previews

St. Louis

Amy Sherald

Contemporary Art Museum St. Louis
3750 Washington Blvd.
May 11 - August 19

Curated by Lisa Melandri

Riding a wave of critical acclaim after unveiling her portrait of Michelle Obama in February, Amy Sherald now receives her first print catalogue and major institutional solo exhibition. Sherald began painting naturalist portraits a decade ago, and this jewel-box presentation of eight canvases offers an opportunity to assess her oeuvre thus far. While her work is indebted to predecessors such as Barkley L. Hendricks—the subjects are “quotidian” African Americans, the stark backgrounds decidedly Pop, and the clothes nearly photorealistic—Sherald paints black skin as artificially ashen. Some have critiqued this move as a denial of the breadth of black skin tones, still largely absent from academic painting. Yet Sherald’s grays hark back to early photography, the visual medium in which black bodies first appeared in sizable numbers and which enabled many subjects to define their own representation. Descendants of histories rendered in gelatin silver, the figures in Sherald’s world appear in Technicolor. Travels to the Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art, Bentonville, Arkansas, September–December 2018; Spelman College Museum of Fine Art, Atlanta, January 31–May 18, 2019.