Khari Turner

Memories ebb and flow through soulful, meditative canvases.

Khari Turner (he/him) was born in Milwaukee, Wisconsin in 1991, and now lives and works in New York.


Turner held his first New York solo-show, Breathing Water to Air, at Ross-Sutton Gallery in the summer of 2021. In 2022 his work will be presented at the Venice Biennale.

Did you know?

Water collected from places of personal importance is mixed into Turner's paint, including the Milwaukee River, the Hudson River and the coast of Senegal.

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Collaborations with Khari Turner

Avant Arte and Khari Turner have one upcoming collaboration.

Practice overview

Khari Turner’s impressionistic paintings set their obscured Black subjects adrift in waves of memory. Water is a major source of inspiration, especially its relationship to the African American experience: recalling the transatlantic slave trade, racially segregated swimming pools of the mid-20th century and the artist’s own childhood on the shores of Lake Michigan. It is depicted stylistically through textured drips and swirls of colour, but also present physically - Turner mixes water collected from places of personal and historical significance into his pigments. The sodium levels of different water sources react with the paints, resulting in the unpredictable veins, splotches and residues that punctuate his canvases. Through both medium and subject, Turner’s paintings channel the churning chaos and gentle grace of oceans, rivers and lakes.

In his paintings, Turner intentionally obscures one of the most identifiable human features - eyes. This gesture is designed to highlight that collective experiences and consciousness are integral parts of individuality. One such experience is the devastating impact of structural racism in the American Criminal Justice System: the disproportionate number of Black people incarcerated, and the fact that Black people often receive harsher sentences than a white person would for the same crime. In the artist’s own words, “it was one thing to think about, that just my nose and my lips and my skin could be the reason I get a longer sentence.” Powerfully expressing such realities and recollections, Turner’s soulful paintings honour the Black experience of past and present.

“If I met my ancestors at the edge of the ocean, would I bring flowers?”Khari Turner