A City for the Arts: 11 Local Black Artists Pushing the Envelope
@properties Christie’s International Real Estate is a longtime champion of the arts. Over the years, we’ve collaborated with local artists and commissioned several public art pieces, including murals throughout Chicago.
As we continue to celebrate Black History Month, we are excited to highlight some local Black artists whose work inspires our communities and our love for Chicago’s art scene.
A multi-disciplinary creative, Dwight White II conveys his love for people and insights through his canvas paintings and large-scale murals. The former Northwestern University football player’s work can be described as “spontaneous realism,” with characters and colors acting as a direct expression of his emotions and thoughts. In 2020, White painted a mural on our Bucktown office that he said represents the idea that, “our kids are the future. All of the protesting/reform/activism happening now is to make a better world for them, similar to what those before us aimed to do.”
Elise Swopes is not your traditional artist. She’s a self-taught photographer and graphic designer who spun her knowledge of business into a form of influencer marketing on Instagram. Originally from Chicago, Swopes specializes in transforming original images into magical realism. Check out her work on Instagram or on swopes.gallery, a virtual and interactive museum.
Chicago native Hebru Brantley is an internationally recognized artist whose work can be seen throughout the city and around the world. He uses a range of mediums to create narrative-driven work that revolves around his conceptualized iconic characters. In 2015, @properties partnered with Brantley to highlight his art with a mural depicting his Flyboy character in full flight, as well as a special-edition coffee table book.
An award-winning visual artist from Chicago, Martha A. Wade has been creating art for over 20 years. The daughter of Eugene “Eda” Wade, a fine artist who greatly contributed to Chicago’s mural movement in the 1960s, Wade paints with a dreamlike feel, weaving star constellations into her work to show our interconnectedness and connection to the Universe. Her bold and vibrant paintings also portray cultural and historical themes, and can be found in homes, galleries, shops, and museums around the world.
Natalie Osborne’s paintings and prints exhibit a contemporary representation of Black women. The Chicago native’s work is inspired by graffiti, fashion, and art history, and has been featured in InStyle, Essence, and The Cut. You can purchase paintings and prints directly from Osborne on Etsy, and follow her Instagram to learn about new releases.
A Hyde Park native, Nikko Washington is a multi-media artist who originally started with drawing and painting, later transitioning to graphic design and screen-printing. His unique aesthetic is deeply tied to Chicago’s music scene, and he is the art director for Chicago hip-hop collective SAVEMONEY (prominent members include Chance the Rapper). He has designed album cover art for acts like Noname, Joey Purp, and Vic Mensa, and you can shop his works online, or check out Instagram for his latest creations.
A multidisciplinary artist, Kenyatta Forbes inspires conversation about race and identity through her work in film, video, performance art, game design, and community projects. She infuses her own experience as a Black woman as well as humor to ignite a conversation about the construction of blackness, and uses her work to create a safe space for dialogue. You can find Forbes’ macrame pieces here, podcast here, and card game here.
Kerry James Marshall’s work has been exhibited around Europe and the United States. The Birmingham, Alabama-born artist provokes conversations about the social constructs of beauty, taste, and power through his paintings, which include portrayals of historical events, narrative scenes, and portraits. His paintings can be viewed and purchased on Artsy.
Pearlie Taylor was born in Mississippi and raised in Chicago. Following a personal tragedy, Taylor’s art developed from figurative to abstract, influenced by the likes of Jackson Pollack, Richard Dempsey, and Dale Chiluly. Her work is instinctual and driven by feelings, and has been shown around the country. Taylor’s art can be purchased on her website.
Internationally renowned Theaster Gates has exhibited and performed around the world. Focused on space theory and land development, sculpture, and performance, his work draws on his interest and training in urban planning and preservation. In addition to being an artist, Gates shares his knowledge as a professor at the University of Chicago in the Department of Visual Arts.
Tyler Clark has taken paint on canvas to a new dimension. She makes art 3D by attaching real synthetic hair and other accessories, a unique feature that has led her to create artwork for Chance the Rapper, Common, Issa Rae, and Taraji P. Hensen. Clark also works in 2D but is especially known for her ability to showcase the beauty of Black women through these 3D pieces. She also makes 2D poster prints and 2D accessories.