Black Artists Working Today that You Should Know About

As we reflect on Black History Month, it’s important to remember that we need to celebrate Black lives all year round. Here are some contemporary artists that are changing the art world as we know it.

1. Kehinde Wiley (b. 1977) is an American painter born in Los Angeles, CA and is currently based in New York City. He graduated from the San Francisco Art Institute with a BFA in 1999 and Yale University with an MFA in 2001. His large-scale oil portrait paintings tell profound narratives and juxtapose Western colonial imagery with African iconography. His most notable work is the official Presidential portrait of Barack Obama, painted in 2017. His series A New Republic confronts. 

2. Kara Walker (b. 1969) is an American multidisciplinary artist from Stockton, CA. She graduated from the Atlanta College of Art with a BFA in 1991 and the Rhode Island School of Design with an MFA in 1994. Her paintings, installations, and cut-paper silhouettes are deeply conceptual works regarding violence, gender, race, and identity. Her cut-paper silhouettes are probably her most well-known works, exhibiting in prestigious institutions such as The Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, The Museum of Modern Art, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, and The Tate Gallery. 

3. Hank Willis Thomas (b. 1975) is an American installation and conceptual artist from Plainfield, NJ and is currently based in Brooklyn, NY. He graduated from New York University with a BFA in 1998 and the California College of the Arts with an MFA in 2004. He also received honorary doctorates from the Institute for Doctoral Studied in the Visual Arts and the Maryland Institute College of Art in 2017. His sculptures tell stories about the racism ingrained in popular culture and advertising imagery, and about the history of slavery in America. 

4. Lorna Simpson (b. 1960) is an American photographer from Brooklyn, NY. She graduated from the School of Visual Arts with a BFA in 1982 and the University of California at San Diego with an MFA in 1985. Her conceptual photography examines the white male gaze, identity, and relationships. She has exhibited her work across the world in places such as the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York and the 56th Venice Biennale in Venice, Italy.

5. Titus Kaphar (b. 1976) is an American painter from Kalamazoo, MI. He graduated from San Jose State University with a BFA in 2001 and Yale University with an MFA. His paintings tackle the “unspoken truths” of history, race, and American politics. He received a 2018 MacArthur Fellowship, and his most notable work is probably his 2014 work titled “Beyond the Myth of Benevolence”, which exhibited in the National Portrait Gallery in Washington, DC. 

6. Kerry James Marshall (b. 1955) is an American painter and educator from Birmingham, AL and is currently based in Chicago, IL. He graduated from Otis College of Art and Design with a BFA in 1978. He also taught at the University of Illinois’s School of Art from 1993 until 2006. His vibrant paintings inspired by art history and Black folk art depict figures who are “unequivocally, emphatically black.” He is a 1997 MacArthur Fellow and has exhibited his work all over the world.