‘As an Empath, Portraiture Works for Me’: Amy Sherald on How She Makes Space for Black Histories in Her First U.K. Show
by Jo Lawson-Tancred
Published October 11 in Artnet News
Excerpt: Two Black men on dirt bikes soar up through the air in the mammoth diptych Deliverance (2022), one of the highlights from “The World We Make,” Amy Sherald’s new solo show at Hauser & Wirth in London. Behind this powerful ascension we might imagine the roar of engines or yells of camaraderie but, frozen in motion, the scene is instead one of serene majesty.
When Sherald discovered dirt bike culture after moving to Baltimore in her 20s for her MFA, it left a lasting impression. When she asked her models what they loved about riding, they explained that it gives them a sense of freedom. “I read that as freedom from oppression,” she said, when I met her shortly after the show’s installation, just in time for Frieze week.
Though Sherald’s work eloquently captures the individual experience—specifically, the Black experience—its resonances always feels manifold and far-reaching. And so, with our minds trained on long-standing art historical motifs, Deliverance almost inevitably recalls the classic equestrian portraits of aristocrats or imperial rulers, produced by Old Masters like Rubens, Van Dyck, and Jacques-Louis David.