Marking the artist’s first solo show in Europe, Amy Sherald, the American painter and portraitist has opened a major suite of new paintings at Hauser & Wirth London. Bringing together a selection of both small-scale works and large, monumental pieces, the show is Sherald’s largest to date with the gallery, and a shining example of her abilities in translating and expressing powerful emotional landscapes and intricate relationships through a simple, elegant color palette and meticulous use of space.
Sherald is acclaimed for her paintings of Black Americans that have become landmarks in the grand tradition of social portraiture—a tradition that for too long excluded the Black men, women, families and artists whose lives have been inextricable from public and politicized narratives. Sherald humanizes the Black experience by depicting her subjects in both historically recognizable and everyday settings, at once immortalizing them and reinserting them into the art historical canon. In this new body of work, she continues this practice while confronting the Western canon through allusions to significant historic works or images. This includes the painting For love, and for country (2022), a recreation of the iconic photograph V-J Day in Times Square (1945) by Alfred Eisenstaedt showing a US Navy sailor kissing a woman in Times Square, New York City as Imperial Japan surrendered in the Second World War.
Sherald’s work is expressive and dense, and as her compositions rely on bold stagings and gentle gradations of color. In Deliverance, for instance, a pair of canvases depicting motorbike riders popping wheelies and posed directly at each other. The background of each canvas is a gentle gradient of blue, and the details and shading of each figure is done with the same cool, deliberate method, lending the energy of the scene all the more power. Sherald’s works depict her subjects with this sense of power across the show, a celebration of the black body, of black culture, and of black pride, in the most expressive and direct modes.
The show closes December 23rd.
– C. Rhinehardt
Amy Sherald: The World We Make [Exhibition Site]