Contemporary Portraiture by Black Artists at LA Art Week 2022

Powerful highlights from Frieze Los Angeles, Felix Art Fair and Spring/Break Art Show

As Frieze Los Angeles, Felix Art Fair, Spring/Break Art Show and dozens of galleries, as well as art, design and fashion pop-ups, welcomed an international swathe of guests to LA, every exhibitor had the opportunity to present powerful pieces. Amidst towering and transportive works at the three fairs, and the transgressive and thought-provoking pieces elsewhere (including Martine Syms‘ kinetic digital installation for Prada Mode, entitled “HelLA World“), there were several paintings that stood out for their take on contemporary portraiture. The following seven painted works by Black artists celebrate, honor and commemorate Black figures—and they do so with distinct vision.

Kenechukwu Victor at Felix

Nigerian artist Kenechukwu Victor‘s large-scale painting “Music to my ears III” (2021) found a place on a door at the Hollywood Roosevelt hotel, where the Felix Art Fair took place. Presented by Athens’ The Breeder, the oil-on-canvas work pauses a moment in time, where a figure stands holding an iPod and florals affixed to a walking stick.

Phumelele Tshabalala at Felix

Johannesburg, South Africa-based fine artist Phumelele Tshabalala‘s “Nokhanya from the Lineage of Grace” (2022) is a bright and mesmerizing work of layered imagination. Presented by NYC-based Lyles & King at Felix, the exuberant large-scale painting incorporates acrylic, oils, collage and embellishments on wood. Through his subject matter, Tshabalala explores Black identity, resistance and expression.

Nina Chanel Abney at Frieze

NYC-based fine artist (and longtime CH favorite) Nina Chanel Abney presented “Outdoor Dining #2” (2022) outside of Jack Shainman Gallery‘s booth at Frieze. The large-scale work, composed of acrylic and spray paint on canvas, carries many of the acclaimed artist’s stylistic signatures, from form to color.

Tyler Ballon at Frieze

One of the most beloved works exhibited at Frieze Los Angeles this year, Tyler Ballon‘s “Milestones” (2022), an oil-paint-on-canvas work, was presented by Jeffrey Deitch. It’s a tender portrait, with framing that contrasts the past and present.

Devan Shimoyama at Felix

At Felix, Philadelphia-born fine artist Devan Shimoyama displayed “Waning Kiss” (2021) which incorporated glitter and rhinestones into a work of oil and acrylic on canvas. The sparkling and textured figurative work, presented by Chicago-based Kavi Gupta, adheres to Shimoyama’s quest to increase representation of beauty, in particular for Black and queer people.

Amoako Boafo at Frieze

Accra, Ghana-born and Vienna, Austria-based fine artist Amoako Boafo displayed the exquisite “Tilted Head (White Shirt)” (2021) with LA-based Roberts Projects at Frieze. There’s an intimacy to the oil-on-canvas work, and the visible brush strokes lend a contemplative depth of texture.

Hubert Neal Jr at Spring/Break Art Show

At Spring/Break Art Show, LA’s IV Gallery exhibited the “Black & Blue” series by Belize-born, Chicago-based artist Hubert Neal Jr, composed of paintings depicting the deaths of Black people at the hands of police. Not only was the powerful, often overwhelming presentation one of the best at this particular show, it was one of the most important to be shown in LA all week.

Hero image detail of Tyler Ballon’s “Milestones” (2022), courtesy of Jeffrey Deitch Gallery, all other images of artworks taken by David Graver