Contemporary artists that deal with (post)colonialism


Renzo Martens is a Dutch artist who originated the Institute for Human Activities. He hopes this institute will help plantation workers from the Democratic Republic of the Congo to live off making art. It should accomplish a gentrification program to improve the lives of people around the art center by . The Congolese Plantation Workers Art League has now started to organize exhibitions. It is a white cube in the forest just like those in Shoreditch and Brooklyn.


Scottish artist Andrew Gilbert makes satirical paintings, drawings and sculptures tackling colonial history. Supplanting the clichés and symbolism of the Orient and the British Empire. His playful, surreal and over the top caricatures capture the violence, racism and tyranny of occupation. Andrew Gilbert refers historic events that parallel with contemporary conflicts. He draws inspiration from primitive art, films such as Zulu, Ernst Ludwig Kirchner and Emil Nolde.


Lizza Littlewort an absurdist South African artist inspired by Dadaism, whose work critiques ideological narratives of global power and the inherent propensity of capitalist ideologies. Littlewort is focusing on mass poverty and perpetual war. Her works are satirical and demonstrate a discerning commitment to well-established art conventions.


Fellow South African Conrad Botes makes drawings, prints and sculptures. He is one of the founders of Bitterkomix. He reflects on contemporary society by using the sickly sweet infantilism of Post-Pop. Botes’ work is a amalgamation of the arcadian with contemporary realities and aesthetics. He shows a society of desirable violence, institutionalized sadism. Religion is irreverent and the individual is victorious in his existential crisis.


Lili Bernard is exposing the post-colonial archetype of suffering and flexibility. She juxtaposes cruelty and compassion, ugliness and beauty. The generational clash of her Afro-Indigenous Caribbean ancestors inspires her work. Bernard re-imagines art history born of colonialism, with racially diverse subjects. She shows the diasporic stain of racism and of the unconquerable nature of the human spirit.


Yinka Shonibare’s makes paintings, sculptures, installations, photographs and films. He explores issues of race and class and questions the definition of culture. He uses bright colored ‘African’ batik fabric. The fabrics manufactured in Europe and sold in Africa, when rejected in Indonesia. His physical disability is just one strand of a far richer weave. He occasionally re-imagines famous paintings to ask what compounds our collective contemporary identity.


Frohawk Two Feathers aka Umar Rashid creates fictional narratives. He comments on politics, history, race, power, and greed by combining elements of folk art and colonial portraiture. He makes portraits of corrupt military leaders and rebel assassins and royal the family. Two Feathers paints colonial uprisings of a rebel force of freed slaves, tribes, militias and noblemen.  His images contain a mashup of references, with visual manifestations of contemporary urban culture. He incorporates tattoos, piercings and accessories associated with contemporary hipsters and gangsters.


Kara Elizabeth Walker explores race, gender, sexuality, violence and identity in her work. She is best known for her room-size tableaux of black-and-white cut-paper silhouettes. They invoke themes of African American racial identity. She often depicts scenes of slavery, conflict or violence. Her work refers to historic cultural eras in Africa and the USA.Walker relies on humor and, despite the often sombre nature of her subjects. She has also makes gouaches, watercolors, animations, shadow puppets, projections and sculptural installations


Isaac Julien tries to break down the barriers that exist between different artistic disciplines. He uses film, dance, photography, music, theater, painting and sculpture to construct a narrative. Much of his work relates to his experiences of being black and gay. Multi-screen installations and photographs examine shattered stories of memory and desire. His work forces critical thinking about race, globalization, and representation


Mickalene Thomas examines the popular characterization of black female identity, celebrity, and sexuality. She makes complex paintings made of rhinestones, acrylic and enamel. She refers to art history and contemporary culture. Inspired by her childhood her work the consists of vibrant interwoven patterns. Thomas depicts powerful women such as her mother, celebrities, and iconic art-historical figures.

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