Grisaille

amy sherald

Artwork by Amy Sherald in her solo exhibition at Hauser & Wirth, clockwise from top left: “A single man in possession of a good fortune,” 2019; “The girl next door,” 2019; “When I let go of what I am, I become what I might be (Self-imagined atlas),” 2018; and “There is no charm equal to tenderness of heart,” 2019. Credit Artwork via Amy Sherald and Hauser & Wirth.

Roberta Smith situates artist Amy Sherald within a group of youngish painters

… who have broken with, absorbed or simply ignored modernist abstraction. Instead, they work with the figure as a way of reaching broader audiences; dealing with issues of identity, gender and sexuality… The many African-American artists working in this vein are also dismantling Western painting’s racial homogeneity, populating it as never before with images of black people.
(Roberta Smith, “Amy Sherald’s Shining Second Act,” NYTimes, 9-12-19)

Smith describes Sherald’s paintings as

… startlingly spare… paintings of confident, black people whose stylish clothes and backdrops contrast with their faces, which are uniformly grisaille… She also uses grisaille, she has said, because she wants to take race out of her paintings.

And yet for all that they are grayed, Sherald’s subjects are unmistakably African-American. And that seems to be an essential aspect of her art, the part she professes to take out.

(c) 2019 JMN

About JMN

I live in Texas and devote much of my time to easel painting on an amateur basis. I stream a lot of music, mostly jazz, throughout the day, and watch Netflix and Prime Video for entertainment. I like to read and memorize poetry.
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2 Responses to Grisaille

  1. Eric Wayne says:

    I’m just thinkin’ how convenient it is to never have to deal with backgrounds except as a flat color. Light and shadow aren’t really an issue either. Everyone’s in the middle of the canvas, so, composition isn’t a big factor. When you take all that stuff out, you gotta’ make it up with something special. These remind me a little of Hockney’s very late portraits, which all I think have a blue background. Anyway, I like Sherald’s paintings OK, but, I find myself most attracted to the woman’s polka-dot dress. I’m hoping it’s not because it reminds me of Hirst’s awful spot paintings. Good stuff, but I’m guessing independent of the context of who is making the paintings, and of who, there might not be all that much to latch onto.

    • JMN says:

      Good points, Eric. I find the paintings somewhat inexpressive, if that’s the word. The apparel stands out. I would like to see where she goes in her work. Thanks for your comments!

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