The journey through Black history is highlighted by the cultural heritage of Black people and their expressions through art.
Some beautiful works of art passionately painted by Black artists tell a colorful story of the resilience of people of African descent and their unbreakable bond with the Motherland.
These masterpieces are frequently influenced by religious symbolism, practicality, political statements, and more.
In recognition of the hard work and creativity in the Black creative space, here are 10 pieces of wall art from Black artists you need to know:
God’s Trombones: Judgment Day (1927)
Artist: Aaron Douglas
This piece is based on some of James Weldon Johnson’s well-known poems. While touring the Midwest as a field organizer for the NAACP, Johnson witnessed a gifted black preacher rouse a congregation with an ardent sermon before the publication of his poems; this influenced his inspiration.
To correspond with James Weldon Johnson’s poem of the same name, African- American artist, Aaron Douglas, created The Judgment Day. The painting illustrates life after death by showing how souls are either condemned or redeemed on Judgment Day based on a person’s actions while living on earth.
Gabriel, the archangel, is positioned on a mountaintop with one foot in the water. He is seen blowing a trumpet and retaining the key to the heavenly kingdom. A lightning bolt can be seen reaching into the water on the left side of the painting. A ray of light illuminates the mountaintop on the right side of the painting.
School Studies (1944)
Artist: Horace Pippin
American artist Horace Pippins was self-taught and painted a variety of subjects, including landscapes, portraits, biblical scenes, and scenes drawn from his experiences in World War I. His best-known works touch on topics like the history of racial segregation and slavery in the United States.
Selden Rodman’s Horace Pippin, A Negro Painter in America, published in 1947, was the first monograph about a Black artist, and the New York Times hailed him as the “most important Negro painter” in American history.
From 1941, until his passing in 1946, Pippin created a number of semi-autobiographical domestic interior paintings. The majority of these scenes show African American families engaging in a variety of domestic tasks in a single multifunctional room. All of the paintings share a calm, serene atmosphere and many of the same everyday objects, including rag rugs, quilts, stoves, and alarm clocks.
The three figures in School Studies have turned their backs on one another and appear to be lost in their own inner worlds rather than interacting, which distinguishes the piece and adds additional meaning to the title.
Daybreak – A Time to Rest (1967)
Artist: Jacob Lawrence
In several series on Toussaint L’Ouverture, Frederick Douglass, Harriet Tubman, life in Harlem, and the civil rights movement of the 1960s, social realist Lawrence chronicled the African American experience. He was one of the first African Americans to achieve national recognition.
The piece tells the tale of Harriet Tubman, who used the tenuous Underground Railroad—a system of safe houses—to assist numerous black individuals to escape slavery.
In the painting, she has a rifle in her hands and is lying next to a couple and their infant. Her body is partially surrounded by purple, and her face, which is facing the sky, is almost in the center of the canvas.
Grossly disproportionate and taking center stage in the piece, are Tubman’s enormous feet. Her muscles and toes are marked by lines that resemble carvings in stone, perhaps to emphasize the challenging paths she has taken. The runaways’ prone bodies are framed by reeds in the foreground. Indicators of activity at dawn include three insects: a walking stick, a beetle, and an ant.
No Woman, No Cry (1988)
Artist: Chris Ofili
British artist, Chris Ofili, stands out among well-known Black artists for his inventive style of painting, which includes using elephant dung as one of his mediums. Ofili’s creative works have attracted a lot of interest and admiration. He won the British Turner Prize in 1998.
The artwork features a picture of a black woman with braided hair crying against a golden background. Each tear contains a collaged image of Stephen Lawrence, whose mother, Doreen, spearheaded a campaign in 1998 to demand an investigation into the botched murder investigation.
The campaign was successful, and the investigation’s final report found that the investigating police department was “institutionally racist” in 1999. Stephen Lawrence was murdered in 1993.
The picture has occasionally been identified as Doreen Lawrence’s portrait. The words “R.I.P. Stephen Lawrence 1974-1993” are barely legible in phosphorescent paint, but they are more visible at night.
J’aime La Couleur (2003)
Artist: Chéri Samba
Chéri Samba is well known for his modern African art. His paintings offer a glimpse into how he views life in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Samba’s career began when he was a billboard and comic strip artist.
His iconic, frequently fantastical paintings include a graphic narrative, figures, text, and word bubbles that speak to current political and social issues like AIDS, social injustice, and corruption. Samba started literally and frequently portraying himself in his works in the 1980s, acting in a direct role as the reporter of his ideas and life experiences.
His work strives for the universal, even though it is based on his experiences in the city of Kinshasa; frequently discussing the cultural exchange between the West and Africa. In this famous painting, Chéri Samba spreads out his self-portrait in the shape of a spiral before the vastness of the sky, proclaiming a message of world peace with a paintbrush clenched between his teeth.
Dusasa II (2007)
Artist: El Anatsui
El Anatsui, a Ghanaian-born Nigerian sculptor, is widely regarded as the best contemporary African sculptor working today. He flattens, shapes, perforates, and painstakingly assembles thousands of used aluminum caps and seals from liquor bottles to create his wall-hanging sculptures out of found materials.
Despite the fact that he views himself as a sculptor, the artist carefully arranges his materials like an oil painter working on a canvas or the head of a tapestry workshop.
The title, Dusasa, can be translated as a “communal patchwork made by a team of townspeople.”
Misguided Little Unforgivable Hierarchies (2005)
Artist: Wangechi Mutu
As a member of the contemporary and Afrofuturism movements, Kenyan Artist, Wangechi Mutu, creates characters that are both fascinating and unsettling; fusing elements of science fiction with allusions to African culture. In her work, she combines issues of race, gender, self-identity, and art history.
Wangechi Mutu investigates the violence and erroneous representations that Black women, in particular, experience in modern society through her work in painting, sculpture, collage, film, and installation. Additionally, common themes are the results of globalization and consumerism.
In Mutu’s mythical bronzes and assemblages of paint, ink, magazine cutouts, and found objects, contorted feminine forms that seem both futuristic and primordial are everywhere to be seen.
#1. “you opened my eyes man, thought I had a man, but how could I eye scan” (2008)
Iona Rozeal Brown’s narrative canvases serve as a demonstration of her cultural identity commentary. She draws a lot of inspiration from modern hip-hop and the Japanese printmaking style known as ukiyo-e.
In this painting, Rozeal fuses imagery from Japanese woodcutting, geishas, and kabuki with contemporary hip-hop and vogueing figures to create a variety of multimedia paintings and collages that combine Asian and African-American aesthetic traditions.
Her artwork challenges the notion of any single identity by pointing to universal formal elements across cultures, such as the flat colors and compositions found in both woodcuts and comic books or the similarities between the Japanese geisha and modern video vixens.
In her “Battle of Yestermore” performance at Performa ’11, which featured fashion icons Benny and Javier Ninja performing in traditional kabuki costumes, she compares her cultural mashups to remixes.
Stadia II (2004)
Artist: Julie Mehretu
Julie Mehretu, the Addis Ababa-born American-Ethiopian artist creates large-scale works, which combine different media and surfaces to create abstract landscapes, draw inspiration from a variety of sources, including architectural drawings, photographs, city maps, and more.
In her two-dimensional works with eclectic characters, one comes across calligraphy, graffiti, or street art. Mehretu’s works also express how the sociopolitical implications of our urban environment’s history are explored.
In this artwork, She examines sports and military typologies to challenge contemporary notions of leisure, work, and order. The Coliseum, amphitheater, and stadium in “Stadia II” are examples of structures built to hold and organize large crowds of people but that also harbor an underlying sense of anarchy and violence.
Something Split and New (2013)
Artist: Njideka Akunyili Crosby
American-Nigerian painter, Njideka Akunyili Crosby, resides and works in Los Angeles. However, because of how strongly her country of birth defines her cultural identity, she has developed a so-called mixed identity that is essential to her body of work as a painter.
Njideka is inspired by political, personal, and artistic references. Her paintings, which are figuratively depicted, evoke the complexity of modern life. Her impressive body of work features a number of key themes that revolve around interiors, daily life, and social gatherings.
However, she uses a vibrant effect of patterns and photo collages drawn from Nigerian culture, popular culture, or collective memory, to produce a series of visual interventions.