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Black is the New "Black is the New Black"

This Black Friday, take a look at the work of 10 contemporary artists currently probing the depths of the darkest color.
November 28, 2014, 8:30pm

Robert Longo, Untitled (Skull Island). Signed and dated 'Longo 2005' (lower right). Graphite and charcoal on paper. 66 1/8 x 95 1/8in. (168 x 241.5cm.). Executed in 2005. via

Karl Lagerfeld said it went with everything; Johnny Cash said he never took it off. Roger Deakins mastered lighting with it, and Monet so knew its elemental nature that he hardly used it in his paintings, on principle.

Black is—and isn't—a color, but from Suprematist painting through critical modern works of art, to the near-impossible (but highly improbable) advancements being made with it today, it's the non-substance that still refuses to give up its limits. On this Black Friday, invest last night's thanks in a look at 10 contemporary artists at work dredging black's abyss:

Frederik De Wilde

Frederik De Wilde, NASABlck-Crcl#1, 2014. Courtesy Frederik De Wilde. Picture © Frederik De Wilde. via

Best known as the creator of "Blacker-Than-Black," a color that employs nanoparticles in the near-total absorption of visible light, Frederik De Wilde is an artist-scientist pursuing what he calls, “the post sublime,” a microscopic apex he finds between chemistry, physics, and artistry. Most recently, De Wilde took to Carroll / Fletcher gallery in London to unveil NanoBlck-Sqr #1, a work developed in collaboration with NASA and Rice University.

Yan Pei-Ming

Yan Pei-Ming is a Chinese painter best known for his sweeping monochrome portraits of iconic figures created using large brushes and, often, the color black. Yan currently lives and works out of France; his latest show, Night of Colors, will be on display at Fondation Vincent van Gogh Arles through April 26, 2015.

Yan Pei-Ming, “Moonlight,” 2011. Oil on canvas 110" x 157". Courtesy the artist and David Zwirner, New York. via

Robert Longo

Robert Longo is an American hyperrealist painter and sculptor best known for Men in the Cities, a series of charcoal and graphite drawings that showed monochromatic figures in various states of disarray. He recently published a book of work called Stand with Hatje Cantz Verlag, Germany.

Kumi Yamashita 

Kumi Yamashita, Veil, 2013. 190cm x 137cm x 31cm. Light, fabric, shadow. Temporary installation at Villa Olmo, Como Italy. via

Kumi Yamashita is a light & shadow artist who uses the absence of light to create intimate, transient works that blur the line between what viewers see against the wall and the physical artwork taking place. Explains Yamashita, "I sculpt using light and shadow. I construct single or multiple objects and place them in relation to a single light source. The complete artwork is therefore comprised of both the material (the solid objects) and the immaterial (the light or shadow)."

Serge Alain Nitegeka

Currently on display at Marianne Boesky in New York City, Serge Alain Nitegeka's Morphings in Black works use black as a kind of minimalist scaffolding for abstracted 3D images he paints.

Alessandro Brighetti 

That weird, black stuff you see morphing above is called ferrofluid, a liquid saturated with suspended particles that react in the presence of a magnetic field. Artist Alessandro Brighetti uses the gloopy stuff as a kind of autonomous medium, a surface-coating substance like the nasty Venom symbiote that Spider-Man constantly battles.

Anish Kapoor

Anish Kapoor, Memory, 2008. Cor-Ten steel, 14.5 x 9 x 4.5 m. Commissioned by Deutsche Bank in consultation with the Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation for the Deutsche Guggenheim Berlin. Installation view: Anish Kapoor: Memory, Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, October 21, 2009 - March 28, 2010. Artwork © Anish Kapoor Photo: David Heald © The Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation, New York

No stranger to The Creators Project, the influential master sculptor recently announced that he would be using Vantablack, a new substance he describes as "astonishing, so deeply black that your eyes can’t really see it at all," in his new works.

Sachiko Kodama

Sachiko Kodama, Planet No. 1. via Kodama is a Japanese artist who, like Brighetti, uses ferrofluids for their uncanny effects. Her works often skirt the line between chemistry projects and kinetic sculptures. Click here to watch a video of Kodama's creations coming to life. 

Matt Mignanelli

Matt Mignanelli, Heavy. via Matt Mignanelli is a New York-based painter who uses different shades of black to create abstract, modern geometries that look like they're practically popping out of their frames. His latest show, Stories Unfolddebuted at Richard Heller Galllery in California on November 22, and is on display through December 20.  Click here to watch VICE eat pizza with Mignanelli at his Bushwick studio.  Matt Mignanelli, BQE, LIE, FDR. via

Vincent Como

Vincent Como, History of Painting - Installation View, 2006, Gouache and ink on paper, Dimensions variable, Drawings 11 x 8.5 inches, 15 x 12.25 inches framed. Images via Vincent Como is a Brooklyn-based visual artist who works in what he calls his "Black Laboratory." Deeply rooted in Minimalism, Conceptualism, and Color Field Painting, Como states on his website that, "Black is the pure and unrepentant mark of information. […] In applying my research and interest for the history and traditions of Color Theory, Physics, Alchemy, Heavy Metal, Religion and Mythology I am working toward a comprehensive understanding of the interrelation of Black, Darkness, and Matter." Click here to check out his Studio Visit page on MoMA PS1.  Vincent Como, Paradise Lost 006 (detail), 2011-present, Oil on linen, with wood, wax, and fire, 26.25 x 20 x 5.5 inches. Related: Meet The Artist Behind "Blacker-Than-Black", The Darkest Color Ever Try And Stare Into The Blackest Material In The World It's Art: Black-and-White Studio Portraits of Goats