“Black science” is an ideal description for Rashid Johnson’s absorbing photography, sculptures, conceptual work, and video works, through which the artist investigates science fiction, divination, black American history, and hip-hop culture, as well as personal memories.
Barkley L. Hendricks’s large-scale paintings and photographs epitomize black American urban style. His portraiture works infuse realistic depictions of contemporary black people with a certain romanticism. Dignified and fashionable, his subjects are not generic types, but rather recognizable human beings.
Bliz-aard Ball Sale is one of David Hammons’s most famous and influential performance art pieces. In 1983 he sold snowballs of varying sizes and prices alongside other street vendors in Manhattan during a winter snowstorm. The satirical performance commented on the U.S. capitalism system, the classist nature of the high-art world, and the superficial value of “whiteness” in U.S. racial politics. Hammons mostly creates art on the street, and for the people who live on those streets, for in his opinion: “The art audience is the worst audience in the world. It’s overly educated, it’s conservative, it’s out to criticize, not to understand, and it never has any fun. Why should I spend my time playing to that audience?”
Renée Green’s transfixing installations epitomize the Information Age because they are often built upon archival material, regardless of her chosen medium—film, text, photography, prints, sculpture, music, textiles, fabrics, and new media. Her prismatic art explores themes surrounding cultural and personal history and memory. In 2009 the Musée cantonal des Beaux-Arts in Lausanne, Switzerland, exhibited Ongoing Becoming, a retrospective of Green’s works, spanning from 1989 to 2009.
The cyclical nature of life—decay and resurrection—plays a central, recurring role throughout Leonardo Drew’s elaborate and enthralling installations and multilayered sculptures, which are often composed of found objects, wood, and fabrics. As gripping as Drew’s large-scale works are, they can be enigmatic to the point of being hermetic, forcing some viewers to question the validity of their artistry. Others are captivated by the suggestiveness and mystery of the works.
Richard Brautigan’s provocative 1968 novella In Watermelon Sugar provided the impetus for Noah Davis’s 2010 exhibition The Forgotten Works at Roberts & Tilton gallery in Los Angeles. The literary work centers around a post-apocalyptic commune that resides in a gathering house known as iDEATH. In the story, the sun constantly changes colors. One of the major characters, inBOIL, decides to leave the commune and live in a forbidden area called “The Forgotten Works,” which is built upon the ruins of a former civilization. Some of Davis’s thirteen large oil paintings correlate directly with Brautigan’s novel—particularly InBoil and Margaret, The Summer House, and What They Did to the Elephant in the Room.
Satire plays a huge role in Robert Colescott’s vibrant, at times claustrophobic, paintings. Colescott addressed issues surrounding history and racial stereotypes with wry, transgressive humor and keen observation. In 1975 he began creating a series of works that referenced classic Western art, but recast the central figures as black.
While Nick Cave was finishing up his graduate degree at Kansas City Art Institute, he was also studying dance through an Alvin Ailey program in both Kansas City and in New York. Today, the performance artist, fabric sculptor, and dancer is best known for his elaborate, transformative “soundsuits.” When worn, these otherworldly garments give the wearer shaman-like characteristics, as they completely overwhelm conventional human physiology. Cave constructs these works from unlikely found material such as twigs, bottle caps, and wires. Through these soundsuits, which produce sound when dancers perform in them, Cave brings an interactive aspect to his work.