Installation in YB²P at CTG Harlem, NYYB²P is an exhibition of paintings by eleven Black and Brown artists under thirty-five based in New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut. Of Black, Caribbean, Indigenous, and Latinx heritage, these young artists are expanding upon the well-established tradition of figurative abstraction in painting championed by recognized artists of color such as Jean-Michele Basquiat, Frida Kahlo, Barkley Hendriks, Kerry James Marshall, Mickalene Thomas, and Kehinde Wiley, to name a few. This presentation demonstrates a wide range of artistic experimentation with this style by a new generation of artists, including but not limited to the incorporation of mixed media and collage to being unbound from the white canvas. Like their predecessors, these artists intentionally portray Black and Brown bodies and experiences to honor their communities and ensure their presence in art for years to come. Their practices also serve as a form of resistance and resilience. Figurative painting is prevalent with many artists of color in part as a direct reaction to the exclusionary canon of art, which historically has glorified the white body and deliberately dismissed Black and Brown cultures through the rejection of color in Modernism. Rarely the subject of art except for paintings with a colonial or imperialist perspective, such as Castas or Paul Gaugin’s oeuvre, twentieth-century artists of color took it upon themselves to take control of their visual representation and narratives, forever altering the history of art.
Raelis Vasquez (Dominican Republic, b. 1995), Aya Brown’s (United States, b. 1995), Danielle De Jesus (United States, b. 1988), Ludovic Nkoth (Cameroon, b. 1994), Amy Bravo (United States, b. 1997), Quiara Torres (United States, b. 1995), José Delgado Zuñiga’s (United States, b. 1988), John Rivas (United States, b. 1997), Estelle Maisonett (United States, b. 1991), Larissa De Jesus Negrón (Puerto Rico, b. 1994), Khari Johnson Ricks’s (United States, b. 1994).
Larissa De Jesus Negron, The Persistence of labor, 2019, Installation in YB²P at CTG Harlem, NY
Together, the YB²P artists reveal an exciting and multifaceted picture of the future of figurative painting, one that is conscious of the complexities and struggles, but also the happiness and pride that comes from being a person of color. Ultimately, this young cohort is not only carrying forth this legacy but redefining what it means to be American in today’s political climate.