Mithu SenBegali2017mixed media on handmade paper
Mithu Sen’s earliest work consist of a series of self-portraits – post-human bodies that show Sen morphing into bird-like, fawning creatures, all the while locking their gaze pointedly at the viewing audience. Her work is confrontational, and yet it is delicate – infused with a deeply intellectual and affective understanding of the subjects it chooses to take on. Sen started her career as a poet, but quickly moved away from language, with what she likes to call an “un-languaging” of her practice; she often breaks up words in this way, such as “de-void”, or “sub-way”, all in an effort to undo them, and with language, to undo herself, too. Her work rigorously continues with such deconstructions, both of the semiotic and the pedagogic.
Ai WeiweiChinese2017reinforced PVC with aluminium frame
Himself a refugee, Weiwei has almost entirely focused his work on advocating the refugees’ human rights and documenting their tragic condition in recent times. The exhibition Law of the Journey is Ai Weiwei’s multi-layered, epic statement on the human condition: an artist’s expression of empathy and moral concern in the face of continuous, uncontrolled destruction and carnage. Like Noah’s Ark, a monumental rubber boat is a contemporary vessel of forced exodus, floating hopelessly within the immense, oceanic abyss.
Luo ZhongliChinese1980oil on canvas
Father was remarkable for its lack of idealism. Luo declined to paint the glowing, vigorous laborers of Mao’s propaganda. Viewers were also startled by the painting’s scale. It is more than seven feet tall, at the time a size seen as appropriate only for portraits of Mao.
Gahee ParkKorean2018oil on canvas
Instead of taking to explicit symbolism, Gahee is drawn towards broader themes such as “desire, intimacy, pleasure, utopias, voyeurism, social rituals, the public vs the private, power dynamics, our relationship to time.” Her work is as much a minefield of interpretation as it is her way of expressing her own view of the world.
Wadsworth A. JarrellBlack American1972screenprint on paper
Revolutionary is based on a photograph of political activist and professor Angela Davis speaking at a rally in spring 1970, published in Life magazine on September 11 of that year in an article titled “The Making of a Fugitive.” At the time, Davis was fleeing awarrant for her arrest in connection with the murder of a prison guard, a story that captured national attention. (She was later arrested, tried, and, in 1972, found not guilty.
Shirin NeshatIranian1944black and white RC print and ink
Neshat depicts the chador-clad woman in a violent context by incorporating the blunt barrel of a rifle that bisects her hardened face. The inscribed Farsi poem on her face, which was taken from Tahereh Saffarzadeh’s poem “Allegiance with wakefulness,” along with her unflinching gaze, honors the conviction and bravery of these Iranian women during the war. The artist’s intention was to emphasize the role of ‘martyrdom,’ a concept that became the heart of the revolution at the time, as it promoted the women’s faith, self-sacrifice, rejection of Western ideologies, and ultimately life after death. Thus, the woman represents the ability for Islamic women to control their own lives in opposition to the Western misconceptions that Islamic women are oppressed
Amy SheraldBlack American2018oil on linen
The portrait celebrates Michelle Obama, the former first lady of the United States and the wife of the 44th president, Barack Obama. In this elegant and enigmatic painting, she gazes directly out at the viewer, hand under her chin, inviting contemplation. Painted using the artist Amy Sherald’s signature grayscale, Mrs. Obama’s unnaturally colored skin asks us to consider both her race and her humanity. While the use of gray in lieu of more natural skin tones reduces the reference to her race, the blunt removal also draws attention to her skin color, highlighting her racial identity. The gray tones, in particular, reference nineteenth-century photographic traditions, wherein the emerging photographic medium allowed free African Americans to celebrate themselves and craft their own unique (and positive) identities.
Eleta's documentary portraits during the ‘70s and ‘80s made some of the most significant socio-cultural commentary, as she made visible with her camera lens Panamanian women who were largely ignored— like domestic workers and female farmers. The impact of U.S. colonialism on Panama is also evident in her work, as the Canal Zone where she photographed only welcomed Panamanians who were service workers. This photo was taken during the U.S. invasion of Panama, and as a means of self-defense the subject, Romi, grabbed a hunting rifle.
Jordan CasteelBlack American2018oil on canvas
Casteel's large-scale, colorful portraitures are like immediate snapshots or street style investigations of everyday black and immigrant life, touching on themes of familiarity and otherness, individuality and anonymity. Her stylistic portrayal of her subjects—street vendors, restaurant owners and locals—shows them to be cool and comfortable, often proud with a self-possessed gaze. Stereotypes and the complexities of black masculinity are also frontal topics in what Casteel depicts, as the black men she paints are subjects empowered by her viewpoint, capturing them in their interior and exterior environments.
Gorman is referred to as "the Picasso of American Indian art" by the New York Times, his paintings are primarily of Native American women and characterized by fluid forms and vibrant colors, though he also worked in sculpture, ceramics, and stone lithography. He was also an avid lover of cuisine, authoring four cookbooks, (with accompanying drawings) called Nudes and Food.
Murakami expressions examine the prevalent tendencies of both Japanese and Western culture embellished in paintings, prints, sculptures and animations. Depicting scenes of sexual fantasies, social commentary with an inherent essence of Japanese anime and a distinctive Manga aesthetic. Complemented in some works by euphoric psychedelic backdrops layered in floral motifs blossoming vibrant colours.
Yayoi KusamaJapanese2018acrylic on canvas
Known in Japan as Kabocha, Pumpkins are positive images to Kusama because they represent a positive piece of her troubled childhood in Matsumoto. As a young girl, Kusama spent hours drawing pumpkins. To her, pumpkins are representative of stability, comfort, and modesty. According to Kusama, she prefers to use pumpkins because not only are they attractive in both color and form, but they are also tender to the touch. Therefore, the inclusion of pumpkins in her artwork can be said to be due to the childhood memories that the vegetable triggers.
El AnatsuiGhanaian2011aluminum and copper wire
El anatsui generates meaning out of his material and technique. The bottle caps come from hard liquors introduced by the Europeans as currency – and thus as a means of subjugation. The process of cutting , flattening, squeezing, twisting, folding and joining of thousands of these bottle caps, together with copper wire that weave together fabricated sections into a single work, speaks of the making of human communities out of connected individual subjectivities.
Mandy El-SayeghMalaysian2019oil and mixed media on linen
Moving between linguistic, material, and corporeal registers, El Sayegh’s work examines the role of painting to explore trauma, psychoanalysis and subjectivity, creating meaning that signals a breakdown in, or disturbance of, systems and orders. Drawing from a wide range of research and reference material, El-Sayegh incorporates pop cultural imagery, scientific diagrams, commercial packaging as well as objects from her personal archive, decontextualizing the familiar to create new meanings. El-Sayegh characterises her works as being preoccupied with ‘part-to-whole’ relations and with the formation of subjectivity - how fragments can be unified into a coherent whole.
Phaan HowngTaiwanese American2017installation
Howng creates an immersive environment with intense, unnatural colors inspired by toxic waste. She highlights local environmental issues and create a space and suite of programs to raise awareness about Baltimore's waterways.
Andrew HemCambodian-American2019acrylic on canvas
Hem uses water a lot in his paintings because it is like time to him. He travels so much he forgets where he's been most of the time and his memory has become fragmeneted like water.
Shuvinai AshoonaInuit2010coloured pencil & ink on paper
By turns uncanny, comical and disquieting, Shuvinai Ashoona’s idiosyncratic dream-like imagery erases the distinctions between the natural and spirit worlds, and between the real and imagined. Many of the artist’s images include fantastical monster-like creatures, while others portray people and planets orbited by a range of beings including fish and walruses. Ashoona’s drawings of tents and wooden structures positioned on rock strewn landscapes often provide glimpses of their interiors, transforming what might otherwise be mistaken for images belonging to ethnographic illustration into uncanny meditations on the fluid boundary between inside and outside. Known for her aerial perspectives and cropped compositions, Ashoona’s carefully executed drawings and prints are often marked by a filmic sensibility.
Kehinde WileyAfrican American2012oil on canvas
Wiley’s signature portraits of everyday men and women riff on specific paintings by Old Masters, replacing the European aristocrats depicted in those paintings with contemporary black subjects, drawing attention to the absence of African Americans from historical and cultural narratives. Through the process of “street casting,” Wiley invites individuals, often strangers he encounters on the street, to sit for portraits. In this collaborative process, the model chooses a reproduction of a painting from a book and reenacts the pose of the painting’s figure. By inviting the subjects to select a work of art, Wiley gives them a measure of control over the way they’re portrayed.
Firelei BáezDomincan2020acrylic on yupo paper
Báez explores the ways in which personal and collective identities are shaped by inherited histories. Here, fluid forms are grounded by piercing eyes that hold the gaze of the viewer in a surreal relay of connection. By rendering spectacular bodies that traverse and defy boundaries, Báez energizes her works with powerful and emotional narratives that exist beyond words.
John EdmondsBlack American2017photography
Edmonds was facinated by all the men wearing durags on the streets when he first moved to Crown Heights, Brooklyn. Previously linked to American slavery when women would wear headwraps to protect themselves from heat, they now function as a performative gesture of black masculinity.
Janet KigusiuqInuit1981linocut and colour stencil on paper
Kigusiuq bright, bold and graphic work on paper typically depicts scenes inspired by camp life – hunting and fishing, and supernatural forms inspired by Inuit spirituality and stories. By capturing memories and stories of time on the land, her work became a form of resistance against forces of colonization and assimilation she encountered.
Pushpamala NIndian2001type C print on metallic paperHere the artists recreated a popular print of an iconic and much copied late 19th century painting of Lakshmi by Raja Ravi Varma. One of India’s best-known painters, Ravi Varma established a commercial printing press in 1894 in order to supply a market for appealing and affordable images of deities. Lakshmi, the beautiful and auspicious Hindu goddess of wealth and wellbeing, is shown dressed in a red sari and standing on a lotus blossom, flanked by swans and an elephant.
Njideka Akunyili CrosbyNigerian2013acrylic, charcoal, pastel, colored pencil, collage, and transfers on paper
The figures who people Crosby’s large-scale works—hybrids of painting, drawing, collage, and printmaking—inhabit familiar-looking domestic interiors. They appear quiet and pensive, poised in the moment before glances turn into conversation. The Nigerian-born artist, however, makes their voices heard—ruminations on the day-to-day negotiations of postcolonial life once so obvious as to be assumed but which have taken on greater urgency as the issues of global immigration threaten to subsume them.
#slice of life
Lucia HierroDomincan American2018digital print on burhsed nylon, felt, & foam
Through her work, Hierro confronts cultural and economic privilege, and their relations to material objects as well as intangibles. In a time of rapid change and hyper-gentrification of cities, Lucia’s work asks us to meditate on goods and the “chicken and the egg” effect they may hold: What is our relation to that which we consume? Just how much is capitalism integrated into our identities? And, most importantly, can we hold conflicting preferences?
Jean Michel BasquiatBlack American1984oil, oil stick, and acrylic on canvas
Basquiat began his short but prolific career as a graffiti artist in the streets of New York. He adopted a deliberately street smart and seemingly naïve style, yet his art also contained sophisticated references to contemporary culture and art history. Basquiat drew his cryptic visual vocabulary from numerous sources ranging from ancient Egyptian art to books to the symbols of the Depression-era hobo code. Images of the Sacred Heart, a Catholic symbol of pain and suffering, symbolize personal anguish and the artist’s Haitian heritage. Basquiat continually juxtaposed such emblems in different combinations as if they were phrases of a personal language, like a visual diary.
Jaune Quick-to-See SmithFrench-Cree, Shoshone, Salish, New Mexican2004watercolor, oil, charcoal on hand-made paper
Smith has been creating complex abstract paintings and prints since the 1970s. Combining appropriated imagery from commercial slogans and signage, art history and personal narratives, she forges an intimate visual language to convey her insistent socio-political commentary with astounding clout. Smith’s work carries tremendous weight and yet feels light and conversational—in large part due to this forged, personal lexicon of developed imagery.
Liu XiaodongChinese2020watercolor on paper
Xiaodong is a contemporary Chinese artist best known for his involvement in the Neo-Realist movement in China during the 1990s. He employs thick, luscious brushstrokes that emphasize the abstract nature of the medium while preserving a high degree of realism.
Yoshitomo NaraJapanese2000acrylic on wood
At first glance, Knife Behind Back seems to merely depict a grumpy young girl in a collared red dress. But its title—and the fact that the viewer can only see one of the girl’s arms—gives the painting a more sinister feeling, implying that much more is taking place out of sight.
Pia CamilMexican2014hand dyed and stitched canvas
The paintings are created using hand-dyed and stitched canvas, which has often been related to the so-called feminine. Though shapes and colors are repeated, each piece is uniquely constructed in an artisanal manner in order to decelerate the process of massive cultural production. Camil engages with an abstract image in different ways, uncovering the symbols and messages encoded in the cultural landscape.