Sherman Beck is a Chicago-based painter who was among the original ten members of AFRICOBRA, a foundational Black arts collective formed on the South Side of Chicago in 1967.


Beck’s aesthetic vision is rooted in positive portrayals of Black family, a central tenet of AFRICOBRA’s philosophy. Reveling in the mystery and mysticism of everyday life, Beck extends the definition of family through space and time to include humanity’s kinship with nature and the metaphysical world.


Consistent throughout Beck’s oeuvre is a sense of technical mastery and aesthetic clarity, projected by an artist defined by both humility and erudition. Exalting the enduring power of the medium of painting to spark moments of intrigue for viewers, Beck perceives his paintings less as definitive statements about subject matter, and more as pliable visual examinations of the space where ideas and intuition meet.


“I try to suggest more than a moment in time,” Beck says. “Symbolically, the work is a statement about life—a metaphor. Let anyone seeing it make something of it.”


Beck’s work was included in the authoritative early exhibitions AFRICOBRA I & II at the Studio Museum in Harlem, and has been included in multiple other influential exhibitions of AFRICOBRA’s work, including AFRICOBRA 50, Kavi Gupta, Chicago, IL, USA; Africobra and Beyond, DuSable Museum of African American History, Chicago, IL, USA; AFRICOBRA: Messages to the People, MOCA North Miami, Miami, FL, USA; and I Am Somebody, at the Peninsula Hotel, Chicago, IL, USA, as well as in the solo exhibition Sherman Beck: Realms & Abstractions, African American Cultural Center, University of Illinois, Chicago, IL, USA. Beck is a graduate of the University of Illinois at Chicago. He is the former owner and operator of the Art Directions art supply store in Chicago and taught commercial art for twenty-two years at his alma mater, Dunbar High School, in the Bronzeville neighborhood of south Chicago.

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