In “28 Overlooked Black Artists to Discover This Black History Month,” Ayanna Dozier (Artsy) offers information on Black artists who are not as widely known in mainstream networks as some of their contemporary peers. Here, we will include excerpts on Floridian Zoë Charlton; Jeanne Moutoussamy-Ashe, whose father’s family hailed from New Orleans and Guadeloupe; and Jamaican-born Mavis Pusey.
In honor of Black History Month, Artsy is featuring the work of 28 Black artists who are not as widely known or celebrated as some of their historical or contemporary peers. This list is meant to shine a light on artists who have prominence within institutions but are often excluded from mainstream conversations meant to amplify overlooked Black artists or canonize them as leading figures of art history.
Of course, Alma Thomas, Jack Whitten, Sam Gilliam, and Frank Bowling are well-deserved citations of the early Black abstractionists, but lesser known to that history, broadly speaking, are Lilian Thomas Burwell, Evangeline “EJ” Montgomery, and Deborah Dancey. While contemporary artists like Kerry James Marshall, Betye Saar, and Faith Ringgold are the founding leaders of contemporary figurative painting and printmaking, the contributions of artists like Malcolm Bailey, Charles Alston, and Camille Billops may not be as widely discussed.
We hope this will serve as an introduction to, rather than a comprehensive list of, Black artists whose legacies deserve to be cemented in art history and public consciousness. Here are 28 need-to-know Black artists from the 20th and 21st centuries. [. . .]
Zoe Charlton B. 1973, Eglin AFB, Florida. Lives and works in Baltimore.
Mixed-media artist Zoe Charlton uses collage and video to untangle the legacy of slavery and segregation on the contemporary lives of Black Americans. Through collage, she physically combines objects, individuals, and cultures to narrate the violent subjugation of individuals of the African diaspora by white Americans and Europeans.
Charlton’s 2019 series “The Domestic,” inspired by her grandmother’s own experience, examines the history of Black domestic workers in white households. Using cut-outs of nude Black women, Charlton frankly uncovers the tense sexual politics that are embedded into the role of being a wet nurse or nanny to other people’s children.
Jeanne Moutoussamy-Ashe B. 1951, Chicago. Lives and works in New York.
Jeanne Moutoussamy-Ashe’s photographs are candid and frank in their depiction of mundane encounters. Her ability to capture the intimate, seemingly innocuous details of life—like a father holding his daughter, or a young girl looking out of the window—makes her work feel incredibly tender. This photographic eye, heavily influenced by mentors Gordon Parks and Garry Winogrand, enabled Moutoussamy-Ashe to produce a rich archive of portraits of people living with HIV/AIDS, including her husband Arthur Ashe, in the 1990s during the height of the epidemic.
In her 1993 photography book, Daddy and Me, Moutoussamy-Ashe photographed her husband with their daughter Camera during the last days of his life. Moutoussamy-Ashe’s attentive eye has also led her to produce documentary work on underrecognized communities across the Black diaspora, as seen in her book Daufuskie Island (1982), which captures some of the last members of the Gullah communities who live on the titular island.
Mavis Pusey B. 1928, Retreat, Jamaica. D. 2019, Falmouth, Virginia.
Mavis Pusey’s geometric abstractions across printmaking and painting are partially influenced by the artist’s background in fashion. While pursuing a career as a designer and seamstress in 1960s New York, Pusey gradually took art courses and eventually studied with artist Will Barnet, who was instrumental in her decision to pursue her modern art practice.
Pusey’s large-scale abstractions still bear traces of her sewing and design background through her use of shapes, cut-outs, and lines. Still, Pusey’s work as a printmaker further informed her multifaceted approach to artmaking that involved mixing mediums, inks, and compositions. [. . .]
For more information, see https://www.artsy.net/article/artsy-editorial-28-overlooked-black-artists-discover-black-history-month
[Shown above: Mavis Pusey’s “Demolishment.”]