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Essence of a History

by Art21February 14, 2019 2:14:15 total runtime

Jack Whitten’s “Black Monoliths” paintings embodied the artist’s way of memorializing figures who have impacted him as an artist and citizen. “I have to locate the essence of that person,” said Whitten. “That person becomes a symbol and I build that into the paint.” As institutions make efforts to showcase more artists of color, previously hidden figures are emerging throughout museum galleries, academic curriculum, and media platforms to better reflect the contemporary conversations of a multicultural community.

“What if there’s another way of considering history?” questions Stan Douglas. This playlist features artists who monumentalize everyday heroes and icons alike—embracing Black histories, while not being defined by them. From Chicago to Johannesburg, artists continue to shape a new narrative of the Black experience. For Rashid Johnson, it’s inevitable that the issues around “my Blackness have a strong effect on how my work is born,” but it doesn’t define it; his approach is rooted in “a bigger history of art.”