Amani Lewis

Vibrantly distorted and saturated characters that challenge narratives of power and identity.

Amani Lewis sat in their studio on a red chair with a large painting behind them
Amani Lewis stood over a large painting which they hold a paintbrush to as they look to the camera
shot of artist's studio with two large paintings on paper taped to the walls
5 images

Born 1994, Amani Lewis (they/them) is an an American painter based in Baltimore, Maryland.

Career

As part of an ongoing commitment to sharing their platform with others the artist co-founded C'LRD, a collective that focuses on amplifying the experiences of non-white artists.

Did you know?

Enacting the community-led themes of their practice, Lewis gives 20-50% of the proceeds from each work to its subject or subjects, most of whom are friends, collaborators and peers from Baltimore's artistic community.

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Exhibitions

Practice overview

Lewis’ mixed-media work makes the personal political. Saturated colour palettes and busy compositions are overlaid with loose, illustrative line-work to depict the artists’ family and friends. Through their practice, Lewis aims to share overlooked stories of Baltimore’s Black community, presenting a counter-narrative to the mass-media that often misrepresents them. Lewis works with a multitude of materials including cloth, paper, paint, pastel and glitter to create richly layered works that fuse digital and traditional techniques, reflecting how technology has been woven into our everyday lives. By combining fine art and political resistance, Lewis continues the legacies of movements such as the Black Arts Movement and Harlem Renaissance. Lewis is also heavily influenced by the artist Charles White, a key artistic figure in the early liberation movement in America. In parallel to White’s philosophy, Lewis’ practice not only reflects today’s social landscape but intervenes within it.

Lewis pulls together the real and the imagined. Negroes in the Trees #10 (the breath to my fire) (2019) combines digital photography with drawing, painting and collage. The work depicts two figures casually sitting on the ground, resting in each other’s arms, and staring directly out of the canvas. Held between their faces is a single pink flower - a symbol of beauty, nature and strength. In the background, the city melts into wilderness with metal fencing, cars and buildings indistinguishable from the leafy foliage that engulfs the figures. Thus, Lewis turns a personal moment shared between friends in Baltimore into an obscure and magical place where the natural and urban entwine.

Lewis enacts the politics of their practice. Through the process of making portraits they foster personal relationships and encourage individuals to tell their stories. Then, when a work is sold, Lewis gives a portion of the money to the person in the piece. In doing so, Lewis elucidates the invisible labour of their work, and society as a whole, making the portraits not only a political comment but a political action. Lewis also shares their own platforms with others. For example, part of their 2019 solo show Subjective Nature, was dedicated to the collective, CLR’D. The group, co-founded by Lewis and Murjoni Merriweather, includes a breadth of artists who deal with contemporary racial identity. Through these thoughtful and political acts, the content and process of Lewis’ practice align. Elevating the ‘subjects’ of their paintings into agents for change, Lewis boldly embodies the social ethos of their work in theory, form and action.

“I want to preserve, showcase, and archive my people.”Amani Lewis