Neo-Expressionism (late 1970s – early 1990s)

Neo-Expressionism (late 1970s – early 1990s) merges Abstract Expressionism with  figural representation and a rejection of all Postmodernism innovations such as installation and conceptualism. There are a range of subjects and diverse styles. 


  1. Robert Colescott, (1925-2009) Colescott was a forerunner of Neo-Expressionist movement bridging old and new Pop Art variations. He appropriated well known European artworks using African American subjects with a style that uses figural distortions and multiple figures in a cramped space.


George Washington Carver Crossing the Delaware, 1975 – Colescott appropriates  the Emmanuel Leutze painting George Washington Crossing the Delaware., substituting George Washington Carver for George Washington, and the soldiers are replaced by black stereotypes i.e. mammy, minstrels)

  • Kara Walker (1969- ) Walker uses the vintage Victorian style of silhouette art, placed on a white background, sometimes accompanied by a video or mood lighting. The silhouettes challenge cultural memory and decorum depicting death, enslavement, interracial violence, and depravity acted out by antebellum characters. Turns history into a farce. Walker’s work has been controversial as supporters view the art as a critique of racism through irony, caricature and disturbing narrative. Critics view it as degrading and reinforcing of negative stereotypes.


Gone: An Historical Romance of a Civil War as it Occurred b’tween the Dusky Thighs of One Young Negress and Her Heart, 1994  – panoramic piece inspired by Gone with the Wind novel and film.

  • Kerry James Marshall (1955-) Creates multi layered paintings and collages with darkly pigmented flat figures to express narratives on Black society and history.


Better Homes, Better Gardens, 1994 is part of the “Garden Project” series. Well dressed children in different outdoor gardens is ironic to the actual poverty conditions of public housing projects, which bear names such as “Wentworth” and “Stateway Gardens”

  • Jean-Michel Basquiat: (1960-1988) Basquiat began his career as a graffiti artist with the tag of SAMO (same old). He quickly rose to fame after taking part in a group exhibition in 1980. early 1980s works have skeletal forms, masked faces, urban symbols, text phrases about his life and societal observations as well as his cultural heritage of Puerto Rican and Haitian. Collaborative works with Warhol and Italian artist Francesco Clement were being exhibited by 1985.


The Irony of a Negro Policeman, 1981  vividly painted, skeletal face, use of the word “pawn” suggests Black policement were ironic in a racist judicial system.”