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b. 1973, USA

Amy Sherald Biography

Born in 1973 in Columbus, GA, and now based in Baltimore MD, Amy Sherald documents contemporary African-American experience in the United States through arresting, otherworldly portraits. Sherald subverts the medium of portraiture to tease out unexpected narratives, inviting viewers to engage in a more complex debate about accepted notions of race and representation, and to situate black heritage centrally in the story of American art.

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Among her influences, Sherald has cited photographs that W.E.B. Du Bois compiled to be displayed at the Paris Exposition in 1900, depicting African-American men, women, and children in ways that countered discriminatory representations of the day. In particular, Sherald is drawn to the way in which African-American family photographs served as intimate, personal portraits, during a time when only white individuals or groups were being iconised in paintings.

While her subjects are always African-American, Sherald renders their skin-tone exclusively in grisaille – an absence of colour that directly challenges perceptions of black identity and seeks, in the artist’s words, ‘to exclude the idea of colour as race.’ Sherald offsets this against a vibrant palette: eye-popping clothes and ephemera float in tension against abstracted backgrounds. The depth created by the pastel backgrounds are not confined to any specific time or space, but seem to exist beyond the facts of recorded history and national borders.

She defines the subjects of her portraits simply as ephemera float in tension against abstracted background to American identity. The individuals in her paintings are deliberately posed, dramatically staged, and assertive in gaze. Their expressiveness, and the variations in their gestures, clothing, and emotional auras reinforce the complex multiplicities of African-American existence. But the persistent sense of privacy and mystery maintained in Sherald’s work requires viewers to ponder the thoughts and dreams of the black men and women she has depicted.

Sherald was the first woman and first African-American ever to receive first prize in the 2016 Outwin Boochever Portrait Competition from the National Portrait Gallery in Washington D.C.; in February 2018, the museum unveiled her portrait of former First Lady Michelle Obama. Sherald has also received the 2018 David C. Driskell Prize from the High Museum of Art in Atlanta GA. Alongside her painterly practice, Sherald has worked for almost two decades along-side socially committed creative initiatives, including teaching art in prisons and art projects with teenagers.

Text courtesy Hauser & Wirth.

Amy Sherald Featured Artworks

There is no charm equal to tenderness of heart by Amy Sherald contemporary artwork
Amy SheraldThere is no charm equal to tenderness of heart, 2019Oil on canvas
137.2 x 109.2 x 6.4 cm
Hauser & Wirth Enquire about this work
The girl next door by Amy Sherald contemporary artwork
Amy SheraldThe girl next door, 2019Oil on canvas
137.2 x 109.2 x 6.4 cm
Hauser & Wirth Enquire about this work
Precious jewels by the sea by Amy Sherald contemporary artwork
Amy SheraldPrecious jewels by the sea, 2019Oil on canvas
304.8 x 274.3 x 6.4 cm
Hauser & Wirth Enquire about this work
If you surrendered to the air, you could ride it by Amy Sherald contemporary artwork
Amy SheraldIf you surrendered to the air, you could ride it, 2019Oil on canvas
330 x 274.3 x 6.4 cm
Hauser & Wirth Enquire about this work
A single man in possession of a good fortune by Amy Sherald contemporary artwork
Amy SheraldA single man in possession of a good fortune, 2019Oil on canvas
137.2 x 109.2 x 6.4 cm
Hauser & Wirth Enquire about this work
Sometimes the king is a woman by Amy Sherald contemporary artwork
Amy SheraldSometimes the king is a woman, 2019Oil on canvas
137.2 x 109.2 x 6.4 cm
Hauser & Wirth Enquire about this work
Handsome by Amy Sherald contemporary artwork
Amy SheraldHandsome, 2019Oil on canvas
137.2 x 109.2 x 6.4 cm
Hauser & Wirth Enquire about this work

Amy Sherald Recent Exhibitions

Contemporary art exhibition, Amy Sherald, the heart of the matter… at Hauser & Wirth, New York
Closed
10 September–26 October 2019 Amy Sherald the heart of the matter… Hauser & Wirth22nd Street, New York

Amy Sherald Represented By

Hauser & Wirth contemporary art gallery in Hong Kong Hauser & Wirth Hong Kong, Zurich, London, New York, Los Angeles, Somerset, Gstaad, St. Moritz

Amy Sherald In Related Press

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AMY SHERALD with Osman Can Yerebakan Related Press AMY SHERALD with Osman Can Yerebakan 1 October 2019, The Brooklyn Rail

Where does a masterful painter, a portraitist, go after painting the portrait of a First Lady? The answer is in Amy Sherald's grasping, intimate, and serene paintings of subjects she pulls from the crux of life, grasping the heart of the matter in each model. Borrowed from the first chapter of bell hooks's book Salvation: Black People and Love:...

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The Quiet Introspection of Amy Sherald’s New Portraits Related Press The Quiet Introspection of Amy Sherald’s New Portraits 27 September 2019, Hyperallergic

After climbing the stairs of Hauser & Wirth's Chelsea gallery, I encountered Amy Sherald's gripping portrait of a young Black man whose eyes convey a sense of quiet introspection that persists throughout her solo exhibition the heart of the matter... His subtle expression is rendered in shades of grey that contrast with the soft orange and...

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Your Concise New York Art Guide for Fall 2019 Related Press Your Concise New York Art Guide for Fall 2019 10 September 2019, Hyperallergic

As always, there are many wonderful exhibitions, film festivals, and art events taking place throughout the fall in New York. We've put together our recommendations, and hope that they encourage you to explore the artistic happenings of this great city. Focusing on museums, art nonprofits, and galleries that continue to make New York a global hub...

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Best of 2018: Our Top 20 Exhibitions Across the United States Related Press Best of 2018: Our Top 20 Exhibitions Across the United States 21 December 2018, Hyperallergic

In 2018, artists and curators across the United States have been crafting brilliant exhibitions across the US, exploring themes of identity and community in innovative ways. Ebony G. Patterson made a maximalist tribute to victims of violence in her home country of Jamaica, while Joel Otterson crafted work recalling his parents' professions as a...

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