Paintings like the Mona Lisa (ca. 1503–19) have long stood time defining beauty and greatness. From Girl with a Pearl Earring (c. 1665) to The Birth of Venus (1480s) and Grande Odalisque (1814); all great, all none black. Black bodies have long lacked representation in the arts making artists like Lorna Williams critical in dismantling the status quo. Below we have compiled our picks of artists to watch out for AND support in 2021.
Lina Iris Viktor is a Liberian-British conceptual artist, painter, and performance artist. She lives and works itinerantly between New York and London. Her works are a merging of painting, sculpture, performance, and photography, along with the practice of water gilding with 24-karat gold to create increasingly dark canvases embedded with “layers of light”. Viktor regards these dark canvases to be “light-works”. Each provoke a philosophical commentary through material that at once addresses the infinite and the finite, immortality and mortality, the microcosm and macrocosm, in addition to the socio-political and historical preconceptions surrounding ‘blackness’ and its universal implications.
Viktor’s practice is informed by a background in film which she studied at Sarah Lawrence College, and her continued studies within photography at The School of Visual Arts, along with an early education in performance arts. Within her oeuvre Viktor creates her own linguistic & visual mythology
Haiti-born, Montreal-based multidisciplinary artist, Manuel Mathieu is known for his paintings, which investigate themes of historical violence, erasure, as well as Haitian visual cultures of physicality, nature, and religious symbolism. Marrying abstract and figurative techniques, his compositions carve out space for us to reflect on Haiti’s transformative history while inviting us to consider the different futures the act of remembering creates.
Drawing from a wide range of subjects, Manuel’s practice combines his Haitian heritage and his formal art education, which culminated in an MFA Degree from Goldsmiths, University of London.
Lorna Williams was born in 1986 in New Orleans, Louisiana. She received her BFA from Maryland Institute College of Art in 2010. She studied at New Orleans Center for Creative Arts, School of Museum of Fine Arts, Boston and Tyler School of Art, Philadelphia. In 2009, she attended the Norfolk Program at Yale University. She was the recipient of numerous awards and recognitions including Presidential Scholars Program Semifinalist, ARTS Recognition Finalist, National Foundation for the Advancement in the Arts Finalist, Art and Change Grantee of the Leeway Foundation, Ellen Battell Stockel Fellowship Recipient. Her work is included in the collection of 21C Museum, The Pizzuti Collection and Wellington Management. Williams lives and works in New Orleans, Louisiana.
Christopher Ofili, (born 10 October 1968) is a British Turner Prize-winning painter who is best known for his paintings incorporating elephant dung. He was one of the Young British Artists. Since 2005, Ofili has been living and working in Trinidad and Tobago, where he currently resides in Port of Spain. He also lives and works in London and Brooklyn.
Ofili has utilized resin, beads, oil paint, glitter, lumps of elephant dung, cut-outs from porn magazines as painting elements. His work has been classified as “punk art.”
Derrick Adams is a Baltimore-born, Brooklyn, New York-based artist whose critically admired work spans painting, collage, sculpture, performance, video, and sound installations. His multidisciplinary practice engages the ways in which individuals’ ideals, aspirations, and personae become attached to specific objects, colors, textures, symbols, and ideologies. Moreover, his work probes the influence of popular culture on the formation of self-image, and the relationship between man and monument as they coexist and embody one another. Adams is also deeply immersed in questions of how African American experiences intersect with art history, American iconography, and consumerism. Most notably in his Floater series, he portrays Black Americans at leisure, positing that respite itself is a political act when embraced by black communities.
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