Amani Lewis

Amani Lewis tributes cherished members of their personal communities with intimate portraits that champion social change.

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.

  • On the Verge: 25 New and Emerging Artists, group show at Creative Alliance, Baltimore, 2020
  • Winter Salon Part II, group show at Jenkins Johnson Gallery, San Francisco, 2020
  • Subjective Nature, solo show at August Wilson African American Cultural Center, Pittsburgh, 2019
  • Sold out fair booth with De Buck Gallery at Miami Art Fair, Miami, 2019
  • BFA from Maryland Institute College of Arts (MICA), Baltimore, 2016

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.

“I want to change the way we perceive black people in these urban communities. I want to help my neighbours, friends, and family members see their value.”

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.

Negroes in the Trees #10 (the breath to my fire) by Amani Lewis
Negroes in the Trees #10 (the breath to my fire), Amani Lewis, 2019. Courtesy of the artist.

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.

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