CULTURE

You Need to See These Gallery Shows of Top Black Artists

gallery shows from top black artists you need to see this fall and winter 2020

Yes, we know the end of the year can be a busy time. But dear reader, you need to make time to see the solo gallery shows of top black artists like Bisa Butler, Toyin Ojih Odutola and Theaster Gates around the world in fall and winter 2020. Our correspondent Jeanette Settembre has the details.

galleries increase diversity in fall and winter 2020 contemporary art shows with black artists

In the world of contemporary art, diverse voices are being heard and seen all over the world this fall and winter 2020. Bisa Butler, Theaster Gates, Toyin Ojih Odutola and more are featured in major gallery shows and exhibitions – and you need to see them, dear reader!

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The acceleration of the Black Lives Matter movement continues to be a canvas for change across the country. And creatively, museums and prominent global art galleries are highlighting the need for greater inclusivity and diversity in fine arts exhibits.

gallery shows from top black artists you need to see this fall and winter 2020

The gallery shows from top black artists you need to see this fall and winter 2020.

This fall and winter 2020, you’ll find Black artists exhibiting their work at solo shows in mediums as varied as textile, sculpture and paintings. And they’re incorporating their own stories into their work.  

Here’s where to find them. 

you need to see these gallery shows of top black artists in fall winter 2020

1. “Bisa Butler: Portraits,” at the Art Institute of Chicago November 16, 2020 through April 19, 2021 

Bisa Butler, a New Jersey-based artist, uses her medium of textiles to create lively quilted portraits to sew together historical and human narratives that highlight Black culture. And she’s making history doing it. 

When Butler’s Bisa Butler: Portraits opens at the Art Institute of Chicago on November, 16, she’ll be the museum’s first Black female artist to showcase a solo textile exhibition. 

the top black artist gallery and museum shows to see this fall and winter 2020

The top black artist gallery and museum shows to see this fall and winter 2020. The Safety Patrol (2018) by Bisa Butler. Photo Courtesy of Claire Oliver Gallery.

Butler says her family background and her own upbringing growing up in New Jersey inspire her artwork. Her mother’s side is African American from New Orleans, and father’s family is from Ghana, West Africa. 

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“That combination of these different cultures all coming together in one household influenced me in a way that I was surrounded by art all the time,” Butler says in a video describing her work for the Art Institute of Chicago. 

The Howard University alum says the art philosophies of the African-American artists’ collective AfriCOBRA (the African Commune of Bad Relevant Artists), that started on the southside of Chicago during the civil rights movement in 1968, opened her eyes to reimagine art in a new light as a vehicle for representation.

The top black artist gallery and museum shows to see this fall and winter 2020.

The top black artist gallery and museum shows to see this fall and winter 2020. Right: The Storm, The Whirlwind, and the Earthquake (2020) by Bisa Butler. Left: Asantewa (2020) by Bisa Butler. Photos Courtesy of Claire Oliver Gallery.

Themes in her work include family, community, migration and youth that shine bright in her vibrant color palette of crimson red, bright orange, violet, intense blue and emerald green — a palate she refers to as “Kool-Aid Colors.” 

“You’re going to see those intense shades, and those are the colors I’m drawn to to this day,” she says in the video. 

While her work is made all in fabric, she layers materials “as a painter might layer glazes, and she uses threat to draw, adding detail and texture,” the Art Institute describes on its website. 

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2. “Theaster Gates: Black Vessel” at Gagosian gallery in New York, ongoing through December 19, 2020 

There’s rich meaning in the raw materials that artist, professor and social activist Theaster Gates draws inspiration from for his first-ever solo exhibition, currently ongoing at contemporary art gallery Gagosian in Manhattan through December 19, 2020.  

The top black artist gallery and museum shows to see this fall and winter 2020. Theaster Gates Black Vessel exhibition at Gagosian in Manhattan. Photo: © Theaster Gates / Chris Strong / Courtesy of Gagosian.

His namesake “Theaster Gates: Black Vessel” is being shown in three mediums: sculpture, works on canvas and ceramics. Each made using repurposed everyday materials such as clay and tar. 

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The message is about merging craft with art in a moving exhibition that explores the Black diaspora, cultural reclamation and social empowerment. The first part of Gates’ exhibition features vessels, a symbol of shared experience and communities coming together. The clay vessels are made from glazed and fired clay. 

The top black artist gallery and museum shows to see this fall and winter 2020. Vessel #19, 2020. High fired stoneware with glaze. Photo: © Theaster Gates / Chris Strong / Courtesy of Gagosian.

“I always find myself returning to the vessel. It is part of the intellectual life force of my practice and it precedes all other forms of making,” Gates tells Gagosian of inspiration behind his work.

Gates was raised on the West Side of Chicago and is known for fusing mixed materials and music. The multifaceted artist leads the experimental music ensemble the Black Monks, with music rooted in gospel and blues.

Gallery and museum shows to see this fall and winter 2020, including Theaster Gates and Bisa Butler.

Gallery and museum shows to see this fall and winter 2020, including Theaster Gates and Bisa Butler.

Gates muses music with spirituality, transforming the Gagosian’s west gallery wall with bricks dyed black. Creating a sanctuary of sorts, accompanied to the sound of a Hammond organ. The shelves hold thousands of volumes containing a poem called “Walking Prayer.” And books like “When We March” and “Martyrs When Necessary.”  

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3. gallery shows black artists 2020: “Imagining the New Normal,” curated by Mikhaile Solomon

Artsy, the online platform for buying and selling fine art, is showcasing Black creatives in a versatile way. The digital art database recently launched “Imagining the New Normal,” a collection of artists represented by Black-owned galleries. The art is curated by Mikhaile Solomon is the curator. She’s the founder and director of Prizm Art Fair, a show devoted to artists of the African Diaspora. 

The Artsy collection looks at works that “challenge us to consider and reimagine how we think about art, artists and their practices today, especially in the ever-evolving landscape.” 

The collection features 66 artists from galleries across the U.S. Europe and Africa with prices ranging from $250 to $33,000.

One of the featured artists is our lead image, above: Deborah Jack’s Untitled (Looking out) from her series “what is the value of water if it doesn’t quench our thirst for,” 2014-17, (photo courtesy of the artist). Jack, who lives and works in both Saint Martin and Jersey City, N.J., explores “transcultural existence, memory, the effects of colonialism, and mythology.” 

Another of our favorites is “Moving Shadows II, XI” (2017) by Girma Berta.

Gallery and museum shows to see this fall and winter 2020, including Theaster Gates and Bisa Butler. Moving Shadows II, XI (2017) by Girma Berta. Photo Courtesy Addis Fine Art.

The first artist featured in the series is New York City-based Nathaniel Oliver. His work entitled “I saw her on Van Buren” is an oil painting on wood panel from his solo show “Limbo” at HOUSING. 

I saw her on Van Buren (2020) by Nathaniel Oliver. Photo Credit: Artsy.

4. Toyin Ojih Odutola: “Tell Me a Story, I Don’t Care If It’s True.” Through Nov. 7. at Jack Shainman Gallery.

Nigerian-American contemporary visual artist Toyin Ojih Odutola uses a powerful combination of show-and-tell to grip audiences through portraits and anecdotes for her solo show “Tell Me a Story, I Don’t Care If It’s True,” at Jack Shainman Gallery in New York City’s Chelsea neighborhood.

Gallery and museum shows to see this fall and winter 2020, including Theaster Gates and Bisa Butler. Toyin Ojih Odutola “Save Face” (2020). Photo Credit: Toyin Ojih Odutola and Jack Shainman Gallery.

Contexts here are anecdotal: two teenagers rambling before attending a show, a seductive monologue on a train, a woman presenting a lecture, a man questioning his desires, an encounter with a lifeless body. Whatever came to mind, I wrote and drew them out,” Odutola says. 

The subjects in her art are African and people of the African diaspora in works comprised of diptychs and standalone pieces. They’re created using colored pencil, graphite and ink. And they portray different moments in life — the mundane, the more devastating, chance encounters and death. 

Nanban (2020), Toyin Ojih Odutola. Photo Credit: Toyin Ojih Odutola and Jack Shainman Gallery.

The artist also slyly notes that stories can be unreliable. And self-serving for the person telling the story – perhaps as a means to cope with their own personal struggles.

 “I’m attempting to question proclivities towards interpretation and the degrees of bias that effect legibility,” Odutola says. Seeking truth, she discovers, ultimately comes down to trusting yourself. 

the gallery shows of top black artists you need to see this fall and winter 2020

Gallery and museum shows to see this fall and winter 2020, including Theaster Gates and Bisa Butler.

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Jeanette Settembre is a New York City features writer and editor specializing in lifestyle, food, and travel. Her work has appeared in The Wall Street Journal, WSJ Magazine and Architectural Digest, among many other publications. Jeanette started her career in journalism as a features reporter for the New York Daily News, where she edited Entertainment and wrote the Sunday food column “Eats Beat.”

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