Documenting and recording black people is important. It’s one of the main reasons I created Ward Girls and also why I try to support and buy black art. Historically, our stories and history have been passed down through storytelling and imagery. I think of artist Jacob Lawrence, who chronicled the great migration during World War II when southern blacks were moving to the north and midwest to major cities like Harlem, Chicago and more. I often wonder what pieces, whose work will tell of our current time, years from now.
Let’s call a spade a spade: the art industry is still very white. While there are more artists of color being represented, we still have a long way to go in terms of more black art curators, spaces dedicated for black art, and most importantly black art buyers. There are organizations, curators and people that are working to combat this.
If you are interested in the art scene, curious about black artists that you might not have heard of, here are 5 that are currently on my radar from Art Basel.
At 18, street artist Sykler Grey has had his work bought from celebrities like Timbaland and partners with brands like Lamborghini. Don’t let his age fool you. The artist posted a humble brag back in December with a piece he did “circa 2013” and added, “which means I was 13 when I did it.” Talk about a flex! His personality is equally as captivating as his art. We met at the Miami Art Fair when I heard him laugh and looked in his direction. He went to apologize and I loved his black boy joy! He then casually showed me his pieces (pictured above). Admittedly, I didn’t know who Grey was prior to meeting him but as luck would have it, he’s definitely one to watch. In 2017 he was featured in Forbes 30 Under 30 and his work is part of the permanent collection at Coral Springs Museum Of Art. We talked about the heavy Chanel influence in his latest pieces where he discussed his love for fashion (Karl Lagerfeld is an inspiration for him) and how he wanted to represent “timelessness.” Well done, young King! You can find more information on his work at Avant Gallery.
Nigerian born artist Jacqueline Suowari is a ballpoint pen artist whose attention to detail is insane. Her larger than life pieces featuring predominantly people of color will make anyone do a double take. Personally, I love her pieces for the diversity of hair that is represented whether it’s a headwrap like above, braids, or even black men with beards. This specific piece, Love Over Rules (2018), drew so many people to it during the show. The piece has been sold, but you can head over to Avant Gallery to see more of her work.
Roberto Lugo is a Puerto Rican artist, but the potter focuses heavily on the hip-hop experience and melding it into the art space. Furthermore, he is also an Assitant Professor in the Ceramics Department at the Tyler School Of Art. So he’s not only sharing his craft with others, he’s teaching it! He started off as a graffiti artist before discovering ceramics and also offers paintings as well. I was intrigued by his pieces (how could you not be?!), it’s not every day you see hip-hop artists represented on ceramics. His Michael Jackson pieces that I viewed at Miami Art Fair are some of my personal faves. You can find out more about Lugo and his work (as well as purchase!) at Wexler Gallery.
Philadelphia based artist Ivben Taqiy titled this painting “Look At God.” In a world where older women are ignored, I love that he created this large piece of a fashionable, old woman. He shows that fashion and style know no age and I appreciate in a botox obsessed world, that he celebrates her wrinkles and aging. To find out more about his work and where to purchase, go here.
Atlanta native, artist Jasmine Nicole is a printmaker who creates work on the southern black experience. Many of her subjects are black women (which I love). She even created this piece of Stacey Abrams. Her pieces almost feel like African prints woven to create people and imagery. A piece like this will definitely stand out in your home. Find out more about Jasmine Nicole and how to purchase her work through TILA Studios.
Do you know of a black artist that should be on our radar? Comment below or send me an e-mail at DJamesiOne@gmail.com.