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This image is an installation view of the Portraits exhibition at Tilton Gallery picturing a painting by Kohshin Finley on the left and a painting by February James on the right.

Installation view of Portraits at Tilton Gallery featuring Kohshin Finley (left) and February James (right).

These contemporary artists are inventing new visual idioms to capture the full spectrum of their lives and communities.

February 16, 2022

February welcomes Black History Month, a time to reflect on and celebrate the myriad contributions African Americans have made to society. While historical or famous figures often get the spotlight, it is also an ideal moment to zoom in on the Black artists who are shaking up the world today. Since we here at the Artnet Gallery Network make it our mission to discover emerging talents, in honor of Black History Month, we’ve narrowed the field to seven contemporary African American creators we think everyone should know. 

Artist: February James

Hometown: Washington, D.C.

Current City: Los Angeles

Medium: Oil pastels, watercolors, and drawings

Gallery: February James currently has work on view in a group exhibition Portraits at New York's Tilton Gallery.

Why We Like It: February James has been drawing since childhood. After moving to Los Angeles in 2007, the artist spent years moonlighting as a makeup artist while keeping up her practice. Inspired by the works of South African artist Marlene Dumas, James began to draw images of the Black figures that filled her imagination. James's figures can be spectral in appearance, with palls of white covering their faces and dark rings circling their eyes, as though bruised of utterly exhausted. Marked by the aura of memory, James's soulful works have appeared as cover art for Diplo, Santigold, and Lil Yachty albums.