BHM Directory: In the Arts


While 28 out of 365 days will never be enough time to celebrate an entire diaspora of people, we’re making the best of it by giving them their flowers now. This Black History Month, we’ll be highlighting Black innovators, artists and community heroes that have and are currently opening doors and empowering the community. Each week, we’ll release a hand-picked list for you to get into, with custom artwork by graphic artist, Evan [LAST NAME].

This week, we’re celebrating the Black pioneers in art.

TAJH RUST

Tajh Rust is a Brooklyn native painter, who currently resides in Connecticut. He draws from film and literary pieces to explore the relationship between black identity and space. Through his paintings and multimedia work, he investigates whiteness in modern day America, as well as lived experiences and it’s effects of American exceptionalism. His detailed paintings use saturated colors and blur the lines between real and surreal.

Follow him and his work on Instagram: @tajhrust

RONNI NICOLE ROBINSON

Ronni is a Philadelphia based artist who creates “forever flowers.” Her childhood fascination with flowers has turned into unique art she creates where she works with clay and real flowers in a process that lasts days long to preserve and fossilize them, turning them into hangable artwork.

“It's a connection that continued through Robinson's childhood—despite flora being scarce. "I grew up in the ghetto, so there wasn't a lot of nature around," she says. "It was a concrete jungle, but you could always find flowers coming through the cracks." She began a habit of picking flowers on her walk to church and pressing them in the pages of her bible, preserving them to look at later.

Now, in somewhat of a fitting twist, Robinson spends her days arranging flowers and preserving them in a concrete-like substance. The business began after Robinson, who had recently quit an uninspiring job, was struck by inspiration from a bas relief she saw on display at the Barnes museum. She decided to try pairing a similar technique with her love of flowers.”

Follow her and her work on Instagram: @iamronninicole

JAMEL SHABAZZ

Jamel was born in Brooklyn, and is best known for his iconic photography from the 1980’s streets of New York. Due to the spontaneity of his photographs, the subway and classic New York buildings became the back drops to his photos. He has always been passionate about creating photographs that say something, his instagram bio reads: “Curator of insightful images that stimulate and provoke thought. Recipient of the Gordon Parks Award in 2018 for documentary photography. He has been featured in the 2007 documentary film Planet B-Boy, the 2008 exhibition Street Art Street Life: From the 1950s to Now in the Bronx Museum of the Arts, and the album cover art for the 2011 hip hop album Undun by the Roots. He also appeared in the Cheryl Dunn 2010 documentary Everybody Street, "about photographers who have used New York City street life as a major subject in their work".

In an interview with Pioneer World, Shabazz said: “During these perilous and uncertain times, concerned photographers around the world are needed more now than ever before, to utilize their cameras as a weapon of choice to take to various front lines, capturing images that inform us of what is really going on.”

Follow him and his work on Instagram: @jamelshabazz

IDRIS HABIB

Idris is a self taught, New York native, artist who works in all forms of mediums. His work is bold and unique, when he is not painting, he is often using discarded items from the streets of the city in order to create portrait-like pieces. He pulls from his life experiences to create a genuine depiction of experiences, ranging from his deep passion for music and its influence on him, his emotion, spirituality, socio-political aspects of life, and his culture. His range of contemporary work has classified him as an “experimental artist,” as he recycles, re-imagines, and re-purposes items giving them new meanings.  

Follow him and his work on Instagram: @sir.idrisx

WOLE OLOSUNDE

Wole is a 23 year old, born and raised in Brooklyn, who works as a nurse for his nine to five, and spends his free time creating his clothing brand, Against Medical Advice. He wants to be an example for young creatives, showing people that they don’t have to be limited to one thing and it’s possible to juggle two, very different careers. Growing up in Clinton Hill, Brooklyn, and being the son of Nigerian immigrants, he had grown up inspired by the city’s style that was filled with all different kinds of people from different backgrounds. He merges his two passions through his designing, hoping to start conversation through his work that is directly inspired by human anatomy and New York culture.

“My job inspires me a lot in terms of just life in general. It still has a very big impact on my artistic work as well. Being a nurse, you know, you pay attention to detail, you pay attention to the body and you see so many different types of bodies. And being a designer you want to—I want to specifically create for all types of bodies and all types of people. So, my nursing job kind of gives me a way into a realm where people are getting into that. Where people need compassion, where people want to speak, people want their story to be known, they want to be heard, they want the help that they need. And just being a nurse, it's lovely being there, to be able to give that to them while still being a sponge and absorbing all the information that they're giving me. It's beautiful to apply to my life and my artistic journey. I'm really proud of that.” - Wole on the connection between being a nurse and a designer.

Follow him and his work on Instagram: @guacawole

CHIDINMA NNOLI

Chidinma is a 21 year old, Nigerian, visual artist who works mainly in oil paintings. She draws from personal, real-life experiences in challenging stereotypes, psychology and the cultural conditioning of women while exploring elements of identity, sexuality and mental health. Chidinma is also heavily inspired by examining social structures, and … She is inspired by Renaissance and impressionist art, and it is reflected in her work. She uses black bodies, which are not typically portrayed in those styles as a way to portray her existence and experiences properly.

In an interview with Artfriconn, Chidinma says, “as cliche as it might sound, I really want my art to impact humanity and cause change, which is why I create what I create, to get people talking about the right things and act on them. I really want to impact the art scene with my experiments. I want to keep trying out new things.”

Follow her and her work on Instagram: @chidinma.nnoli

AMANI HEYWOOD

Amani is a designer that was born and raised in the Bronx, where he calls a “paradise on Earth.” He makes leather goods, accessories, and denim in his studio, and often uses pieces from his favorite designers and brands to upcycle old pieces. He says that working with Undercover, Kapital, CDG, and Margiela pieces in upcycling projects, “gives me the feeling as if I'm there in the studio working alongside the design team to make the garment come to life. It makes me feel that no matter the brand or designer, I too am worthy to work with the most expensive and luxurious fabrics I can find.” His biggest inspiration when designing comes from Martin Margiela and the story of his mother deconstructing and reconstructing furniture, which is directly expressed in his work. Amani found courage and motivation in designing from the anonymity that Margiela’s life was lived in so that his garments could speak for themselves. He hopes that someone will have the same experience with his detail-oriented pieces.

Follow him and his work on Instagram: @amaniheywood 

KENTURAH DAVIS

Kenturah is a multimedia visual artist who works between Los Angeles and Accra, Ghana. She applies her considerable skill and keen eye for beauty to drawings, sculptures, performance art, and textiles, creating very unique work. She creates portrait-like work, and often includes literary pieces and text in her work as a way to explore the role that language shapes the world and how we understand ourselves and one another.

Her work has been in institutional presentations in Africa, Asia, Australia, and Europe. Recent exhibitions include Plumb Line: Charles White and the Contemporary, curated by Essence Harden and Leigh Raiford at the California African American Museum, Los Angeles, CA (2019); Punch, curated by Nina Chanel Abney, at Jeffrey Deitch, Los Angeles, CA (2019); and Afrocosmologies: American Reflections, at the Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art, Hartford, CT (2019). Kenturah was commissioned by the Los Angeles Metro Rail to create large-scale, site-specific work that will be permanently installed on the new Crenshaw/LAX rail line, opening in 2020.

Follow her and her work on Instagram: @kenturah

LINA IRIS VIKTOR

Lina is a Liberian-British contemporary artist, painter, and performance artist that currently lives between London and New York. Her work often puts Black bodies at its center, through historic and future narratives woven into the pieces. They are often made up of layers of photography, painting, sculpting, and her signature, water gilding with 24-karat gold to create increasingly dark canvases embedded with “layers of light.”

Her latest exhibition was in London at the beginning of 2020 titled: “Some Are Born to Endless Night -- Dark Matter.” The curator of the exhibition described Lina’s work as: “the photography, painting and sculptural installations are infused with cultural histories of the global African diaspora and preoccupied with multifaceted notions of blackness: as colour, as material and as socio-political consciousness. To Line, black is the proverbial materia prima: the source, the dark matter that birthed everything.”

 Follow her and her work on Instagram: @linairisviktor

PIERRE JEAN-BAPTISE

The 28 year old artist is a Haitian-American, Brooklyn based artist, whose work depicts representations of Black joy, community, currency, beauty, and power. His style is reminiscent of the late French artist, Jean Michel Basquiat. He pulls inspiration from pop culture, George Condo, and New York culture. He really threw himself into sketching and his artwork after his mother passed as a way to work through and feel his emotions. Pierre feels that making his love is an emotional process and a way for him to tap-into stories that are not usually told in mainstream media.

Follow him and his work on Instagram: @pstudios_

DERRICK ADAMS

Derrick is a Baltimore-born, Brooklyn, New York-based artist whose critically admired work spans painting, collage, sculpture, performance, video, and sound installations. His artwork is centered around Black identity and culture, while exploring ways in which individuals’ ideals, aspirations, and person become attached to specific objects, colors, textures, symbols, and ideologies. Through his work, he questions the intersections of consumerism, art history and American iconography and African American experiences, while also showing the joy and normalcy embodied in everyday Black experiences.

His work resides in the permanent collections of The Metropolitan Museum of Art, The Studio Museum in Harlem, the Whitney Museum of American Art, the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, and the Birmingham Museum of Art.


Follow him and his work on Instagram: @derrickadamsny

GERALD LOVELL JR.

Gerald is an oil painter that was born in Chicago to Puerto Rican and African American parents that now lives in Atlanta. He uses texture in his work to emphasize the skin of his subjects, painting layers upon layers to create the illusion of lightness and darkness, leaving everything else -- clothes, objects, and backgrounds -- in a more traditional rendering. He taught himself this method from a YouTube video, the same place he learned how to use Photoshop and Illustrator.

In 2019, he had his first solo show, “Sylvia, Sylvia,” at Atlanta’s The Gallery. When asked about the reason behind his work, Gerald said, “My work is really centered in creating honest depictions of the people I’m around. In doing that, I feel like I’m affirming them and their existence. I feel like I’m capturing moments of self-satisfaction. Being a black creative, there’s a big emphasis on creating work that has social commentary. So it’s almost turning that on its head. As I’m making more of this work, being asked about it, I’m starting to observe themes being present that weren’t originally my intention.”

Follow him and his work on Instagram: @geraldlovell

NINA CHANEL

Nina was born in Chicago, and now lives in New York. She is a contemporary artist and painter who is known for her multi-layered large pieces of artwork that explore race, gender, pop culture, homophobia and politics in her work. Through her art, she tells stories of everyday events and the ferocity of the internet. Her work is included in collections around the world, including the Brooklyn Museum, The Rubell Family Collection, Bronx Museum, and the Burger Collection, Hong Kong.

Her latest collection takes “inspiration from Black queer social life, ecploring the possibiities of Black autonomy and reimagining a setting in which such a world might exist — in the country, absent of both heteronormative ideals and the white gaze.” Although many of her avid fans would expect her to be making artwork in dialogue with the election and news cycle, she’s explained taking her art in a different direction, “I’m switching it up.” Rather than engaging directly with the news cycle, [she] offers a parallel story of sanctuary and community via abstracted landscapes across which Black people build and enjoy a world of their collective making — figures cycle, pick flowers, chop wood, bake a pie and feed chickens. “I was thinking about people leaving the city,” says Nina, “and what it would mean to own a bunch of land and kind of start your own thing.”

Source: NYT Interview; https://www.nytimes.com/2020/11/19/t-magazine/nina-chanel-abney-queer-black-art.html 

Follow her and her work on Instagram: @ninachanel