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Recommended Reading: Black-Centric Art Books



As we edge past the halfway mark of Black History Month, we wanted to take another opportunity to celebrate the creative contributions of a handful of contemporary Black visual artists. From painters and sculptors to photographers and multimedia artists, these individuals have left an indelible mark on the art world, challenging norms, confronting injustices, and reshaping our perceptions of what constitutes incredible art. Join us as we explore a curated selection of recently published books that delve into these extraordinary artists' lives, works, and legacies.




Kitchen Table Series

Carrie Mae Weems

2022

MW Editions


“This publication is dedicated solely to the early and canonical body of work by American artist Carrie Mae Weems. The 20 photographs and 14 text panels that make up the Kitchen Table Series tell a story of one woman’s life, as conducted in the intimate setting of her kitchen. The kitchen, one of the primary spaces of domesticity and the traditional domain of women, frames her story, revealing to us her relationships—with lovers, children, friends—and her own sense of self, in her varying projections of strength, vulnerability, aloofness, tenderness and solitude.”



Ming Smith: An Aperture Monograph

2020

Aperture


“One of the greatest artist-photographers working today, Smith moved to New York in the 1970s and began to make images charged with startling beauty and spiritual energy. This long-awaited monograph brings together four decades of Smith’s work, celebrating her trademark lyricism, distinctively blurred silhouettes, dynamic street scenes, and deep devotion to theatre, music, poetry, and dance―from the “Pittsburgh Cycle” plays of August Wilson to the Afrofuturism of Sun Ra. With never-before-seen images and a range of illuminating essays and interviews, this tribute to Smith’s singular vision promises to be an enduring contribution to the history of American photography.”




How High the Moon

Stanley Whitney

2024

DelMonico Books


“The esteemed American painter Stanley Whitney has, for 50 years, created joyful, immersive abstractions characterized by a bold, experimental palette and unique rhythm. Over the last 20 years, he has structured his paintings as loose grids: a consistent framework that frees him to work through seemingly infinite painterly variations and allows viewers to focus not on each painting’s subject but rather on their own response to colour. These large-scale paintings are joined by improvisatory small paintings; drawings and prints, which constitute their own practice for Whitney; and the artist’s sketchbooks, which offer a view into Whitney’s engagement with the written word and politics.”




just beyond

Denyse Thomasos

2022DelMonico Books


“This is the first-ever retrospective publication on Trinidadian Canadian painter Denyse Thomasos. Thomasos’ often monumental canvases with overlapping gridded lines, fluid drips of paint, and geometric architectural objects challenge the limits of minimalism and abstraction while embodying her dedication to social justice. Through pattern, scale and repetition, Thomasos conveyed the vastness of events, such as the Transatlantic slave trade and mass incarceration, without exploiting the images of those affected by them. Thomasos writes: “Like a carpenter, I rebuild the fragmented psychology of slave culture, revealing its fragile foundation.”A series of essays addresses Thomasos’ dissection of art historical traditions, her interest in global architectures and physical structures of power and resistance, her focus on the history of slavery, and her commitment to exposing narratives of systemic racism.”




An Archaeology of Silence

Kehinde Wiley

2023

DelMonico Books


“Kehinde Wiley: An Archaeology of Silence features a new body of paintings and sculptures by American artist Kehinde Wiley confronting colonialism's legacies through the fallen figure's visual language. It expands on a subject the artist first explored in his 2008 series Down—a group of large-scale portraits of young Black men inspired by Wiley’s encounter with Hans Holbein the Younger’s The Dead Christ in the Tomb (1521–22) at the Kunstmuseum Basel. Holbein’s painting triggered an ongoing investigation into the iconography of death and sacrifice in Western art that Wiley traced across religious, mythological and historical subjects. An Archaeology of Silence extends these considerations to include men and women around the world whose senseless deaths, often unacknowledged or silenced, are transformed into a powerful elegy of global resistance against state-sanctioned violence. The resulting paintings of Black bodies struck down, wounded or dead, all referencing iconic historical paintings of slain heroes, martyrs or saints, offer a haunting meditation on the violence against Black and brown bodies through the lens of European art history.”




Kara Walker

2021

JRP Editions


“This gorgeous 600-page volume, with a printed cloth-over-paper binding, provides an exciting opportunity to delve into the creative process of Kara Walker, one of the most celebrated artists working in the United States today. Primarily recognized for her monumental installations, Walker also works with ink, graphite and collage to create pieces that demonstrate her continued engagement with her own identity as an artist, an African American, a woman and a mother. More than 700 works on paper created between 1992 and 2020—which are reproduced in print for the first time from the artist’s own strictly guarded private archive—are collected in this volume, thus capturing Walker’s career with an unprecedented level of intimacy. Since the early 1990s, the foundation of her artistic production has been drawing and working on paper in various ways.”




Portraits

Bisa Butler

2020

Art Institute of Chicago


“Bisa Butler is an American artist who creates arresting and psychologically nuanced portraits composed entirely of vibrantly coloured and patterned fabrics that she cuts, layers, and stitches together. Often depicting scenes from African American life and history, Butler invites viewers to invest in the lives of the people she represents while simultaneously expanding art-historical narratives about American quiltmaking. Situating her interdisciplinary work within the broader history of textiles, photography, and contemporary art, contributions by a group of scholars—and entries by the artist herself—illuminate Butler’s approach to colour, use of African-print fabrics, and wide-ranging sources of inspiration. Offering an in-depth exploration of one of America’s most innovative contemporary artists, this volume will serve as a primary resource that both introduces Butler’s work and establishes a scholarly foundation for future research.”




Forothermore

Nick Cave

2022

DelMonico


“The definitive volume on the ever-evolving and shape-shifting work of the Chicago-based artist Nick Cave: Forothermore highlights how Cave’s practice has shifted and continues to shift in response to our history and current cultural crisis. Including several new, never-before-seen works, the book shows an artist at the height of his power. Addressing topics ranging from art history to social justice, Nick Cave: Forothermore includes essays from Naomi Beckwith, Romi Crawford, Antwaun Sargent, Malik Gaines, Krista Thompson and Meida Teresa McNeal. Punctuating these contributions are interviews with the artist exploring his life, work and teaching practice, as well as a roundtable discussion between Cave and dancer Damita Jo Freeman, musician Nona Hendryx and publisher Linda Johnson Rice on Cave's art and influences, as well as pivotal cultural phenomena from Soul Train to Ebony magazine. Nick Cave: Forothermore reveals how art, music, fashion and performance can help us envision a more just future.”


BONUS: The Kids Corner



Radiant Child: The Story of Young Artist Jean-Michel Basquiat

Javaka Steptoe

2016

Little Brown


“Jean-Michel Basquiat and his unique, collage-style paintings rocketed to fame in the 1980s as a cultural phenomenon unlike anything the art world had ever seen. But before that, he was a little boy who saw art everywhere: in poetry books and museums, in games and in the words that we speak, and in the pulsing energy of New York City. Now, award-winning illustrator Javaka Steptoe's vivid text and bold artwork echoing Basquiat's own introduce young readers to the powerful message that art doesn't always have to be neat or clean—and definitely not inside the lines—to be beautiful.”




Ablaze with Color: A Story of Painter Alma Thomas

Jeanne Walker Harvey, Loveis Wise

2022

HarperCollins


“As a child in Georgia, Alma Thomas loved to spend time outside, soaking up the colours around her. And her parents filled their home with colour and creativity despite the racial injustices they faced. After the family moved to Washington, DC, Alma shared her passion for art by teaching children. When she was almost seventy years old, she focused on her own artwork, inspired by nature and space travel. In this celebration of art and the power of imagination, Jeanne Walker Harvey and Loveis Wise tell the incredible true story of Alma Thomas, the first Black woman to have a solo exhibition at the Whitney Museum in New York City and to have her work chosen for the White House collection. With her bold and vibrant abstract paintings, Alma set the world ablaze with colour.”

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