Black Archives: a multimedia showcase of the Black experience

Archiving is so important in an information era that favours the new and quickly discards the old when it’s deemed surplus to requirements (read: it’s not making profit). This is especially true for Black cultures and Black Archives works to change that.

[…] Through an evolving visual exploration, Black Archives provides a dynamic accessibility to a Black past, present, and future.

Going beyond the norm, its lens examines the nuance of Black life: alive and ever-vibrant to both the everyday and iconic — providing insight and inspiration to those seeking to understand the legacies that preceded their own.

Besides archiving, Black Archives also offers:

  • Content creation and visual curation
  • Archival research and licensing
  • Social strategy and creative direction

For more, check out the Black Archives website.

The celebratory art of Aurélia Durand

Aurélia Durand is a French illustrator with a penchant for vibrant designs depicting Black people in joyful, proud, and empowered poses.

Her client list is a who’s who of major brands, including:

With so much bleakness in the world at the moment and heightened Black trauma, vivid celebratory images like Aurélia’s are a welcome relief and a reminder that Blackness is multifaceted and joyous.

Maro Itoje presented an exhibition on Black histories missing from the UK curriculum

Speaking at the opening of the exhibition earlier this month, Itoje, who was educated at the private boarding school Harrow, says one of the constants in his schooling was “the lack of Black and African history that I was taught”. Moreover, when African history was on the syllabus, it was “a single story or narrative that was told”. He adds: “That story was often depressing, and quite often a saviour/survivor narrative. I want to try and show a fuller picture.”

Good on you, Maro!

(via The Art Newspaper)

Black Art: In the Absence of Light on HBO

Black Art: In the Absence of Light (2021) | Official Trailer | HBO

Inspired by the late David Driskell’s landmark 1976 exhibition, “Two Centuries of Black American Art,” the documentary Black Art: In the Absence of Light offers an illuminating introduction to the work of some of the foremost Black visual artists working today.

Featured artists include Kara Walker, Jordan Casteel, and Kerry James Marshall.

Solange turns Saint Heron into a multidisciplinary creative agency

Exciting news for Black and Brown creativity:

Originally launched in 2013 as a digital hub for cultural conversations, Saint Heron’s mission has been to preserve, collect, and uplift stories, works, and archives that amplify Black and brown voices. Now, in its next phase, it will release a dossier of literary and visual retrospectives of Black family and artist lineages through a series of temporary digital exhibitions, viewable on the Saint Heron website. Available for seven to 10 days, they will offer an in-depth look at emerging talent across art, sculpture, photography, design, and artisanship. 

Ekow Nimako's Afrofuturistic LEGO® universes

Ekow Nimako is a Toronto-based artist who makes Afrofuturism sculptures from black LEGO.

Ekow Nimako is a Toronto-based, internationally exhibiting LEGO artist who crafts futuristic and whimsical sculptures from the iconic medium. Rooted in his childhood hobby and intrinsic creativity, Nimako’s formal arts education and background as a lifelong multidisciplinary artist inform his process and signature aesthetic. His fluid building style, coupled with the Afrofuturistic themes of his work, beautifully transcend the geometric medium to embody organic and fantastical silhouettes. 

I haven’t played with LEGO in years so I didn’t know there were so many varied pieces to make these majestic sculptures. It’s truly breathtaking to witness.

(via Colossal)

25 Black art documentaries you need to watch

Last February, Lachelle Chyrsanne compiled a list of 25 must watch Black art documentaries.

From the list, I’ve only seen 5:

  1. Beats, Rhymes, and Life: The Travels of a Tribe Called Quest (2011)
  2. Black Is the Color: A History of African American Art (2017)
  3. I Am Not Your Negro (2016)
  4. Jean-Michel Basquiat: The Radiant Child (2010)
  5. Toni Morrison: The Pieces I Am (2019)

There’s no time limit on watching these so I’ll add them to my ever-growing Letterboxd watchlist. The documentaries I have watched were very powerful and worth your time and investment.

See also: James Baldwin on the meaning of liberty, Toni Morrison on Jazz, and Jean-Michel Basquiat on how to be an artist.

The Black American collages of Tay Butler

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.

See his portfolio on his official website.

The super realistic art of Arinze Stanley

PAINFUL CONVERSATIONS

Arinze Stanley Egbengwu is a hyperrealist artist from Lagos, Nigeria.

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.

His work has featured in exhibitions around the world including Lagos, Los Angeles, London, Miami, New York, and New Jersey.

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.

See also: Charles Bierk’s photorealism

STiCH and its Basquiat-inspired art

STiCH is an “artist, machine, design researcher and artist intelligence” according to Urbancoolab, its creator. The AI machine spent over 700 hours learning the works of Jean-Michel Basquiat to produce a series of art in the late artist’s style (or an adaption of it).

For me, the results are derivative and closer to mediocre Picasso than anything else. Basquiat’s work and style had specific meaning and context—his life, surroundings, and, most importantly, his Blackness. AI could never replicate that because it’s AI and using Basquiat for this was a bad idea.

“Our team met the challenge to see how an AI machine with no emotion can learn to express itself with gestural abstraction while remaining to be visually intuitive. We’re focusing on Basquiat as his work continues to inspire others, and his message continues to be relevant. There would be nothing more incredible than to have Basquiat’s work continue. His conceptual and aesthetic appeal will always remain strong because of the inherent emotional depth and power it communicates.”

Quote from Urbancoolab founder Idris Mootee via Creative Boom

There was no malice in this, I’m sure, but it’s tiring to see Basquiat recreations in AI or yet more of his work selling for millions at Christie’s.

The painted paper art of Mark Bradford

mark bradford

Black gay artist Mark Bradford spoke to Francesca Aton of Art in America about his use of paper in his paintings.

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.

And how COVID-19 and the Black Lives Matter protests have impacted his work:

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.

Read the full interview on Art in America.

The influential art of Aaron Douglas

aaron douglas

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.

Recommended reading and viewing

Below is a video about one of Aaron Douglas’s most beautiful pieces, “Aspiration”.

A beacon of hope, Aaron Douglas's Aspiration

The visual art of Uzoma Chidumaga Orji

Uzoma Chidumaga Orji

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.

Check out his website and follow him on Instagram.

Lil Buck dancing through Fondation Louis Vuitton

Lil Buck dancing in Fondation Louis Vuitton

Black people making their own forms of art in art museums is nothing new (just ask Beyoncé) and Lil Buck’s performance shares another common theme: Paris.

In a short film by Andrew Margetson, Lil Buck dances through a tour of the Shchukin collection at Fondation Louis Vuitton and explains his history of dance and performing art.

As performing artists and as dancers, we see everything as art.

Lil Buck

My favourite part—albeit a morally dissonant one—is when Lil Buck performed in front of Picasso’s “Three Women”, less so for the artist but more for the juxtaposition and colour tones.

It’s a beautiful film that demonstrates multiple forms of modern art from different eras.

About Fondation Louis Vuitton

The building of the Louis Vuitton Foundation (known in France as “Fondation Louis Vuitton”) opened in October 2014 and was designed by Frank Gehry. The foundation itself was started in 2006 as an art museum and cultural centre and runs as a nonprofit.

Located in the 16th arrondissement of Paris, the building overlooks the Jardin d’Acclimatation in the Bois de Boulogne and has featured exhibitions of the following artists:

The foundation’s collection explores four categories (Contemplative, Pop, Expressionist, Music & Sound) and contains 330 pieces by 120 artists at the time of writing including Mark Bradford, Barthélémy Toguo, and Omar Victor Diop.

Credits

  • Starring: Lil Buck
  • Director: Andrew Margetson
  • Director of photography: Martin de Chabaneix
  • Editor: David Webb
  • Music: Evgueni & Sacha Galperine
  • Executive producers: Marieke Tricoire, Christelle Tastet

Augusta Savage and her influence on the Harlem Renaissance

augusta savage

Augusta Savage was an African-American sculptor and teacher known for her activism and work during the Harlem Renaissance.

Kelly Richman-Abdou wrote a piece on Augusta and her influence on the movement, from her beginnings in late 19th century Florida to her golden age in the 1930’s.

An excerpt:

At the time of her death, Savage’s contributions to the Harlem Renaissance and to modernism as a whole were largely forgotten. But now, at a crucial point in history, Savage is finally starting to receive the recognition she deserves.

“We are in a moment where the canon is being challenged and expanded because of how history overlooks women and artists of color,” Jeffreen Hayes, the curator of the 2019 exhibition Augusta Savage: Renaissance Woman, said. “For many of us in the art world who have spent our careers researching, writing, and curating exhibitions about women and artists of color, these artists have always had a place in art, regardless of their social or racial identity. When thinking about Savage, her place has always been an artist who was a brilliant sculptor who used her art to forge a path for staying true to one’s artistic passion.”

Exploring both Savage’s self-described “monument” and her own striking sculptures, this exhibition revealed the artist for what she is: “one of America’s most influential 20th-century artists.”

Related: The influential art of Aaron Douglas