The rise in collecting and investing in emerging or early-career artists have recently led to tendencies towards diversification of authors. The gender and race dialogues have slowly been shifting and thus redirecting our focus on a multiform spectrum of artists. As the appreciation and exposure of female artists have risen in recent years, the same can be expected for Black Artists when the society catches up with cultural development.
Here is a carefully curated selection of five Emerging Black Artists that are worth exploring and considering for your collection. What unifies them is their focus on the human figure and their thoughtful approach to painting it. Yet, they all are unique in their own way.
Featured image: Greg Breda - Epiphany, 2018. Acrylic on vellum, 40"x 63" (45 5/8" x 68 5/8" x 2 1/8, framed). Courtesy of the Artist and PATRON Gallery, Chicago. Photo by Aron Gent.
LA-based Alex Gardner is an Afro-Japanese artist making glossy artworks depicting faceless human figures rendered in deep black. Alex’s primary source of inspiration is real-life based. It all comes from everyday conversations, situations, and routines.
Even though Gardner's works may sometimes appear surreal - figures without faces interacting with one another in the colorfully contrasting environment - the artist is not accessing the unconscious state but rather stripping down his sitters to the basic forms of being. His juxtapositions and painterly technique are almost reminiscent of the Renaissance technique but adapted to society's contemporary issues. Being mixed race, Gardner reflects on identity issues, desire, ethics, and anxiety. The artist has already exhibited internationally and managed to build a strong social media presence.
Featured image: Left: Alex Gardner - Going To Need A New Coping Method Soon, 2017. Acrylic on canvas, 47 × 47 in, 119.4 × 119.4 cm. Courtesy New Image Art / Right: Alex Gardner - Recap, 2019. Acrylic on canvas, 36 × 36 in, 91.4 × 91.4 cm. Courtesy The Hole.
Sir Idris is a self-taught experimental artist from New York. His art stands out as his practice goes beyond the traditional medium. Sir Idris often uses discarded items from the streets of New York and reuses them to give them a new purpose and meaning. His work is both the catalyst and mediator.
Idris also employs genuine expressionism; he paints portraits of black people focusing on their emotions and feelings expressed through their eyes and mouth mimics. For the background, he usually chooses a pattern that is reflecting the sitter's personality. The artist uses his artistic skills as a therapy and a mechanism to pass on his innermost thought. Without any prior art training, Sir Idris has already been gaining attention and exhibiting around New York.
Featured image: Left and Right Art by Sir Idris.
Gherdai Hassell seems to be growing on a global scale. Born in Bermuda, Gherdai studied in North Carolina at Greensboro and is currently an MFA candidate at the China Academy of Art in China. She has exhibited around the US as well as China and Bermuda at Bermuda Biennial 2020.
Hassell's work celebrates black female figures in the form of mixed media collage-like works. The artist is playing with ideas of representation, perception, identity creation, and childhood. Her creative process is meditative; thus, her work unfolds as she makes it. The result is usually collaged female figures in vibrant colors and patterns with a very expressive feel. For instance, for the Bermuda Biennial, she has produced six female characters over a meter in height. Last year, her work was also showcased in the Wearable Art Gala.
Featured image: Gherdai Hassell, Interactions Bermuda, Bermuda Biennial 2020. Courtesy the artist.
The New York-born artist Tajh Rust now lives and works in Connecticut. He is referred to as a figurative and abstract painter who takes inspiration from the environment that people occupy.
Everyday dull objects and spaces that people move around are captured in Rust’s work in a manner that explores their relationship towards the objects and spaces. Using detailed realistic rendering and saturated colors, the artist produces images that tell a story or a memory. He often uses inspiration from his travels and imagination. He stands out by blurring lines between real and surreal to create something unique.
Featured image: Tajh Rust - Vigil. Courtesy the artist.
Greg Breda is yet another self-taught artist. He lives and works in LA and works mainly with acrylic on canvas and mylar and paper, creating deeply emotional works highlighting the human soul and spirit.
Breda sources from media as well as from his memory and imagination to create images that challenge the viewer and his circumstances. His thick brushstrokes technique forms faces and figures and the play with light and shadow contributes to the serenity of the picture. Even though the figures appeal strong on the outside, they are fragile on the inside, which is mediated through the soft surroundings and the protagonist’s preoccupied look. His flatness technique and strong graphical presence almost resemble Japanese prints, which makes Breda’s work distinctive. He has already held two solo shows and participated in a number of group shows in the US.
Written by Adele Smejkal.
Featured image: Left: Greg Breda - A Ladder, 2018. Acrylic on vellum, 63"x 40" (68 5/8" x 45 5/8" x 2 1/8”, framed) / Right: Greg Breda - Flood, 2018. Acrylic on vellum 50"x 40" (60 5/8" x 45 5/8" x 2 1/8”, framed). Courtesy of the Artist and PATRON Gallery, Chicago Photos by Aron Gent.