fondation Clément, Martinique (2018); and Discoloured Margins, National Gallery of Zimbabwe, Harare, Zimbabwe (2017).
Photo credit: Goodman Gallery
Kader Attia is a contemporary Algerian-French artist whose work draws from his experience living in two different cultures. As in his other works, Attia’s installation Ghost (2007), employs unconventional sculpture materials to symbolize how non-Western people create identities within European culture. “I try to trigger a political feeling in the viewer. My job is like all of us confronted with reality,” he has said. “What interests me is when a work poses a political question not only from a linguistic point of view, formal, but more from an ethical point of view.” Born on December 30, 1970 in Dugny, France, Attia spent his childhood living between the suburbs of Paris and in Algeria. He went on to study at the École Supérieure des Arts Appliqués Duperré and the École Nationale Supérieure des Arts Décoratifs in Paris. In the years that followed, the artist began probing the complex themes of identity and cultural history for which he is now known. He currently lives and works between Berlin, Germany and Algiers, Algeria. Today, Attia’s works are held in the collections of the Centre Georges Pompidou in Paris, the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in New York, and the Tate Gallery in London, among others.
Photo credit: Michael Danner
Godfried Donkor is a British-Ghanaian mixed-media artist interested in the socio-historical relationships of Africa and Europe. Born in Kumasi, Ghana in 1964, Donkor left at the age of eight, growing up between Spain and England before completing a BA in Fine Art at Central Saint Martins, London and an MA in African Art History at the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS), London. Donkor’s work is included in international collections such as: Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam; Smithsonian Museum of African Art – Washington D.C; Studio Museum, Harlem; Whitworth Art Gallery, Manchester; Spanish Sports Council Collection; National Collection of Senegal; University of Helsinki; and National Gallery of Botswana. Selected group and solo exhibitions include: David Adjaye: Making Memory, Design Museum, London (2019);The First Day of the Yam Custom: 1817, Gallery 1957, Accra (2017); Afriques Capitales, Parc de la Villiette, Paris (2017); and Still the Barbarians, EVA International Ireland’s Biennial, Limerick (2016). He lives and works across London, UK and Accra, Ghana.
Photo credit: Daniel Hambury/@stellapicsltd
Mohau Modisakeng was born in Soweto in 1986 and lives and works in Cape Town, South Africa. Modisakeng completed his undergraduate degree at the Michaelis School of Fine Art, Cape Town in 2009 and was awarded the Merrill Lynch Scholarship. He worked towards his Masters degree at the same institution, graduating in 2014. In 2016, Modisakeng was awarded the Standard Bank Young Artist Award for Visual Art, the foremost art award in Africa. He was also also awarded the SASOL New Signatures Award, Pretoria, South Africa for 2011. Modisakeng was a finalist in the MTN New Contemporaries Awards, Durban, South Africa, 2010 and in the same year granted the Spier Residency Award at the Gyeonggi Creation Center, South Korea. In 2013 he was visiting artist at San Francisco Art Institute, USA and participated in the 2011 IAAB International Artists Exchange Program in Basel, Switzerland. Solo presentations include: Lefa la Ntate, which travelled to six different locations across South Africa including IZIKO South African National Gallery in Cape Town and the National Arts Festival in Grahamstown (2016-17); Bophirima at Tyburn Gallery, London (2016); ENDABENI, Galerie Ron Mandos, Amsterdam, The Netherlands (2016); Mohau Modisakeng, Kunstraum Innsbruck, Innsbruck, Austria (2015); Mohau Modisakeng, Big Pond Artworks, Munich, Germany (2015); Mohau Modisakeng, Chavonnes Battery Museum in partnership with Zeitz MOCAA (2014-2015); Volta NY, New York, USA (2014) and Untitled, Pretoria Art Museum, Pretoria, South Africa (2012). In 2017, Modisakeng is part of a two-person exhibition for the South African Pavilion at the 57th Venice Biennale. Recently, he participated in What remains is tomorrow, curated by Christopher Till and Jeremy Rose for the South African Pavilion at 56th Venice Biennale (2015). He produced an ambitious new video work in association with Samsung as a special project for the 2013 FNB Joburg Art Fair and participated in the Biennale International d’Art Contemporain, Fort de France, Martinique (2013). He also showed his film To Move Mountains at the 62nd International Short Film Festival Oberhausen, Germany (2016). Group exhibitions include Performing Portraiture, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, Massachusetts, USA (2014); Brave New World…20 Years of Democracy, IZIKO South African National Gallery, Cape Town, South Africa (2014) and Out of Focus: Photography, Saatchi Gallery, London, United Kingdom (2012). His work is included in public collections such as the Johannesburg Art Gallery, IZIKO South African National Gallery (Cape Town), Saatchi Gallery (London), and Zeitz Museum of Contemporary Art Africa (Zeitz MOCAA).
Photo credit: Mohau Modisakeng
Lyle Ashton Harris has cultivated a diverse artistic practice ranging from photography and collage to installation and performance art. His work explores intersections between the personal and the political, examining the impact of ethnicity, gender, and desire on the contemporary social and cultural dynamic. Harris has been widely exhibited internationally, including most recently in “Photography’s Last Century” at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; in “Basquiat’s ‘Defacement’: The Untold Story’’ and “Implicit Tensions: Mapplethorpe Now” at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York; in “United by AIDS” at Migros Museum für Gegenwartskunst, Zurich; in “Kiss My Genders” at the Haywood Gallery, London; in “Tell Me Your Story” at Kunsthal KaDE, Amersfoort, NL; in “Elements of Vogue” at the Centro de Arte Dos de Mayo, Madrid (traveled to Museo Universitario del Chopo, Mexico City). Harris’s work was included in the 52nd Venice Biennale (2007), the Busan Biennial, South Korea (2008), the Bienal de São Paulo (2016), the Whitney Biennial (2017), and presented by Cinéma Du Réel at the Centre Pompidou, Paris (2018). Harris is represented in the permanent collections of The Museum of Modern Art (MoMA), New York; the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York; the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; The Studio Museum in Harlem, New York; the Hessel Museum of Art at Bard College, Annendale-on-Hudson, New York; the Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA), Los Angeles; the J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles; the Los Angeles County Museum of Art; the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston; Pérez Art Museum, Miami; the Walker Art Center, Minneapolis; the Tate Modern, London, UK; Museo de Arte Contemporáneo de Castilla y León, Spain; Migros Museum für Gegenwartskunst, Zurich, Switzerland, among others. Harris has also presented performances at a range of venues, most recently at Volksbühne Grüner Salon sponsored by KW Institute for Contemporary Art, Berlin (2019); a lecture/performance on Andy Warhol presented by the DIA Art Foundation, New York (2018); and an installation/performance at Participant Inc., New York (2018); and a lecture/performance on experimentation, politics and sexuality in the work of filmmaker Marlon T. Riggs at Griffin Art Projects, Vancouver BC, Canada (2020). Harris received a fellowship from the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation (2016), the David C. Driskell Prize from the High Museum of Art, Atlanta (2014), and the Rome Prize Fellowship (2000) among other awards and honors. Harris joined the Board of Trustees of the American Academy in Rome in 2014 and was appointed a trustee of the Tiffany Foundation in 2016. Born in the Bronx, New York, raised in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, and New York, Harris obtained a Bachelor of Arts degree from Wesleyan University, a Master of Fine Arts degree from the California Institute of the Arts, and attended the Whitney Museum of American Art Independent Study Program. His work is available from the following fine art galleries: Salon 94 (New York, NY, USA); David Castillo (Miami, FL, USA); Nancy Littlejohn Fine Art (Houston, TX, USA); Albert Merola Gallery (Provincetown, MA, USA); Maruani Mercier (Brussels, BE). Harris is a Professor of Art at New York University and lives in New York.
Photo credit: Alex Lockett
In sculpture, photography, video, and mixed media, Kori Newkirk transforms everyday images and objects—often drawn from African-American and pop culture—to explore issues of race, gender, and place, in what the artist calls “ghetto-fabulous conceptualism”. Newkirk came to the art world’s attention in 2001 with the life-size silhouette of a police surveillance helicopter, painted on the wall of the Studio Museum in Harlem in pungent hair pomade. Now he is best known for his signature curtains composed of plastic hair beads arranged to form the images of cityscapes and suburban landscapes. Drawing from his personal experience of identity politics growing up as a black man in upstate New York, Newkirk portrays himself in photos, paintings, and video works with the blurred face of a criminal suspect, or as an extra-terrestrial recently arrived on Planet Earth.
Photo credit: Hedi Slimane
Ifeoma U. Anyaeji is a Nigerian neo-traditional artist born in Benin City. Growing up in a society fueled by the dualities of excesses and repression, where art was yet to be accepted as a “decent” profession, Ifeoma decided to take-up art as a full-time career exploring her boundaries, as a female artist beyond the conventions of her initial academic training in painting. She later went on to pursue her earlier interest in sculpture and engaging further her passion for non-conventional art making and repurposing discarded objects, an interest stimulated by the constant environmental problems she encountered around her community particularly from non-biodegradable plastic bags and bottles which were in abundance. While experimenting with these environmental pollutants, engaging possible processes of object remaking and reuse especially with non-conventional art making techniques and traditional craft processes, Anyaeji developed a style of art she calls “Plasto-Art”. This is an eco-aesthetic process of remaking, where she transforms her primary medium – used non-biodegradable plastic bags and bottles – by applying her crafting skills in a receding traditional Nigerian hair plaiting technique called Threading, combined with traditional basketry and fabric weaving techniques. Using this technique, with an experimental approach to object-making that most often excludes anticipated conventions, Ifeoma creates very conceptually complex and organic sculptures and installations, with intricate textures and colours, that reference architectural forms, domestic spaces and furnishings, reiterations of cultural experiences, and discourses about the human body. And by spontaneously engaging the “old”, she questions the implications of modernity’s: consumptive systems of mass accumulation and waste generation, definitions of cultural assimilation and attitude to value, the expiration-date syndrome, and colonial orientations on beauty, authentic
Photo credit: Penn State
Ellen Gallagher is a contemporary American artist whose work often probes her biracial ethnicity through formal means. In the series Watery Ecstatic (2004), Gallagher examined the history of the West African slave trade and the myth of an aquatic world populated by the children of slaves dropped at sea on their way to the United States. “This idea of repetition and revision is central to my working process-this idea of stacking and layering and building up densities and recoveries,” she has explained. Born on December 16, 1965 in Providence, RI, she is of Cape Verdean and Caucasian descent. Gallagher went on to study at Oberlin College and later received her BFA from the School of the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston in 1992. The artist’s work is influenced from a variety of sources, including Agnes Martin’s paintings, African American-focused publications such as Ebony, and the writings of Gertrude Stein. Gallagher currently lives and works between New York, NY and Rotterdam, Netherlands. Today, the artist’s works are held in the collections of the Art Institute of Chicago, The Museum of Modern Art in New York, and the National Galleries of Scotland in Edinburgh, among others.
Photo credit: Philippe Vogelenzang