10 Exhibitions To See During Black History Month 2021

Top Lists, Exhibition Announcements

February 4, 2021

An annual celebration that originated in the United States, Black History Month pays tribute to the generations of African Americans who struggled to achieve full citizenship in American society. It began with the Negro History Week that was initiated in 1925, which encompassed the birthdays of both Abraham Lincoln and Frederick Douglass. It became a central part of African American life by 1950 and the celebration was first expanded to a month in 1976.

A history that should be celebrated all-year-round gets a special highlight this February, featuring a wealth of concerts, lectures and film screenings, but also amazing art exhibitions through taking place throughout the museums in the United States, but also abroad. HBO has also released a documentary that celebrates the art historian, curator, and artist, David C. Driskell, who died last summer from complications related to Covid-19. In 1976, Driskell organized the landmark exhibition Two Centuries of Black American Art, staking a claim for the importance and influence of art-making by Black people in America.

While we wait for the documentary Black Art: In the Absence of Light, coming out February 9, here are the art exhibitions celebrating art and artists you can see this Black History Month.

Featured image: A Portrait of the Kamoinge Workshop, on view at the Whitney Museum of American Art.

The Black Index at UAG

The University Art Galleries at UC Irvine will host the exhibition that brings together works by Dennis Delgado, Alicia Henry, Kenyatta A.C. Hinkle, Titus Kaphar, Whitfield Lovell, and Lava Thomas. Titled The Black Index, it builds upon the tradition of Black self-representation as an antidote to colonialist images. These artists transformed photographs using drawing, performance, printmaking, sculpture, and digital technology, questioning the medium as a privileged source for documentary objectivity and understanding.

The exhibition The Black Index will be on view at the University Art Galleries at UC Irvine in Irvine until March 20th, 2021. Later on, it will be on view at Palo Alto Art Center in Palo Alto from May 1st until August 15th, 2021; Art Galleries at Black Studies — University of Texas at Austin from September 9th to December 12th, 2021; and Hunter College Art Galleries — Leubsdorf Gallery from January 27th to April 3rd, 2022.

Featured image: Titus Kaphar - Redaction (San Francisco), 2020. Etching and silkscreen on paper. Courtesy of Titus Kaphar and Reginald Dwayne Betts. Photo by Christopher Gardener.

Deborah Roberts at the Contemporary Austin

An American contemporary artist, Deborah Roberts is known for works that challenge notions of beauty, the body, race, and identity in contemporary society through the lens of Black children. The Contemporary Austin present her first solo Texas museum exhibition as part of the Feminist Art Coalition, featuring all new works. Titled I'm, the exhibition features a new body of work that focuses on Black children, exploring how societal pressures, projected images of beauty or masculinity, and the violence of American racism conditions their experiences growing up in this country.

The exhibition I'm will be on view at the Contemporary Austin in Austin until August 15th, 2021.

Featured image: Deborah Roberts, The duty of disobedience, 2020. Mixed media collage on canvas. 72 x 100 inches. Artwork © Deborah Roberts. Courtesy the artist; Vielmetter Los Angeles; and Stephen Friedman Gallery, London. Image courtesy The Contemporary Austin. Photograph by Paul Bardagjy.

Emma Amos at Georgia Museum of Art

A distinguished painter and printmaker, Emma Amos is best known for her bold and colorful visual tapestries which explore the intersection of race, class, gender and privilege in both the art world and society at large. Georgia Museum of Art is hosting a survey of the artist's work, bringing together approximately 60 works from the beginnings of her career to the end of it, reflecting her experiences as a painter, printmaker, and weaver. Drawing from her personal odyssey as an artist, Amos challenges the norms of Western art tradition with her unique narrative painting style characterized by an expressive use of color.

The exhibition Emma Amos: Color Odyssey will be on view at the Georgia Museum of Art in Athens, Georgia until April 25th, 2021. Afterward, the exhibition will be installed at the Munson-Williams-Proctor Arts Institute from 19 June to 12 September 2021, and then it will be displayed at the Philadelphia Museum of Art from 9 October 2021 until 2 January 2022.

Featured image: Emma Amos - Targets, 1992. Acrylic on canvas with African fabric borders on linen, 57 x 73 1/2 inches. Amos Family, courtesy of Ryan Lee Gallery.

David Driskell at High Museum of Art

One of the most revered American artists and art historians of his generation, David C. Driskell is celebrated for combining his keen observations of the American landscape with the imagery and aesthetic innovations of the African diaspora in works that span painting and printmaking. High Museum of Art is hosting the first exhibition to unite these two aspects of his practice, bringing approximately sixty artworks together that span seven decades of his painterly practice from the 1950s to the 2000s.

The exhibition David Driskell: Icons of Nature and History will be on view at the High Museum of Art in Atlanta from February 6th until May 9th, 2021.

Featured images: David Driskell - Swing Low, Sweet Chariot, 1972. Acrylic on canvas. Tougaloo College Art Collections, Tougaloo, Mississippi, purchase with support from the National Endowment for the Arts.

Charles Gaines at Hauser & Wirth

Recognized for his work in the field of conceptual art, Charles Gaines explores the relationships between aesthetic experience, political beliefs and the formation of meaning. His two new bodies of a work are on view at Hauser & Wirth. Titled Numbers and Trees: London Series 1 and Numbers and Faces: Multi-Racial/Ethnic Combinations Series 1, these are explorations of relationships between the objective and the subjective realms, as well as navigating ideas around identity and diversity. Numbers and Trees: London Series 1 is a continuation of the celebrated Numbers and Trees Plexiglas series, which began in 1986 and continues to evolve, while Numbers and Faces: Multi-Racial/Ethnic Combinations Series 1 is a part of the Faces series that Gaines began in 1978.

The exhibition Multiples of Nature, Trees and Faces will be on view online at Hauser & Wirth until May 1st, 2021.

Featured image: Multiples of Nature, Trees and Faces, Installation View at Hauser & Wirth

Bisa Butler at the Art Institute Chicago

Working with textile, a traditionally marginalized medium, Bisa Butler interrogates the historical marginalization of her subjects while using scale and subtle detail to convey her their complex individuality. Engaging with themes such as family, community, migration, the promise of youth, and artistic and intellectual legacies, her vibrant quilts present an expansive views of history. Titled Bisa Butler: Portraits, her first solo museum exhibition taking place at the Art Institute Chicago will present over 20 portraits that draw influences from photo albums, the philosophies of AfriCOBRA, Romare Bearden’s collages, Faith Ringgold’s quilts, and Gordon Parks’s photographs.

The exhibition Bisa Butler: Portraits will be on view at the Art Institute of Chicago, Galleries 211–215, until September 6th, 2021.

Featured image: I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, 2019. Minneapolis Institute of Art; Promised gift on long-term loan from a private collection. Photo by Margaret Fox. © Bisa Butler

Genesis Tramaine at Almine Rech

Genesis Tramaine is best known for abstract portraits of men and women who transcend gender, race, and social structures, combining the 1980’s urban New York graffiti and imagined images of gospel hymns sung on Sunday morning during church. Almine Rech is currently hosting the artist's first solo presentation in Brussels and the second with the gallery. Titled Evidence of Grace, the exhibition brings together works that serve as the artist's creative rumination on the many trials and tribulations that have come to define 2020, including the COVID-19 pandemic, the resurgence of racial tensions in North America’s mainstream discourse, and the Black Lives Matter movement that has shifted our social consciousness.

The exhibition Evidence of Grace will be on view at Almine Rech in Brussels until February 28th, 2021.

Featured image: Evidence of Grace, Installation view.

Kamoinge Workshop at Whitney Museum of American Art

A collective of Black photographers established in New York City in 1963, the Kamoinge Workshop is known for poetic, affirmative representations of Black life. They depicted their communities as they saw and participated in them, rather than as they were often portrayed. An unprecedented exhibition at the Whitney Museum of American Art tells a story about their work and legacy. Focusing on the influential work of founding Kamoinge members during the first two decades of the collective, it brings together around 140 photographs by fourteen of the early members: Anthony Barboza, Adger Cowans, Daniel Dawson, Louis Draper, Al Fennar, Ray Francis, Herman Howard, James M. Mannas Jr, Herb Randall, Herb Robinson, Beuford Smith, Ming Smith, Shawn Walker, and Calvin Wilson.

The exhibition Working Together: The Photographers of the Kamoinge Workshop will be on view at the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York until March 28th, 2021.

Featured image: Installation view of Working Together: The Photographers of the Kamoinge Workshop. Left: Anthony Barboza, Kamoinge Portrait, 1973. Photograph by Ron Amstutz.

Reconstructions at MoMA

The upcoming exhibition at MoMA will explore the relationship between architecture and the spaces of African American and African diaspora communities, such the inheritance of segregated neighborhoods, compromised infrastructures, environmental toxins, and unequal access to financial and educational institutions. Titled Reconstructions: Architecture and Blackness in America, the exhibition will bring together 10 newly commissioned works by architects, designers, and artists that explore ways in which equity can be built - Emanuel Admassu, Germane Barnes, Sekou Cooke, J. Yolande Daniels, Felecia Davis, Mario Gooden, Walter Hood, Olalekan Jeyifous, V. Mitch McEwen, and Amanda Williams, as well as new photographs by artist David Hartt.

The exhibition Reconstructions: Architecture and Blackness in America will be on view at MoMA in New York from February 20th until May 31st, 2021.

Featured image: Germane Barnes - Miami Porch Portrayals, 2020. Digital print collage, 17 x 17 in (43.2 x 43.2 cm). Image courtesy of the artist.