While black is a word with many connotations—referring to color, race, style of comedy, etc.—the phrase black art is usually associated with works made by artists of African descent. Simply put, it is both a color and a concept.
The 27 artworks in this installation, drawn primarily from SAM's permanent collection, magnify the impact of this charged color and its connections to complicated social histories and purely aesthetic concerns. Black Art includes work that spans across time, from ca. 1830 to 2006, and across national and ethnic boundaries. Among the issues that black, as a concept, raises are racial and cultural heritage, perception and stereotype, spirituality and religion, protest and narrative. The aesthetic role that the actual color black plays in formal exercises of composition and line are highlighted in both figurative and abstract work shown here. It's up to you to determine when black refers to a subject, an artistic identity, aesthetic choices or content.
The installation Black Art
is particularly relevant to the work of Gwendolyn Knight and Jacob Lawrence, the artists for whom this gallery is named. Jacob Lawrence found his success in creating art that featured the triumphant stories of Black subjects, and Gwendolyn Knight's work celebrated animals, nature and people of diverse backgrounds.
–Sandra Jackson-Dumont, Adjunct Curator and the Kayla Skinner Deputy Director of Education & Public Programs
To explore this exhibition a little deeper, attend some of the related programs and events for kids, teens and adults or download our bibliography.