The best kind of revisionist history is when people of colour revise textbook history to give us the truth. Tay Butler does just that with his blend of collage, photography, music, and video.
Constructing revisionist histories that are fictional but true, authentic yet imagined, the stories and scenes created act like braids and weave together a rich tapestry that can last longer than human memory.
Butler, an artist based in Houston, Texas, has worked with the likes of Jansport J, Reggie Bonds, and Haz Solo and produced work featured all around his hometown.
He uses historical artefacts that tell stories through literature, folklore, local and national magazines and newspapers, and then goes through a lengthy process of digitising, photographing, interpolating and collaging into something new via the old. The results are unique but familiar.
Black Archivist is a project created by Paul Octavious, a Black queer photographer based in Chicago. In 2005, he got into photography and his life changed from there.
This project provide the tools and resources for other Black people to document their lives:
Black Archivist believes in the power of the Black narrative and that Black artists are best suited to tell the stories of our community. We provide the tools and resources for Black people to document the life around them, both triumphs and tribulations. We believe access to equipment should not be a barrier to entry for documentation or compensation.
As part of the Jarman Award Touring Programme 2020, Black filmmaker Jenn Nkiru spoke with Sofia Lemos in conjunction with the Nottingham Contemporary.
They discussed her film Black to Techno (2019), Black musical histories and how the afro-surrealism in her work.
Jenn Nkiru is an artist and filmmaker. Pushed through an Afro-surrealist lens, her practice is grounded in the history of Black music and the aesthetics of experimental film and international art cinema. Her work draws on the Black arts movement and the rich and variegated tradition of cinemas of the Black diaspora and their distinct experimentation with the politics of form. Her work blends elements of history, identity, politics, music, documentary and dance.
Starting at an early age of 6, Arinze had always been enthusiastic about drawing realistic portraits on paper. Being exposed to his family’s paper conversion business, Arinze grew to love paper and pencils as his toys at a very tender age. Over the years He gradually taught himself how to master both Pencils and Paper in harmony as a medium to express himself through what he calls his three P’s namely Patience, Practice and Persistence. These have guided him throughout his journey as an artist.
Whenever I see photorealist art on Twitter, I quote tweet it with something like “DRAWING?!” or “PAINTING?!” and this is no different. The detail is incredible and shows Black people as Black people. No special lighting, just Blackness in art.
Mark Bradford was born in Los Angeles on 20th November 1961. He’s best known for combining paint and paper collage to create his work, as well as using the themes of masculinity and gender.
End papers, small rectangular sheets of translucent paper that protect hair during the perm process, are the basis of Los Angeles–based painter Mark Bradford’s early artworks. While working in his mother’s beauty salon, Bradford began integrating the papers into abstract paintings, creating a layered scrim through which the paint emerges. The artist, guided by an interest in common materials, has incorporated items from around Los Angeles—including fragments of posters, broadsides, and billboards—to tackle issues of civil unrest.
Bradford on his use of paper and how that evolved:
I hadn’t given much thought to the materiality of the end papers until I started experimenting with other types of paper. End papers are similar to tissue paper, and are very absorbent and translucent. When I was painting, it was a lot easier to achieve layers of color due to those qualities of the end papers. As I started adding more opaque materials, like billboard and poster paper, the paintings looked flat. That’s when I began dunking paper in water. I thought maybe if the pulp disintegrated, a little bit of light could pass through. This addition really shifted my practice. To this very day, I still use water because it’s the only thing that pulls the paper apart and makes it flow like paint.
At the beginning of the pandemic, I had a lot of triggers because in some ways it reminded me of the AIDS epidemic. It’s been great to see that so many have mobilized in this moment for positive change and have found creative and interesting ways to make their voices heard. I’ve learned to be kind of fluid and keep creating work. I like to say that I’m not on Pacific Standard Time, but rather on Pandemic Standard Time—and I chuckle when people send me calendar invites for upcoming events.
The late Milton Glaser met up with designboom in New York back in May 2000 and gave some really insightful answers in his interview.
Some of my favourites:
DB: what kind of music do you listen to at the moment?
MG: I listen to everything, my musical taste is extremely eclectic – traditional jazz, folk music, baroque, classical music (mozart, bach, even beethoven, brahms). my inclination is that I favorite baroque and 18th century music over 19th century music. well, I admire the 19th century for both, in terms of its musical and of its artistic accomplishment, but it does not touch my heart in quite the same way.
DB: when you were a child, did you want to become a graphic designer?
MG: I always wanted to be an artist, but I didn’t know what a graphic designer was. I suppose that among the earliest things I ever did as a child was to copy comic strips.
DB: where do you work on your designs and concepts?
MG: I work all over, I do different things in different places. I have a very nice studio in woodstock, where I go on thursdays, fridays and saturdays. there I do things that have to be done alone, drawings and complex things I have to think about. at the NY studio it is mostly organizing, working with others and producing things. I would say that I’m never not working in my mind. taking taxicabs or during breakfast…
DB: which project has given you the most satisfaction?
MG: it is very hard to say, because they are all very different. I’m working now on a buddhist museum, a himalayan museum in new york and it has been a very interesting, a very pleasurable project. but all these projects are very interesting in their own way. actually, it is not the project in itself. what makes them more interesting than anything else is the character of the people you’re working with. I enjoy working together for a common purpose.
Aaron Douglas was an African-American artist who became a significant part of the Harlem Renaissance during the 1920s. His work included illustrations and paintings depicting the racism and segregation suffered in the US.
In 1922, he earned a bachelor’s degree in fine arts and worked as an instructor at Lincoln High School in Kansas City, Missouri before his talent came to the attention of important people in Harlem, New York. Two years after gaining his fine arts degree, he left his teaching job for New York at the behest of Charles S. Johnson, the first Black president of Fisk University.
He went onto become one of the most influential artists of the era and returned to teaching in 1944, when founded the Art Department at Fisk University in Nashville, Tennessee. He taught visual art there until his retirement in 1966.
Hyperrealism is very much my thing when it comes to art and Peter D. Harris’s work fits the bill. The Canadian-based artist has been painting urban landscapes for over 25 years and his depictions of empty urban areas are astonishingly accurate.
His work portrays the common elements of the city: parking lots, building, gas stations, restaurants, subways, etc. These often overlooked aspects of the urban environment are presented as an opportunity to re-examine the spaces we inhabit. Painted in a crisp, realist manner, his paintings are recognizable for their depictions of urban settings at night, absent of people.
After graduating from the University of Waterloo with a Fine Arts degree in 1997, Peter went onto showcase his work across North America and some of his work can be found in private collections in Europe as well.
Uzoma Chidumaga Orji is a visual artist and creative technologist from Nigeria. His work is representative of his heritage and focuses heavily on identity as an Igbo Nigerian.
As a technologist he seeks to design engaging human-centred digital experiences that bring the arts and tech into the same conversation.
As an artist he observes and then creates representations of society and of history; visual metaphors that explain his millennial Igbo Nigerian cultural context and the cultural environment he hopes to one day live in.
The essence of his practice is indeed identity, particularly as pertains to self, culture, and nationality. His work uses his notions of his identity as a point of exit to interrogate who we are, how we have come to be and who we aspire to become.
He also works as a web dev which seems like the perfect bridge between both media.
I don’t know if I could do it but Artsy Editorial had a go and their list is pretty powerful. But rather than just pick 20 amongst themselves, they consulted people in the industry:
While it’s impossible to capture the full impact that African American artists have on contemporary art, Artsy Editorial asked prominent art historians and curators to reflect on 20 living African American artists who are making a mark on painting, photography, performance, and sculpture.
So, here’s their final list:
Artsy’s 20 Most Influential Living African American Artists
One of the names that should stand out is Kehinde Wiley, the Nigerian-American portrait artist who painted President Barack Obama for the Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery.
But if you’re unfamiliar with the others, now’s the time to get acquainted. Below is a gallery of work from each of the 20 artists. There will also be future posts related to these artists so stay tuned.
Basquiat’s “Flats Fix” from 1981 was the re-imagining of Autobody shops signs in Brooklyn. Of that, his father said:
“It is one of the things he remembered well and extracted multiple meanings from. He always used simple symbolism to explain complex situations.” In this case, it was the culture of his native Brooklyn and his identity as a black man within it.
So much of Basquiat’s work focussed on black identity. The way he burst onto the high brow scene literally from the streets was remarkable in its own way. Many black artists have tried to follow suit but never retained the same level of black integrity that Basquiat did, until his untimely death in 1988.
My favourite piece of advice from the editorial has to be “remix your references”. That’s my primary ethos whenever I create. When asked about a method of working, Basquiat said:
“I’m usually in front of the television. I have to have some source material around me to work off.”
He liked to immerse himself in multimedia while he created it. For others, this would have been the ultimate distraction. For Basquiat, it was essential.
Apart from the advent of hip hop, not much gets a look in over white counterparts. Barkley L. Hendricks’ portraits were striking in recognising the beauty of post-Civil Rights blackness and every decade after. The contrast of minimalism and abundant strength in his paintings were unfortunately overlooked by those in the museums.