Get to Know These Visionaries, Activists, & Artists Leading the Charge Across the Country
Night Gallery in L.A. NIGHT GALLERY PHOTO BY ZACK WHITFORD/BFA.COM
Visionaries, activists, and artists of color are leading the charge across the country—priming the canvas for a brilliant and beautiful future.
Author Phillip Picardi (left)and activist/ filmmaker Tourmaline
Throughout the centuries, the most reliable chronicling of humanity’s evolution has been through its art. While the history books are full of selective recollections and liberties taken by man, crude carvings of bisons on cave walls captured his effort to archive the world as it was happening around him.
By the sheer act of doing, creatives accept their responsibility to mark time, while artists of color, in particular, take on a more specific mandate—to provide commentary on the social and civil state of a people constantly in a struggle to be seen. Present-day emerging artists, galleries, and collective movements across the globe are using art to confront, liberate and shift cultural paradigms.
Kenyan-born Afrofuturist artist Wangechi Mutu. WANGECHI MUTU PHOTO BY OWEN KOLASINSKI/BFA.COM
Artists like the transgender activist, filmmaker, and writer Tourmaline—whose artworks in tandem with her social justice involvement pushes what she calls “Re-Remembering”—the act of accurately telling the stories of LGBTQ trailblazers whose lives have gone overlooked. Films like STAR People Are Beautiful People (2009) and the fictional short film Happy Birthday, Marsha! (2018) tell the stories of trans activists Sylvia Rivera and Marsha P. Johnson and their shared STAR (Street Transvestite Action Revolutionaries) movement.
Photographer Renell Medrano RENELL MEDRANO PHOTO BY OWEN KOLASINSKI/BFA.COM
The Afrofuturism movement also reaches back into history, employing literature, music, art, and film to tell the futuristic narrative of Blackness, void of white supremacy and oppression. Its imagery removes the Black subject from a subservient posture and into a place of power with a science fiction, otherworldly majesty. More recognizable performers like Janelle Monáe have expanded these themes, while painters such as Sedrick Chisom, Juliana Huxtable, and the breathtaking Wangechi Mutu propel the movement forward.
Juliana Huxtable JULIANA HUXTABLE PHOTO BY NEIL RASMUS/BFA.COM
The artist Kandis Williams, whose work is currently being shown at the L.A.-based Night Gallery (one of the emerging gallery spaces that seek to house and amplify the work of progressive artists), provocatively calls on collage as an attempt to reassemble cultural materials and create a new visual message. Her work tackles themes of race, nationalism, authority, and eroticism in a way that makes it impossible to turn away.
Kandis Williams, “Line Intersection Sublimation: Uptown Downtown satisfactions of Swan Lake, east west Pavlova to Mezentseva, Madonna Whore Balanchine to Dunham,” 2021. KANDIS WILLIAMS PHOTO © KANDIS WILLIAMS COURTESY OF THE ARTIST AND 52 WALKER, NEW YORK
East African cities like Djibouti are turning to graffiti and street art to expose the perilous conditions their people are living under, while photographers like the dynamic Renell Medrano capture their subjects, usually people of color, with the poetic nuances of James Van Der Zee and Gordon Parks, but drenched in an unapologetic rawness that masterfully encapsulates the essence of today’s youth.
Grammy-nominated singer/ songwriter Janelle Monáe. JANELLE MONÁE PHOTO BY MATT EO PRANDONI/BFA.COM
There is an undeniable emergence of the artist of color as activists: visionaries who are being encouraged to use their art to fearlessly reflect these unprecedented times—and unlike their predecessors, have the vehicle of social media as a catalyst for community and education. The creative world is pulsating with fresh new ideas and inspirations. One must keep their eyes keenly focused on this new school, lest they miss history in the making.
For a deeper dive about these and other creators to watch, scan here.