Wes Lang : The Black Paintings

27 Sep 2024 – 09 Mar 2025

From 27 September 2024 to 9 March 2025, Damien Hirst’s Newport Street Gallery will stage an exhibition of nearly 200 never-before-exhibited paintings and works on paper by the American artist Wes Lang. It will be the first exhibition of the acclaimed artist’s work in the UK.

Titled The Black Paintings, the exhibition will feature works produced between 2022 and 2024 that are populated by Lang’s distinctive group of characters, namely his favoured skeleton, but also animal-like and otherworldly beings. At times set against completely obscured, dark backgrounds, while at others lush landscapes, Lang’s compositions are story-like.

While Lang’s paintings are dense with colour and imagery, his drawings are lighter, leaving broad and contemplative white spaces on the pages. Often, these works on paper include text, sometimes integrating phrases that echo Taoist philosophy, while other times using more personal expressions. Text and image frequently appear to be incongruous, encouraging viewers to engage further with the works and uncover meanings for themselves.

Lang is known for taking inspiration from a wide range of sources, masterfully fusing the styles of his fine art heroes with memories and imagery from childhood and culture. For example, the works presented in The Black Paintings reference sources as diverse as monster finger puppets that Lang had as a child, Francis Bacon’s Man in Blue series, the 1920s serial film The Moon Riders, the painterliness of Edouard Vuillard and the skeletons and monsters of James Ensor’s paintings.

Central to all of Lang’s work is his desire to motivate audiences to lead fulfilling lives, and to believe in themselves. In particular, the works featured in The Black Paintings were produced in reaction to what Lang calls ‘the prevailing narrative of negativity’ in the world:

“I really wanted to sit down and make a body of work that shows people that all this noise and all these divisive faces of evil that we’re told matter don’t have to consume your mind and the way you feel about the world.”

The exhibition has been arranged in association with HENI.

Exhibition details:

Title: The Black Paintings
Dates: 27 September 2024 – 9 March 2025
Opening hours: 10am – 6pm, Tuesday to Sunday
Address: Newport Street Gallery, 1 Newport Street, London, SE11 6AJ
Admission: Free Entry


Image caption: Wes Lang, Cheval Blanc, 2023 Acrylic on linen 9 x 12 in 23 x 30.5 cm
Photographed by Jeff McLane © Wes Lang. All Rights Reserved

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