August 19, 2020
Maysha Mohamedi, an abstract painter based in Los Angeles, came upon an issue when she was doing research: why was there a lack of information about BIPOC abstract artists? Her concern was met with support by fellow abstract artists Laura Owens and Lisa Diane Wedgeworth. For Field Workshop: Action Projects, the three artists planned and facilitated a research discussion session to help with the creation of a Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC) abstract artist directory. On August 19, the key organizers included invited artist guests to also become founding advisors of the project: Anna Sew Hoy, Rebecca Morris, Sam Vernon, and Chelle Barbour who joined online, and designer Jasmin Shokrian, Sasha Meriyem Benitez, Edgar Ramirez, and Carolyn Castaño joined in person at ICA LA. Safe social distancing protocols and masks, gloves, face shields, and hand sanitizer were provided for those on-site. Each member presented a prepared list of BIPOC abstract artists to include in the directory. Executed in a hybrid format, via Zoom and in-person engagement, the Field Workshop: Action Projects initiative helped to develop this BIPOC abstract artist database while stimulating dialogue around how to grow the list as a resource.
The presentation format allowed each attendee to present two BIPOC abstract artists, an image of their work, and a short description of their artistic practice and/or background. Artists shared were predominantly painters with others using abstraction in sculpture, installation, prints, and drawings. The resulting list of entries to date is not definitive and will expand, or perhaps decrease, as artists continue to define and redefine their artistic practice. An Instagram account has been created—@BIPOCAbstractionists—and a database/directory has begun. The next phase will be to monitor public access to the list of BIPOC abstractionists as additional submissions are offered for review. The group also hopes to produce oral histories of older, underrecognized BIPOC abstract artists. To date, the list includes over 400 artists. Members of the public can fill out a Google Form to add artist names to the database.
Follow @BIPOCAbstractionists to stay up to date with their project.
About the founding artists and advisors of the BIPOC Abstractionists database:
Maysha Mohamedi (mayshamohamedi.com) is an Iranian American artist who lives and works in Los Angeles. Her studio is located in the Fashion District in Downtown LA, but she uses materials from all over: from tar that she collects on the beaches of Santa Barbara to tubes of Middle Eastern paint imported from her mother country of Iran. Recent exhibitions include (select) solos shows at Nicelle Beauchene, Halsey McKay, Left Field Gallery (New York); Gallery 16 (San Francisco); and group shows at Loyal Gallery (Sweden), Artual Gallery (Lebanon), and Lancaster Museum of Art and History, The Pit, and La Loma Projects (Los Angeles). Mohamedi is also a founding member of the local art collective, The Binder of Women. Her work has been profiled in Artforum, LA Times, Huffington Post, SF Arts Quarterly, and The Conversation Art Podcast.
Laura Owens (owenslaura.com) is a mixed-media painter, best known for her images of animals and landscape incorporating a number of art historical references. Originally from Euclid, OH, Owens received a BFA from the Rhode Island School of Design and attended the Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture in Maine. She later completed her MFA at the California Institute of the Arts. After emerging onto the art scene in the late 1990s, she became the youngest artist ever to receive a retrospective at the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles. She has also had solo shows at the Bonnefantan Museum, Kunstmuseum Bonn, Milawaukee Art Museum, Aspen Art Museum, and the Miami Museum of Contemporary Art. In addition, she was a featured artist at the 2014 Whitney Biennial. Owens lives and works in Los Angeles.
Lisa Diane Wedgeworth (lisadianewedgeworth.com) is an interdisciplinary artist whose large-scale abstract paintings are informed by memory and employ energetic mark-making to interpret psychological and emotional energies. She has been invited to exhibit her work in Los Angeles, North Carolina, Scotland and Paris; and to perform at Williams College and Northwestern University. She is a recipient of the 2020 COLA Individual Artist Fellowship and has lectured about her work at NAMI (National Alliance on Mental Illness, Franklin County, OH), OTIS, California State University Los Angeles, Chapman University and Los Angeles City College where she is a part-time faculty member. A cultural producer, Wedgeworth exhibited emerging artists in her studio-based project space PS 2920 between 2015–2016 and recently launched the public platform, Conversations About Abstraction, to share the voices of abstract artists historically excluded from the Western canon.
Anna Sew Hoy: http://annasewhoy.info
Carolyn Castaño: https://carolyncastano.com
Chelle Barbour: https://www.chellebarbour.com
Edgar Ramirez: https://www.eramirezart.com
Jasmin Shokrian: https://jasminshokrian.com/pages/about
Rebecca Morris: https://bortolamigallery.com/artist/rebecca-morris/works/
Sam Verno: https://www.samvernon.com
Sasha Meriyem Benitez
— Habiba Hopson, 2020 Getty Marrow Intern, ICA LA