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#ArtistatCB: Nina Chanel Abney

Nina Chanel Abney, “Untitled” 2017, spray paint.

At Crystal Bridges, we’re committed to exploring the unfolding story of America. Through the 2014 State of the Art: Discovering American Art Now exhibition, the museum introduced 102 artists who live and work in communities all over the US. We’re continuing that effort in 2019 through new installations and exhibitions.

#ArtistatCB provides a window into the lives and studios of artists, who help us connect to the issues of our time in thought-provoking and inspiring ways.


Nina Chanel Abney

“Over time, I’ve been trying to create my own language and develop that, and to also simplify my work to symbols. Things that are so simple that it’s a universal language where no matter if you go to museums and galleries all the time, or you don’t, you can still look at the work and use your own experience to come up with a meaning for it for yourself.” – Nina Chanel Abney

Abney uses spray paint to create large-scale murals in bright colors and shapes that reflect the tempo of modern life. She incorporates many simple symbols that are familiar to everyone, such as hearts, hands, and eyes, to evoke a personal response in each viewer. For “Untitled,” Abney responded directly to the specific site, creating a totally new composition for Crystal Bridges. The work is located in the stairwell between the Contemporary Art Gallery and the museum’s Eleven restaurant, and is on view through Spring of 2019.

Abney is a figurative painter who creates artworks that deal with issues of contemporary urban life. Her work is influenced by many aspects of popular culture, including the news, animated cartoons, video games, hip-hop culture, celebrity websites, and tabloid magazines. Abney’s works do not shy away from asking us to contemplate and deal with difficult subjects, and the paintings and murals are full of symbols, figures, and words that viewers are meant to decode. This collection of symbols form a visual language that shows Abney’s knowledge and understanding of art-historical references, in addition to popular culture.

Learn more about the artist and her work in the video above!



See more from #ArtistatCB here.