African American Artists Featured in Modern & Contemporary Exhibition

African American Artists Featured in Modern & Contemporary Exhibition

Today is Juneteenth. In honor of this historic holiday, we thought we’d note some of the artworks now on view at the Denver Art Museum in Showing Off: Recent Modern & Contemporary Acquisitions. This exhibition features several works by highly acclaimed African American artists such as Shinique Smith, Nick Cave, Kerry James Marshall, Leonardo Drew, Glen Ligon, and Robert Arneson.

In the exhibition you can learn more about their work, such as:

Marshall's Diptych Color Blind Test, which has dots that mimic the Ishihara Test (used to determine color blindness) obscuring the facial features of an African-American man and woman. The reference to color blindness, contrasted with the figures’ fists raised in the Black Power salute, prompts questions about racial stereotypes and whether it is possible to view art color-blind.

Arneson's Hey Crackers, Yeah You… (1989), which he made for a 1990 exhibition in which he addressed racial politics. About this work the artist said, “My recent images of Black Americans . . . are hard looking—looking hard—confronting our perceptual awareness and attitudes toward the national dilemma of racism.”

Ligon's Malcolm X, Sun, Frederick Douglass, Boy with Bubbles (version 3) #1 (2000), which was part of his Coloring series. Ligon asked children to color pictures from 1970s-era coloring books that featured figures such as Malcolm X and Harriet Tubman. “These coloring books had such a specific political agenda behind them. They were meant to normalize images of black Americans, to make them part of history. But for a three year old, none of that matters. A little kid can take an image of Malcolm X, and put lipstick and blush and eye shadow on him. For an adult, this is a transgression. For a kid, this is just normal.”

And stop in next week for Nooner Tours on June 24 and June 26 that focus on artwork in our African gallery. The Akire artists are a group of women who traditionally render their images on the walls of shrines in Ile Ife, Nigeria. We’ll explore a canvas created by these artists and dive into their motifs, creative process, and role in Yoruba society.

Image credit: Glenn Ligon, Malcolm X, Sun, Frederick Douglass, Boy with Bubbles (version 3) #1, 2000. Silkscreen and Flasche paint on canvas. Gift from Vicki and Kent Logan to the Collection of the Denver Art Museum. © Glenn Ligon.

Nick Cave, Untitled, 2013

Nick Cave, Untitled, 2013. Mixed media. Purchased with M & C Acquisition Funds and the Support of Vicki and Kent Logan, 2013. Denver Art Museum. © Nick Cave.

Leonardo Drew, Number 162

Leonardo Drew, Number 162, 2012. Metal, paint, gouache, thumbtacks, ink, graphite, and paper. Museum purchase in honor of Cathey Finlon's contributions to the Denver Art Museum. © 2015 Leonardo Drew.

Carleen Brice is content manager in the marketing department at the Denver Art Museum. Carleen has been at the DAM since 2013. Her favorite painting in Jordan Casteel: Returning the Gaze is called Lean.