The cultural legacy of Black people and their expressions via art reflect the journey through Black history.
Some stunning pieces of art lovingly produced by Black painters depict a colorful story of African descent’s strength and unshakable tie with the Motherland.
Religious symbolism, practicality, political sentiments, and other factors frequently inspire these masterpieces.
In honor of the hard work and innovation in the Black creative sphere, here are ten pieces of wall art by Black artists you should be familiar with:
God’s Trombones: Judgment Day (1927)
Artist: Aaron Douglas
This work is inspired by some of James Weldon Johnson’s most well-known poems. Before the publishing of his poetry, Johnson was travelling the Midwest as a field organizer for the NAACP when he heard a brilliant black preacher raise a congregation with an intense sermon; this affected his inspiration.
Aaron Douglas, an African-American artist, designed The Judgment Day to correlate with James Weldon Johnson’s poem of the same name. The painting depicts life after death by demonstrating how souls are either condemned or redeemed on Judgment Day based on their activities while on earth.
The archangel Gabriel is standing on a mountainside, one foot in the sea. He can be seen blowing a trumpet while holding the key to the celestial realm. On the left side of the image, a lightning bolt can be seen reaching into the water. On the right side of the artwork, a ray of light lights the mountaintop.
School Studies (1944)
Artist: Horace Pippin
Horace Pippins was a self-taught American artist who painted landscapes, portraits, biblical settings, and scenes from his experiences during World War I. His most well-known books address issues such as the history of racial segregation and slavery in the United States.
The first monograph about a Black artist was Selden Rodman’s Horace Pippin, A Negro Painter in America, released in 1947, and the New York Times lauded him as the “most important Negro painter” in American history.
Pippin painted a number of semi-autobiographical domestic interior paintings from 1941 till his death in 1946. The majority of these sequences depict African American families performing various domestic activities in a single multifunctional area. The paintings all have the same calm, serene ambiance and many of the same ordinary objects, such as rag rugs, quilts, stoves, and alarm clocks.
The three individuals in School Studies have turned their backs on each other and appear to be engrossed in their own inner worlds rather than interacting, which distinguishes the piece and adds to the title’s significance.
Daybreak – A Time to Rest (1967)
Artist: Jacob Lawrence
Social realism Lawrence portrayed the African American experience in various series on Toussaint L’Ouverture, Frederick Douglass, Harriet Tubman, life in Harlem, and the civil rights movement of the 1960s. He was among the first African Americans to earn national acclaim.
The piece recalls the story of Harriet Tubman, who used the shaky Underground Railroad—a network of safe houses—to help many black people escape slavery.
She is holding a rifle and lying next to a couple and their infant in the painting. Her body is partially encompassed by purple, and her face is practically in the center of the canvas, facing the sky.
Tubman’s big feet are grossly exaggerated and take center stage in the painting. Her muscles and toes are imprinted by lines that mimic stone carvings, possibly to emphasize the difficult roads she has walked. The prone bodies of the runaways are framed in the foreground by reeds. Three insects are indicators of activity at dawn: a walking stick, a beetle, and an ant.
No Woman, No Cry (1988)
Artist: Chris Ofili
Chris Ofili, a British artist, distinguishes out among well-known Black painters for his creative painting style, which includes employing elephant dung as one of his media. Ofili’s creative works have piqued the interest and admiration of many. In 1998, he was awarded the British Turner Prize.
A black woman with braided hair is crying on a golden background in the artwork. Each tear has a collaged image of Stephen Lawrence, whose mother, Doreen, led a 1998 campaign demanding an investigation into the botched murder probe.
The effort was effective, and the final report of the investigation concluded that the investigating police agency was “institutionally racist” in 1999. Stephen Lawrence was assassinated in 1993.
The image has been identified as Doreen Lawrence’s portrait on occasion. In phosphorescent paint, the words “R.I.P. Stephen Lawrence 1974-1993” are scarcely legible, but they are more noticeable at night.
J’aime La Couleur (2003)
Artist: Chéri Samba
Artist: Wangechi Mutu
Wangechi Mutu, a Kenyan artist who is a member of the contemporary and Afrofuturism movements, creates characters who are both fascinating and scary, blending aspects of science fiction with allusions to African culture. Her work incorporates themes of race, gender, self-identity, and art history.
Wangechi Mutu’s work in painting, sculpture, collage, cinema, and installation addresses the brutality and erroneous images that Black women, in particular, face in modern society. Furthermore, recurring themes include the outcomes of globalization and materialism.
Mutu’s fantastical bronzes and assemblages of paint, ink, magazine cuts, and other materials are filled with deformed feminine shapes that appear both futuristic and primal.
“you opened my eyes man, thought I had a man, but how could I eye scan” (2008)
Artist: Julie Mehretu
Julie Mehretu, an American-Ethiopian artist born in Addis Abeba, makes large-scale works that blend many media and surfaces to create abstract landscapes. She draws inspiration from a number of sources, including architectural designs, pictures, city maps, and more.
Calligraphy, graffiti, and street art can be found in her two-dimensional works with varied characters. Mehretu’s works also investigate the sociopolitical ramifications of our urban environment’s history.
She investigates sports and military typologies in her work to question current concepts of leisure, work, and order. The Coliseum, amphitheater, and stadium in “Stadia II” are examples of constructions designed to hold and order vast crowds while simultaneously evoking anarchy and bloodshed.
Something Split and New (2013)
Artist: Njideka Akunyili Crosby
Njideka Akunyili Crosby, an American-Nigerian painter, lives and works in Los Angeles. However, because her place of birth so clearly defines her cultural identity, she has established a so-called hybrid identity that is crucial to her body of work as a painter.
Political, personal, and artistic references motivate Njideka. Her expressive paintings highlight the complexities of contemporary life. Her significant corpus of work includes several primary topics centered on interiors, daily living, and social events.
However, she creates a series of visual interventions using a lively impact of patterns and photo collages drawn from Nigerian culture, popular culture, or collective memory.