Chicago has always been fertile ground for artists. Kerry James Marshall, Chris Ware, Kanye West, the Chicago Imagists… the list goes on. It’s a city of institutions and impactful public art. One of the city's most influential artists of the last decade is finally getting his due, as Hebru Brantley is set to open Saints & Shepherds, a museum survey co-curated by Thinkspace Projects and Josef Zimmerman, Curator of Contemporary Art at the Fort Wayne Museum of Art in Indiana.

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In this context, Brantley’s work can truly be seen in the narrative that it was intended, through what he calls an Afrofuturist lens. At the heart of this work is the definition of a hero, what Brantley notes as exploring, “the dichotomy of breaking down past role models by cultural reappropriation, while also building them up in the celebration of mythology itself.” How Brantley does this in Saints & Shepherds is by reimagining traditional superheroes as people of color. It’s a powerful body of work, and it sheds light on an artist’s practice that we have come to know through his public art and sculptural works. That he has been collected by the likes of Lebron James, Jay-Z and Beyoncé, and George Lucas has given Brantley a platform for his signature characters. Now, with Saints & Shepherds, and the space to explore impactful themes in a museum setting, he paves the way for more narrative and philosophical explorations representing a new generation of emerging artists. —Evan Pricco