Celebrating Great African American Artists

Today, the United States commemorates African-American excellence in every field. One field in which African-Americans have been criminally under-celebrated is the visual arts. Of course, there have been a few artists like Basquiat who have received their rightful share of attention, but infinitely more have slipped through the cracks. Though there are too many to possibly make a full list, here are some of the many African-American artists who deserve more attention.

Joe Overstreet is an Abstract Expressionist artist known his art of the Civil Rights Movement of the 1950s and 60s. He was born in Conehatta, Mississippi and lives in New York City. In the 1970s, Overstreet also founded Kenkeleba House, a museum in Harlem of African American artists. He is known for using vibrant colors to depict serious topics and for his activism.

Overstreet in Front of a Mural Outside of His Building, Photo Taken From Nellsdish.com


Overstreet’s Famed Painting, Strange Fruit (1965)


Alma Thomas was an Expressionist artist and the first African-American woman to have a solo exhibition at the Whitney. Michelle Obama chose two of her paintings to be displayed at the White House during Barack Obama’s tenure. She took inspiration from the countryside, light, and the natural world. Her awe-inspiring work is particularly fascinating for its geometric principals and impressionist brush strokes in vibrant colors.

Portrait of Alma Thomas © Michael Fischer, 1976. Courtesy of the National Museum of American Art, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, DC.


Springtime in Washington (1971)


Jennifer Packer is a young artist whose work has been described as a “highly personal response to how black bodies navigate within the present political landscape.” She is known for using both vibrant and muted color pallets and for the introspective themes in her work. She has already been featured Time Out New York and in many international exhibitions.



Portrait of Jennifer Packer by Lauren Spinelli from Timeout.com


Ivan (2013)


Kehinde Wiley is a naturalistic portrait painter. Many of his colorful paintings show African-Americans in confident, empowered poses in front of patterned backgrounds. He once said “What is portraiture? It’s choice. It’s the ability to position your body in the world for the world to celebrate you on your own terms.”

Photo of Kehinde Wiley from Thesource.com


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Napoleon Leading the Army Over the Alps (2005)



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