Jamal Cyrus' (born 1973, Houston, TX) expansive practice draws on the languages of collage and assemblage, and explores the evolution of African American identity within Black political movements and the African diaspora. He is engaged with an aesthetic practice that aims to transform the most mundane materials into objects with rich, densely packed networks of meaning and purpose.
Since 2019, the artist has been utilizing denim as a raw material, transforming old jeans and their cotton thread into rich painterly abstractions. In the artist’s words, he is attempting “to use the materials and format of the quilt to document aspects of black political history.” Whether mining FBI files of Black activists and artists, or exposing underknown corners of the Black American experience, Cyrus’ project acknowledges how loss, failure, tragedy and hardship function to fuel hope, resistance, and progress within Black American culture, presenting the viewer with an expanded understanding of American history.
Cyrus received his BFA from the University of Houston in 2004 and his MFA from the University of Pennsylvania in 2008. He has won several prestigious awards, most recently the Driskell Prize, awarded by the High Museum of Art, Atlanta, GA (2020). Cyrus' mid-career survey, The End of My Beginning, opened at the Blaffer Museum of Art in 2021 before continuing on to the Institute of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles and the Mississippi Museum of Art. Cyrus was also a member of the artist collective Otabenga Jones and Associates, active from 2002 to 2017.
Jamal Cyrus lives and works in Houston, TX.