Black art has always been a thing of beauty. For hundreds of years, people of color in this country have created amazing bodies of work; most of it stemming from the perspective of pain, struggle, and hardship. However difficult these emotions may have been, they were able to serve as an outlet for the artists, and gave the viewer the hope that good can come out of any situation.
Several establishments across the country have exhibitions on display. The Grand LA in Hollywood will feature the paintings and artifacts of the late Jean-Michel Basquiat, the Royal Academy of Arts highlights over 15 different artists with the current Souls Grown Deep like the Rivers group show, and the Black-owned ZuCot Gallery in Atlanta is hosting an exhibit intended to honor and pay homage to the many generations of African Americans who have faced racism, marginalization, and oppression, yet manage to find the strength to persevere and push forward. For many people, art truly is life, no matter the circumstance.
Along with the aforementioned galleries, there are many other museums that are showcasing Black artists during the months. Cities such as New York, Philadelphia, London, and San Francisco, among others, will temporarily house work from creatives of color, making this season the perfect time to travel, experience new locations, and consume unique works of art. So, whatever you decide to do, here are some of the can’t-miss exhibitions and art shows to check out this spring.
Leaning on lessons gleaned from cinema, literature, music, and performance, this show peruses the influence of ideologies concerning what it means to be Black, looking through the lens of artistic practice to gaze perceptively on material culture, resistance strategies, rituals of commemoration, forms of play, speculative fantasies, and all else that lives in the house of blackness. This exhibition runs through Apr. 29, 2023 at the Johnson Lowe Gallery. For more information, click HERE.
Black Orpheus explores the connection between African American artist Jacob Lawrence and his contemporaries based in West Africa through the Nigerian publication Black Orpheus. The exhibition features over 125 objects, including Lawrence’s little-known 1964–65 Nigeria series, works by the artists featured in Black Orpheus, archival images, videos, and letters. This exhibition runs through May 7, 2023 at the New Orleans Museum of Art. For more information, click HERE.
In Wild Seeds of the Soufside, photographer Dee Dwyer takes us on a visual journey into the heart of Southeast DC, a “hidden gem in the nation’s capital” also known as Soufside. Inspired by the book Wild Seed by Octavia E. Butler, Dwyer connects the Soufside community with the book’s main characters Anyanwu and Doro, immortal beings with supernatural powers who are misunderstood and feared by those unaccustomed to their style of living. Dwyer’s photographs are evocative, sensuous, exude power, and serve to demystify an area that has been misconceived. This exhibition runs through May 11, 2023 at The Phillips Collection. For more information, click HERE.
William H. Johnson painted his Fighters for Freedom series in the mid-1940s as a tribute to Black activists, scientists, teachers, and performers as well as international heads of state working to bring peace to the world. He celebrated their accomplishments even as he acknowledged the realities of racism, violence, and oppression they faced and overcame. This exhibition runs through May 14, 2023 at the Oklahoma City Museum of Art. For more information, click HERE.
“Say It Loud” will showcase works of art celebrating black joy, optimism, and determination in the face of adversity. The featured artwork is intended to honor and pay homage to the many generations of African Americans who have faced racism, marginalization, and oppression, yet manage to find the strength to persevere and push forward. This exhibition runs through Jun. 2, 2023 at ZuCot Gallery. For more information, click HERE.
Five works by Nigerian-born, Los Angeles–based artist Njideka Akunyili Crosby are spotlighted in the third and final exhibition in a series curated by the Pulitzer Prize–winning author and New Yorker magazine critic Hilton Als, in collaboration with the Yale Center for British Art and each artist. This exhibition runs through Jun. 12, 2023 at The Huntington. For more information, click HERE.
Souls Grown Deep like the Rivers brings together sculpture, paintings, reliefs, drawings, and quilts, most of which will be seen in the UK and Europe for the first time. It will also feature the celebrated quiltmakers of Gee’s Bend, Alabama and the neighboring communities of Rehoboth and Alberta. Artists include Thornton Dial, Lonnie Holley, Ronald Lockett, Hawkins Bolden, Bessie Harvey, Charles Williams, Mary T. Smith, Purvis Young, Mose Tolliver, Nellie Mae Rowe, Mary Lee Bendolph, Marlene Bennett Jones, Martha Jane Pettway, Loretta Pettway, and Henry and Georgia Speller. This exhibition runs through Jun. 18, 2023 at the Royal Academy of Arts. For more information, click HERE.
A Movement in Every Direction: Legacies of the Great Migration brings together twelve contemporary artists to consider the complex impact of this period on their lives, as well as on social and cultural life, with newly commissioned works ranging from large-scale installation, immersive film, and tapestry to photography, painting, and mixed media. Featured artists are Akea Brionne, Mark Bradford, Zoë Charlton, Larry W. Cook, Torkwase Dyson, Theaster Gates Jr., Allison Janae Hamilton, Leslie Hewitt, Steffani Jemison, Robert Pruitt, Jamea Richmond-Edwards, and Carrie Mae Weems. This exhibition runs through Jun. 25, 2023 at the Brooklyn Museum. For more information, click HERE.
Turner Award-winning British artist Helen Cammock’s first exhibition in the United States features film, poetry, performance, archival documents, and books rooted in the social history, geography, and community of New Orleans, a place she visited for the first time in January 2022. This runs through Aug. 5, 2023 at the California African American Museum. For more information, click HERE.
The Illuminated Body is a touring Museum exhibition of works by gallery artist Barbara Earl Thomas. Featuring nine paper cut portraits, three sandblasted and carved glass vessels, and a signature full room “lantern”, this exhibition showcases quotidian joy, a counterpoint to the prevalence of negative imagery of Black people so often depicted in media. This exhibition runs through Aug. 20, 2023 at the Chrysler Museum of Art. For more information, click HERE.
The Eyes Were Always On Us, a presentation of new work by internationally renowned artist, filmmaker and musician Lonnie Holley. The exhibition, on view from March 23 until April 29, 2023, is a homecoming for Holley, who has lived in Atlanta since 2010. Although painting has been integral to his forty-year career as a visual artist, The Eyes Were Always On Us consists of works exclusively made with spray paint, oil sticks, gesso and acrylic on canvas, paper and quilt. For more information, click HERE.
This groundbreaking exhibition will feature new art installations spread across multiple galleries at both institutions. Visitors will see how each artist engaged with the theme of the rising sun in a time when perspectives about human rights, equality, free speech, and other democratic principles are radically disparate. Viewers are invited to reflect on, challenge, and expand their own understanding of democracy in the process. Rising Sun: Artists in an Uncertain America runs from Mar. 23 – Oct. 8, 2023 at The African American Museum in Philadelphia. For more information, click HERE.
Afrofuturism: A History of Black Futures, will be on view from March 24th, 2023, until March 2024 at the Smithsonian. The visitors to the museum will have a chance to better understand the Afrofuturism phenomenon and its impact on popular culture, activism, and visual arts. The display will include the costume worn by the deceased actor Chadwick Boseman in the 2018 film Black Panther; the typewriter used by the astounding sci-fi author Octavia Butler; the flight suit of Trayvon Martin, a 17-year-old Afro-American boy shot in 2012; and other objects from the museum’s collection relevant for understanding the empowering quality of Afrofuturism in terms of Black liberation. For more information, click HERE.
Organized and curated by the family of Jean-Michel Basquiat, this exhibition of over 200 never-before-seen and rarely shown paintings, drawings, multimedia presentations, ephemera, and artifacts tell the story of Jean-Michel from an intimate perspective, intertwining his artistic endeavors with his personal life, influences, and the times in which he lived. This exhibition opens Mar. 31 at The Grand LA. For more information, click HERE.
Caleb Jamel Brown’s CrawlSpace considers the hidden, often overlooked aspects of our lives as a metaphor for unearthing familial histories and processing generational trauma. This exhibition runs from Apr. 1 – May 27, 2023 at the Museum of Contemporary Art of Georgia. For more information, click HERE.
Alison Saar’s work, To Sit A While, features the figure of Lorraine Hansberry surrounded by five bronze chairs, each representing a different aspect of her life and work. The life-size chairs are an invitation to the public to do just that: to sit with her and think. The sculpture of Hansberry will be on view at MoAD Apr. 5 – May 1, 2023. To learn more about the sculpture and the Lorraine Hansberry Initiative, visit https://lorrainehansberryinitiative.org/.
This exhibition surveys the legacy of Black Women in visual culture – from fetishized, colonial-era caricatures to the present-day reclamation of the rich complexity of Black womanhood by 18 artists (of numerous nationalities and with birth years spanning 1942 to 1997). This exhibition is a celebration of Black beauty, an investigation into the many faces of Black femininity and the shaping of Black women in the public consciousness – then and now. It runs from Apr. 5 – Aug. 20, 2023 at the Museum of the African Diaspora in San Francisco. For more information, click HERE.
This exhibition traces the artist’s unique visual language through signature motifs, including cowrie shells, braiding, rosettes, face vessels, and eyeless faces. Through Leigh’s re-performing of these forms in varying materials and scales, new structures of thought and meanings emerge, each consistently centering the experiences and intellectual labor of Black femmes. Accompanied by a major monograph, this exhibition offers visitors a timely opportunity to experience the complex and profoundly moving work of this groundbreaking artist. Simone Leigh’s exhibit runs from Apr. 6 – Sept. 4, 2023 at the Institution of Contemporary Art Boston. For more information, click HERE.
This year marks the hundredth anniversary of a watershed exhibition of African art mounted at the Brooklyn Museum. Despite its problematic title, Primitive Negro Art, Chiefly from the Belgian Congo, the display included over fourteen hundred objects from African regions and, importantly, presented them as works of art. Reflecting upon the momentous exhibition’s legacy, this centennial installation centers on the sakimatwemtwe figure. While highlighting African works acquired for the 1923 exhibition, Sakimatwemtwe: A Century of Reflection on the Arts of Africa contextualizes them within a more holistic view of African creativity at the time, in part by incorporating works by early twentieth-century African modernists. This exhibition opens on Apr. 7, 2023 at the Brooklyn Museum. For more information, click HERE.
This April, Tate Britain will present the UK’s first ever survey exhibition celebrating the influential work of British artist and filmmaker Sir Isaac Julien. One of the leading artists working today, Isaac Julien is internationally acclaimed for his compelling lyrical films and video art installations. This ambitious solo show will chart the development of his pioneering work in film and video over four decades from the 1980s through to the present day, revealing a career that remains as fiercely experimental and politically charged as it was forty years ago. This exhibition runs Apr. 26 – Aug. 20, 2023. For more information, click HERE.