AT ANY STAGE of an artist’s career, partnership with the right gallery can be transformative. New gallery representation offers the opportunity to better communicate the focus of an artist’s practice; expose their work to a broader audience of collectors, curators, and critics; and encourage and support exhibitions, projects, and even a new creative direction. In 2017, a number of galleries announced their representation of black artists with formidable practices. Over the past year, at least three major galleries began representing the estates of African American artists who have passed on, seizing on the opportunity to help bolster the legacy of overlooked figures. Three other artists cycled through the same gallery—Salon 94. While one joined its roster, two departed. Meanwhile, two relatively young female artists are now represented in Europe by London-based galleries. Presenting work in a range of mediums, from painting to sculpture, performance, photography, and video, these 9 artists/estates to watch are positioned to up their exposure and take their practices to the next level.


LORNA SIMPSON, “Soundlessness,” 2016 (ink and screenprint on claybord, 12 panels). | Courtesy the Artist and Hauser & Wirth, Photo by James Wang

Lorna Simpson | Hauser & Wirth, New York, N.Y.

LORNA SIMPSON JOINED Hauser & Wirth Gallery in April. She was previously represented by Salon 94. A conceptual artist and photographer, Simpson lives and works in Brooklyn. Her work challenges conventional views of gender, culture, identity, history, and memory. For three decades she concentrated primarily on photography and video, but in recent years began exploring drawing and painting again, inspired by vintage images of black representation in Ebony and Jet magazines. Over the past two years, she has transformed her practice, producing large-scale and multi-panel paintings first presented at the 2015 Venice Biennale, and in 2016 at Salon 94 and the Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth in Texas. In February, “Lorna Simpson: Hypothetical?” opened at the Fisher Landau Center for Art in Long Island City, N.Y. The exhibition was named for a sound installation first shown at the 1993 Whitney Biennial and revisited work from early in her career. Then in March, Simpson picked up her camera again to make a series of amazing portraits of 22 women artists curators, and scholars for Vogue magazine. After Hauser & Wirth announced its worldwide representation, the gallery mounted a solo exhibition of Simpson’s work at Frieze New York. Next year, her inaugural gallery exhibition with the gallery opens February 2018 in London.

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VISIT Lorna Simpson’s website


Photo of Lorna Simpson by James Wang, Courtesy Hauser & Wirth


“[Lorna Simpson] has emerged as a central voice in a generation of American artists questioning constructed societal historical narratives and the performative crafting of identity. Simpson deftly examines the slippery nature of representation and meaning to reveal the ways in which larger forces of gender and culture impact the everyday in an enigmatic and profound art.” — Hauser & Wirth

GERALD WILLIAMS, Message from a Giant – Garvey,” 1976/2017. | © Gerald Williams, Courtesy Kavi Gupta

Gerald Williams | Kavi Gupta, Chicago

Chicago artist Gerald Williams joined Kavi Gupta gallery this summer. Williams is a co-founder of AfriCOBRA, the artist collective formed in 1968 that developed a visual aesthetic intended to empower and uplift the black community. After traveling the world for more than two decades serving as director of Arts and Crafts Centers on United States Air Force bases, he returned to Chicago to focus on his practice. In the months following its representation of Williams, Kavi Gupta hosted the artist’s first solo exhibition in more than 20 years. The retrospective featured works from the late 1960s through the 2000s, many shown for the first time. The gallery also presented Williams’s work at Art Basel Miami Beach earlier this month, another first for the artist. As a new generation of scholars, curators, and collectors gains interest in works produced during the Civil Rights and Black Power Movements, overlooked artists such as Williams are being considered anew and benefitting from overdue recognition. AfriCOBRA is celebrating its 50th anniversary in 2018. To mark the milestone, Williams is curating a spring exhibition at Kavi Gupta featuring his work with the other four original members of the collective—Jeff Donaldson (1932-2004), Wadsworth and Jae Jarrell, and Barbara Jones-Hogu (1938-2017).

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Photo of Gerald Williams: Screenshot from Youtube video interview with Gerald Williams published by Quarter Reel


MARTINE SYMS gives a tour of her Project 106 exhibition at MoMA and explains the works featured in the 2017 show. | Video by MoMA

Martine Syms | Sadie Coles HQ, London

SADIE COLES HQ of London announced its representation of Martine Syms in September. The work of Los Angeles-based Syms explores black identity, representation, feminist thought, and surveillance through video installations, performance, photography, and publishing. 2017 has been a watershed year for the conceptual artist. Syms completed her MFA at Bard College, joined a new gallery, and had her first solo museum show at not just any museum, but a major New York institution. “Project 106: Martine Syms” at the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) was organized around “Incense, Sweaters, and Ice” (2017), a feature-length film following three people on a Great Migration-like journey from Mississippi to the Midwest and then Los Angeles. Syms’s representation with Sadie Coles came shortly after the close of the MoMA exhibition. Then in November she made the Forbes magazine list of 30 people under 30 creating the future of the arts. Earlier this year, she was featured in “Speech/Acts,” a group show at ICA Philadelphia and a solo exhibition, “The Easy Demands,” was presented at Sadie Coles. Another solo show of Syms’s work is planned for fall 2018 at Sadie Coles. Syms is also represented by Bridget Donahue Gallery in New York.

VISIT Martine Syms’s website


Photo of Martine Syme, 2016 via The Broad


SAMUEL LEVI JONES, “Dark Truths,” 2017 (deconstructed medical books, canvas and wood, 76 x 60 x 2 inches). | Courtesy of the artist, Susanne Vielmetter Los Angeles Projects, and Patron Gallery, Photo credit by Robert Wedemeyer

Samuel Levi Jones | Susanne Vielmetter Los Angeles Projects

CHICAGO-BASED artist Samuel Levi Jones joined Susanne Vielmetter Los Angeles Projects in October. His innovative practice could be described as anthropological abstraction. Jones works with deconstructed academic books and reference volumes, reinventing the materials as three-dimensional works—abstract collage “paintings” and sculpture. “One Blood,” his first exhibition with Susanne Vielmetter, was on view early this year, four months before his representation with the gallery was announced. Over the summer, he presented “Remedial Suffering,” a solo exhibition at Herron Galleries at Indiana University, his alma mater. Jones is also represented by PATRON in Chicago and Galerie LeLong in New York. In January, the artist is curating “Sidelined” at Galerie Lelong. Inspired by NFL player protests during the National Anthem, the group exhibition features work by Jones, Melvin Edwards, Lauren Halsey, and Deborah Roberts, among others. His first exhibition at Susanne Vielmetter is to be announced.

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VISIT Samuel Levi Jones’s website


Photo of Samuel Levi Jones via Galerie Lelong


OYIN OJIH ODUTOLA (b. 1985), “Between the Margins,” 2017 (charcoal, pastel and pencil on paper). | © Toyin Ojih Odutola. Courtesy the artist and Jack Shainman Gallery, New York

Toyin Ojih Odutola | Stephen Friedman Gallery, London

LONDON-BASED Stephen Friedman Gallery now represents Toyin Ojih Odutola in Europe. The New York-based artist makes conceptual portraits of imagined characters. Known for her pen-and-ink drawings, Ojih Odutola has recently been working with more color using pastels and pencil. The new direction is reflected in her first solo museum exhibition in New York currently on view at the Whitney Museum of American Art. “Toyin Ojih Odutola: To Wander Determined” presents a new series of portraits inspired by the culture, heritage and narratives of her native Nigeria. In 2016, the works presented in “A Matter of Fact: Toyin Ojih Odutola” at the Museum of the African Diaspora marked her embrace of color and began to consider the themes of black wealth further explored in the Whitney show. Her work has been featured on the FOX television series “Empire” and in September, Ojih Odutola was announced as an artist-in-residence at Barnard College. She continues to be represented by Jack Shainman Gallery in New York.

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VISIT Toyin Ojih Odutola’s website


Photo of Toyin Ojih Odutola: Screen shot from the video The Art Of Empire: Toyin Ojih Odutola


During the 2012 installation of “Recital” at the Tang Teaching Museum at Skidmore College in Saratoga Springs, N.Y., TERRY ADKINS discusses his work and the exhibition. | Video by Tang Museum

Estate of Terry Adkins | Lévi Gorvy Gallery, New York, N.Y.

LEVY GORVY ANNOUNCED its representation of the Estate of Terry Adkins (1953–2014) in November. The artist, composer, and educator who died suddenly in 2014 due to heart failure, was previously represented by Salon 94. Adkins, who worked in a variety of mediums including sculpture and installation, founded the Lone Wolf Recital Corps, a musical performance collective. His practice is receiving renewed attention, appreciation and documentation. A catalog complementing “Recital,” his 30-year survey at the Tang Teaching Museum was in development at the time of his passing. The much-anticipated volume was published a few months ago. Two universities mounted exhibitions in 2016. “Soldier Shepherd Prophet Martyr: Videos from 1989–2013,” the first survey of videos by Adkins, was on view at Illinois State University, his alma mater. The University of Pennsylvania, where Adkins was a professor, presented “Darkwater Revival: After Terry Adkins” featuring works by the artist and his former students. This year, Thomas Dane Gallery in London presented “Terry Adkins: Solitude” and “Projects 107: Lone Wolf Recital Corps” opened at the Museum of Modern Art in New York. The MoMA exhibition included a selection of the artist’s sculptures, performance props, ephemera, and documentary footage of recitals, and featured live performances, reuniting the Corps for the first time since Adkins’s death. Next month, Levy Gorvy is presenting “Terry Adkins: The Smooth, The Cut, and The Assembled” (Jan. 10-Feb. 17, 2018). The gallery’s first exhibition of works by Adkins is curated by Charles Gaines, the artist’s close friend and collaborator.

READ MORE about Terry Adkins on Culture Type


Photo of Terry Adkins by Tom Snelgrove, Courtesy Lévy Gorvy


“From Dante to W.E.B. Du Bois, from music to sculpture, [Terry] Adkins was able to create remarkable connections that expand our imaginations and our understanding of the real world. His art challenges our assumptions about what is fleeting, what is permanent, what matters, and what defines us.” — Dominique Lévy

Installation view of “Once (Now) Again,” multi-channel presentation of Ektachrome images and video from the 1980s and 1990s by LYLE ASHTON HARRIS at 2017 Whitney Biennial. | Photo by Victoria L. Valentine

Lyle Ashton Harris | Salon 94, New York, N.Y.

NEW YORK-BASED artist Lyle Ashton Harris joined Salon 94 in November. Since the 1980s, Harris has explored the politics of race, gender, sexuality, fame and desire. His multidisciplinary practice spans photography, video, collage, and performance. Harris participated in the 2017 Whitney Biennial, contributing “Once (Now) Again,” a multi-channel presentation of Ektachrome images and video from the 1980s and 1990s. Exemplifying the central themes of his practice, the work captured his friends, family, lovers, and fellow artists in images that bore witness to a time of social and creative experimentation. Following the biennial, the Whitney Museum announced the purchase of the installation for its permanent collection. Published last month, “Lyle Ashton Harris: Today I Shall Judge Nothing That Occurs: Selections from the Ektachrome Archive” charts Harris’s development as an artist and features some of the same photographs on view at the Whitney. Also this year, Stevenson Gallery in Cape Town presented “Black Power,” an immersive video installation by Harris and a selection of his photographs was on view at Albert Merola Gallery in Provincetown, Mass. Harris is also represented by David Castillo Gallery in Miami and Maruani & Mercier Gallery in Brussels. His first exhibition with Salon 94 is scheduled for Fall 2018.

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VISIT Lyle Ashton Harris’s website


Photo of Lyle Ashton Harris by Rob Kulisek, Courtesy Salon 94


ROBERT COLESCOTT, “George Washington Carver Crossing the Delaware: Page from an American History Textbook,” 1975 (acrylic on canvas). | Private Collection, St. Louis, © 2017 Estate of Robert Colescott / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York, Photo by Jean Paul Torno

Estate of Robert Colescott | Blum & Poe, Los Angeles

BLUM & POE ANNOUNCED its representation of the Estate of Robert Colescott (1925-2009) in December. The artist was based in Tucson, Ariz., at the time of his death. Colescott challenged art history and reinterpreted American history, infusing his narrative canvases with bold color and symbolism. With wit, insight, and imagination, his provocative images challenge racial and sexual stereotypes. The first African American artist to represent the United States with a solo exhibition at the 1997 Venice Biennial, Colescott’s work is receiving renewed attention. Two forthcoming exhibitions will showcase his paintings. “Figuring History: Robert Colescott, Kerry James Marshall, Mickalene Thomas,” opens at the Seattle Art Museum in February 2018. In late 2019, a traveling retrospective of Colescott curated by Lowery Stokes Sims will originate at the Contemporary Arts Center, Cincinnati. In addition, Blum & Poe plans its first exhibition of Colescott’s work in March 2018 in Los Angeles.

READ MORE about Robert Colescott on Culture Type


Photo of Robert Colescott by Giorgio Lotti/Archivio Giorgio Lotti/Mondadori Portfolio via Getty Images


Robert Colescott is “a proud instigator who fearlessly tackled subjects of social and racial inequality, class structure, and the human condition through his uniquely rhythmic and often manic style of figuration.”
— Blum & Poe

MILDRED THOMPSON, “Magnetic Fields,” 1991 (oil on canvas, 70.5 x 150 inches). | Courtesy of the Mildred Thompson Estate, Atlanta, Georgia; art and photo © The Mildred Thompson Estate, Atlanta, Georgia

Estate of Mildred Thompson | Galerie Lelong, New York, N.Y.

LAST WEEK, Galerie Lelong announced its exclusive representation of the Estate of Mildred Thompson (1936-2003). The Jacksonville, Fla.-born artist, writer, and educator spent most of her career in Germany and France. The last 15 years of her life she lived in Atlanta, serving as an associate editor at Art Papers and teaching at Spelman College, Agnes Scott College, and Atlanta College of Art. More than a dozen years after her passing, she is among a slate of African American artists working in abstraction in the mid- to late-20th century who, after being under-studied, are receiving institutional recognition and increasing attention from scholars, curators, and collectors. Thompson made paintings, drawings, prints, and sculpture inspired by music and science. Her work is currently featured in “Magnetic Fields: Expanding American Abstraction, 1960s to Today,” a group exhibition of 21 black female artists, at the National Museum of Women in the Arts in Washington, D.C. The show is named after Thompson’s 1991 painting “Magnetic Fields,” which also graces the cover of the exhibition catalog. The work exemplifies her signature approach, which is defined by vibrant color and complex mark making with linear and circular forms. Last year, Melissa Messina curated “Mildred Thompson: Resonance, Selected Works from the 1990s” at SCAD Museum of Art. Galerie Lelong will present its first exhibition of Thompson’s work in February 2018. “Mildred Thompson: Radiation Explorations and Magnetic Fields” will be accompanied by a catalog featuring essay contributions by Messina and Lowery Stokes Sims. The gallery is also mounting a solo show of Thompson’s work at the 2018 ADAA Art Show (Feb. 28-March 4) at the Park Avenue Armory in New York. CT

VISIT Mildred Thompson’s website


Photo of Mildred Thompson, Atlanta, Georgia, 1988 © Mildred Thompson Estate, Courtesy Galerie Lelong & Co., New York


UPDATE (08/17/19): In addition, Tony Cokes joined Greene Naftali Gallery in New York City in July 2017. Cox is a video artist who uses source texts, music, and media images to examine issues of identity and representation and interrogate power structures. Based in Providence, R.I., he is a professor at Brown University where he teaches in the Department of Modern Culture and Media.


Recently published, “Terry Adkins: Recital” is the first career-spanning volume of the late artist’s work. “Terry Adkins: Soldier Shepherd Prophet Martyr” documents the first exhibition devoted to videos by Adkins. In 2013, two major volumes explored the practice of Lorna Simpson. “Lorna Simpson: Works on Paper” documents her exhibition organized by the Aspen Art Museum and “Lorna Simpson” is a comprehensive survey of her 30-years of work. Lyle Ashton Harris’s new book, “Today I Shall Judge Nothing That Occurs: Selections from the Ektachrome Archive,” was published last month. The exhibition catalog “Magnetic Fields: Expanding American Abstraction, 1960s to Today” includes the work of Mildred Thompson and features her 1991 painting “Magnetic Fields” on the cover.


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