Amy Sherald (American, born 1973), Handsome (detail), 2020, screen print on paper, Montgomery Museum of Fine Arts Association Purchase, 2021.2
Over the last year, the Montgomery Museum of Fine Arts has added several significant works of art to our permanent collection that align with our commitment to support artists of color. We are excited to feature several of these acquisitions from Saturday, May 1 through Friday, July 18. On view are Cheonae Kim’s (American, born South Korea,1952) paintings that explore individuality through geometric abstraction; and Amy Sherald’s (American, born 1973), print Handsome (2020), an image that characterizes her celebrations of everyday African Americans.
Korean American artist Cheonae Kim’s Mom, 2018, Deone Jackman, 2018, and Barb Bondy, 2018, are intimately scaled, abstract paintings with bold colors that form horizontal and vertical lines overlaid on a grid system. For the artist, the lines are symbolic of our daily experience—horizontal lines signify events that do not have a direct impact on how we live our lives, while the vertical lines reference the active motions or actions we take every day. Many of her works are maze-like to represent the complexity of the human mind. Although abstract, these three rhythmic and dynamic visual compositions function as portraits for the artist. Kim studies photographs of the faces of family and friends. She then adapts these into paintings by assigning colors that reflect the individuality of each person.
About the Artist
Cheonae Kim was born in South Korea and received an MFA from Southern Illinois University. She has created several large-scale public projects including Pool Tile Project for Laguna Honda Hospital in San Francisco, CA, a project for McCormick Place in Chicago, and a mural on the lobby walls of the Hammer Museum, Los Angeles, among others. Her paintings and installations are in many permanent collections, including The Art Institute of Chicago, IL; Saint Louis Art Museum, MO; Hammer Museum, Los Angeles, CA; Jule Collins Smith Museum of Fine Art, Auburn University; Block Museum of Art, Northwestern University, Evanston, IL; Glasgow School of Art, Scotland; and the National Hangeul Museum, Seoul, South Korea.
Amy Sherald’s paintings are a critique of the historical, and often politicized, representations of Black American bodies. Creating portraits of everyday people, she builds new archetypes that show the humanity and dignity of Black Americans while celebrating ordinary men, women, and children. Sherald’s compositions are an intriguing, multi-step process: she finds vibrant distinctive clothing from vintage stores, then poses and photographs her subjects wearing these unique pieces. Using the resulting photographs as a reference, she creates paintings that juxtapose her subjects against an ambiguous, flat background, which focuses all attention on the person. Sherald renders skin tones in a monochromatic gray to draw attention toward expressions and patterns, revealing the emotional life of her subject—a way to portray that each of us is more than the color of our skin.
Based on Sherald’s 2019 oil painting of the same name, Handsome, 2020, is the first-ever print produced by the artist. It features a good-looking, confident young man in casual clothing—white pants and a short-sleeved, navy and white polka-dotted shirt. Sherald met the sitter through a friend and eloquently captured his grace and style by depicting his laid-back attitude, forthright gaze, and poised posture. Sherald’s masterful depictions of people radiate with warmth and honesty, conveying a real sense of each individual she portrays. Through her distinctive style, she has updated the tradition of portraiture, creating accessible and relatable insights into the lives of ordinary Americans.
About the Artist
Originally from Columbus, Georgia, Sherald currently lives and works in Baltimore and New York. In 2016, she was both the first woman and first African American to receive top honors for the Outwin Boochever Portrait Competition from the National Portrait Gallery in Washington, D.C., which led to the commission by the National Portrait Gallery to paint former First Lady Michelle Obama. This and her recent depiction of Breonna Taylor for the cover of the September 2020 issue of Vanity Fair magazine has brought Sherald international attention.
Sherald received her MFA in Painting from the Maryland Institute College of Art (2004) and a BA in Painting from Clark-Atlanta University (1997). She has exhibited her work widely, and it is in several public collections around the world, including the Embassy of the United States, Dakar, Senegal; the National Museum of Women in the Arts, Washington, D.C.; the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture, Washington, D.C.; the Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery, Washington, D.C.; The Birmingham Museum of Art, AL; The Columbus Museum, Columbus, GA; Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art, Kansas City, MO; and Nasher Museum of Art, Durham, NC.