b. 1982, United States

Nina Chanel Abney Biography

Working intuitively with acrylic paint and aerosol spray, Nina Chanel Abney creates large-scale paintings known for their bold colours and incorporation of both abstract and figurative motifs. The result is often a chaotic representation of contemporary life, full of suggestions, be they responses to celebrity culture, abuses of power, the permeation of violence, race, sex, or the media.

Read More

Nina Chanel Abney gained critical attention in 2007 with Class of 2007: the centrepiece of her MFA thesis exhibition at New York's Parsons School of Design. In the group portrait of her classmates, the artist depicted them as black inmates and she as a white guard holding a rifle—a reversal of the artist being the only black person in her class. The painting led the New York's Kravets Wehby Gallery to represent her and was purchased by the Miami collectors Donald and Mera Rubell, who included it in their seminal travelling group exhibition 30 Americans (2008).

Nina Chanel Abney debuted with the solo exhibition Dirty Wash at Kravets Wehby Gallery in 2008, which featured paintings that highlight the headlines of the time while reflecting on America's sensationalist media culture. The Bad Newz Kennels case, for example, in which NFL player Michael Vick was accused of hosting illegal dogfighting, is referred to in Randaleeza (2008), translated by Abney's acerbic sense of humour as a scene that portrays a young man being attacked by dogs as a woman in a white bikini—modelled after former United States secretary of state Condoleezza Rice—watches in horror.

Deftly combining symbols and flattened figures, Nina Chanel Abney's works often defy narrow interpretations. In Request One Zero One (2017), the heading 'GET HELP'—written in red block capital letters—hovers over a row of three black people kneeling as if in prayer. The figure in the middle wears a blue shirt with a yellow shoulder patch that evokes a police officer's uniform; it is unclear who they are and what kind of 'help' they are seeking. Even in works that have seemingly clearer messages, such as the scenes of white police officers exercising violence in her Always a Winner exhibition at Kravets Wehby Gallery (2015), Abney maintains a layer of ambiguity by inserting an African American officer with white arms.

Royal Flush, Nina Chanel Abney's first solo museum exhibition, was organised by the Nasher Museum of Art, North Carolina, in 2017. Spanning the first decade of her career, the show presented around 30 paintings, watercolours, and collages, and travelled to the Chicago Cultural Center the following year. In 2018, the exhibition was jointly held by the Institute of Contemporary Art and the California African American Museum in Los Angeles, and its tour was concluded at the Neuberger Museum of Art in New York.

Other solo exhibitions of Nina Chanel Abney's work include Hot to Trot. Not., Palais de Tokyo, Paris (2018); Seized the Imagination, Jack Shainman Gallery, New York (2017); and Safe House, Mary Boone Gallery, New York (2017). Abney's work has also appeared in notable group exhibitions such as Imagined Borders, Gwangju Biennale (2018); Flatlands, Whitney Museum of American Art, New York (2016); and No Man's Land: Women Artists from the Rubell Family Collection, Rubell Museum, Miami (2015), which travelled to the National Museum of Women in the Arts, Washington, D.C. (2016).

In 2018, Nina Chanel Abney curated the group exhibition Punch, featuring works by 19 artists who employ figuration to interrogate contemporary life, at Jeffrey Deitch, New York. It was reiterated at the gallery's Los Angeles location in 2019 with 33 artists including Amoako Boafo, Jordan Casteel, Kenturah Davis, Lauren Halsey, Tschabalala Self, Henry Taylor, and Abney herself.

Biography by Sherry Paik | Ocula | 2020

Nina Chanel Abney
recent exhibitions

Nina Chanel Abney in
Ocula Magazine

Learn more about the market for works
by Nina Chanel Abney.
Enquire for a confidential discussion. Enquire Now
Simon Fisher, Ocula CEO
Ocula Advisor
Simon Fisher
Christoper Taylor, Ocula Advisor
Ocula Advisor
Christopher Taylor
Eva Fuchs, Ocula Advisor
Ocula Advisor
Eva Fuchs
Rory Mitchell, Ocula Advisor
Ocula Advisor
Rory Mitchell
Ocula discover the best in contemporary art icon.
Follow Nina Chanel Abney
Stay ahead.
Receive updates on new artworks,
exhibitions and articles.
Your personal data is held in accordance with our privacy policy.
Do you have an Ocula account?
Ocula discover the best in contemporary art icon.
Get Access
Join Ocula to request price and availability of artworks, exhibition price lists and build a collection of favourite artists, galleries and artworks.
Do you have an Ocula account? Login
What best describes your interest in art?

Subscribe to our newsletter for upcoming exhibitions, available works, events and more.
By clicking Sign Up or Continue with Facebook or Google, you agree to Ocula's Terms & Conditions. Your personal data is held in accordance with our Privacy Policy.
Thank you for joining us. Just one more thing...
Soon you will receive an email asking you to complete registration. If you do not receive it then you can check and edit the email address you entered.
Thank you for joining us.
You can now request price and availability of artworks, exhibition price lists and build a collection of favourite artists, galleries and artworks.
Welcome back to Ocula
Enter your email address and password below to login.
Reset Password
Enter your email address to receive a password reset link.
Reset Link Sent
We have sent you an email containing a link to reset your password. Simply click the link and enter your new password to complete this process.