For more than thirty years, Kerry James Marshall has been creating art to inspire important conversations about African American history and identity. His paintings follow the grand traditions of Leonardo da Vinci and Michelangelo, but with new narratives in which black people are the central figures. While Marshall initially began his career as an abstract artist, his dramatic shift to figurative painting occurred in the 1980s when he realized that African American artists and subjects were being excluded from major art museums and galleries. Marshall decided he would use the techniques of the Old Masters so revered in those institutions to create a new dialogue, in which black perspectives are given greater visibility within the art history canon.
Jerome Lagarrigue has depicted many subjects throughout his career- boxers and supermodels to his multi-racial Brooklyn neighbors- but his focus has always been simply, “painting people”. The French born artist traces his interest in portraiture to art school, where it was difficult to find a model and this encouraged him to study his own face. These introspective exercises on expression, color, and psyche continue to inform his oil paintings. He also practiced graffiti, influencing his manner of working in large scale with roughly defined areas.
Rebecca Mason Adams‘s moody acrylic paintings have an edge of realism that makes them look incredibly like black and white photographs. This is because the Providence, RI based artist, currently moving to Los Angeles, first studied photography and since then, has expressed an interested in black and white portraiture, “referencing stylized and graphic photography and film.” She transitioned into painting after school, utilizing her skills in photography and lighting to create her subjects, mostly women.
In depicting the human condition, Jean-Paul Mallozzi uses paint to express emotional narratives. His oil paintings make use of thickly painted areas, moving from more accurate detail to abstract elements and exaggerated colors to imply his subject’s feelings. Color is fundamental to Malozzi’s paintings. “Each one emits a color that echoes complex emotional states that all of us can relate to,” he explains.
A child of a bustling city of contrast and colors, Rodrigo Branco‘s affinity for abstraction may come as no surprise. But his blurred portraits of local people in São Paulo, created using patches of colors and expressive strokes, are actual representations of what the artist used to see as a little kid. Raised in the southern outskirts of the city, Branco had a severe vision impairment that was left untreated for years.
There is a magical simplicity about Brookyn based painter Alyssa Monk’s oil portraits, where looking at her work is like looking into the reflection of a forest pool. Her images portray ghostly figures that take form at the surface, inbetween the reflection of other natural elements like tree branches and the sun shining peeking through their foliage. Her lush depictions are often described as a blend of the figurative and landscape.