White male artists have continually been the standard for much in the art world. Everyone knows the names and works of the greats like Michelangelo or Andy Warhol. In the narrative of American Art history, focusing on white artists, regardless if they are male or female, mutes the vast contributions that African American artists have provided to American art. In the times when African American Artists are mentioned, the focus remains on a few names from the mid 20th century and the superstars, like Kehinde Wiley or Lorna Simpson, that are in the art world today. African Americans have been a part of the art world since America began in the 1700s. Many of the first African American artists of the colonial times will forever be lost to time since they were slaves, but it is important to acknowledge them and remember the legacies of those whose names are known.
The Black Shadow Box is an interactive educational database that lists artists African American artists from the 1700s to know. This project is a source of different African American artists throughout American history and provides other African Americans to finally see creators that look like them. Artists are organized by their main artistic practice and allow viewers to explore each of the artist’s individual profiles to learn more about their artistic practice. Each profile provides basic information about the artist, a brief statement or summary of their work, museums, and public collections that their work is on display in, and features a portrait of the artists and 1 – 3 images of their original work. In addition to the artist profiles, the Black Shadow Box has ongoing exhibitions that explore the different periods of Black History and educational resources for people to use. The “Black Art has Always Existed” exhibition features a timeline of African American artists and brief explanations of different time periods that African American artists were a part of. The Educational Resource exhibition features original PowerPoint presentations, image lists, and art lessons that are available for anyone to download and use. In order for there to be more diversity in the art world, it is important to be able to learn about those that came before, there is still a long way to go before African American artists throughout history gain the same recognition as their white counterparts. In the words of the famed artist Romare Bearden, “Black art has always existed. It just hasn’t been looked for in the right place.
If any African American artists would like to be in this database please fill out this form.
Created by Lillian Young