This Artist Uses His Work To Wrestle With Issues Of Identity

Freethinkers / Uproxx

“It’s so funny how everything is always about race…” says artist Devin Troy Strother. “It’s a little daunting.”

As a man with the coveted mantle of “art world darling” — a blog post by Kanye West famously sent his career to the stratosphere — Strother often wrestles with ideas of identity in his work. Naturally, those topics include race, though he’s vehement about not being pigeonholed or forced to focus solely in that lane. As a black man, he both understands the difficulty of escaping race in modern America and the difficulty of avoiding that conversation in the art scene.

“I’m the black guy,” he says. “I’m the black guy for most galleries.”

Being “the black guy” in the art world is something Strother has wrestled with for years, and he’s taken big hits from the NYTimes art critic over his approach to the subject. At the same time, he’s battling with form as a part of his practice — exploring the possibility that painting has little left to offer him.

In this episode of Freethinkers — an Uproxx series on innovators and fierce individualists putting their creative stamp on the world — we see Strother explore race in America through his work, while openly discussing its pitfalls. It’s a deep dive into a fierce creative mind at work and a dissection of topics that our country must continually address.