Landmark: The George Floyd mural outside Cup Foods in Minneapolis, Minnesota
As well as steps towards positive change, the Black Lives Matter movement that began in the United States and roiled across the world has provoked a flood of compelling visual imagery. From interpretations of the raised fist icon and portraits of George Floyd, to murals, street art, pop-up gallery shows and even slogans visible from space, the artwork captures the emotions of the movement and keeps it in the public eye when protestors have temporarily left the streets.
To identify some of the contemporary artists tackling the subject, I sent a mail to Lee Sharrock, who alongside her PR consultancy for advertising agencies also works with artists, galleries and curators. As it happened, Lee told me that she had just curated United For Change, an online anti-racist exhibition on Artnet until June 27, in collaboration with Galstian Advisory LLC. Funds raised by the exhibition will go to the Stephen Lawrence Charitable Trust (founded in the memory of a black British teenager killed in a racist attack in 1993), the artist-run civic engagement platform For Freedoms, and the Underground Museum, a free exhibition space in L.A. promoting diversity.
The line-up includes a dramatic pair of pieces by Hayden Kays: “Black Lives Matter/White Lies Matter”.
Jon Daniel weighs in with an equally dynamic duo – and it’s not surprising to learn than he trained as a graphic designer.
Beyond the exhibition, a wealth of artists are exploring the issue in ways that demand thought and engagement. The photographs of Misan Harriman, also visible on Instagram, are stark and powerful.
Images by Misan Harriman
As you may have seen, Banksy commented with an image (below left). As did street artist JR, famous for his giant black-and-white posters, whose mural combines pictures of George Floyd and Adama Traoré, a French man who died in police custody.
No doubt the most important works of all are the ones created on the street, at the heart of the movement, by protestors or even entire communities – such as this one in Charlotte, North Carolina, captured by Maleek Loyd for his Instagram account (@maleekloyd).
This is a giant-sized example, but thanks to the amplifying power of social media, smaller artworks that in the past would have been localised messages can now have a global impact.