• A painting by Joe Minter titled Yellow Jacket, dated 2023. The painting depicts a colorful insect made up for four large "P"s and a dotted blue body.

    Joe Minter

    Yellow Jacket, 2023

    Paint on canvas, wood panel

    48 x 48 inches

  • A painting by Joe Minter titled Tropical Butterfly, dated 2022.

    Joe Minter

    Tropical Butterfly, 2022

    Paint on wood board

    48 x 48 inches

  • Joe Minter

    African Drum, 2022

    Paint on wood board

    48 x 48 inches

  • A sculpture by Joe Minter titled We Lost Our Spears, dated 1989.

    Joe Minter

    We Lost Our Spears, 1989

    Welded found metal

    51 x 29 x 35 inches

  • A sculpture by Joe Minter titled In Control of the Mule, dated 1989.

    Joe Minter

    In Control of the Mule, 1989

    Welded found metal

    58 x 35 x 27 inches

  • A sculpture by Joe Minter titled Geese in Formation, dated 2001.

    Joe Minter

    Geese in Formation, 2001

    Welded found metal

    41 x 30 x 34 inches

  • A sculpture by Joe Minter titled The Dreamer, dated c. 2005, from the collection of the Smithsonian American Art Museum.

    Joe Minter

    The Dreamer, c. 2005

    Steel and mixed media

    Smithsonian American Art Museum, Gift of William S. Arnett, 2014.72, © Joe Minter

  • Joe Minter: We Lost Our Spears, 2022


    Photo by Cary Whittier

  • Joe Minter

    2019 Whitney Biennial

    Whitney Museum of American Art

  • An installation view of Joe Minter's sculpture titled Four Hundred Years of Free Labor, dated 1995, in History Refused to Die: Highlights From the Souls Grown Deep Foundation Gift at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in 2018. Image courtesy of Agaton Strom and The New York Times.

    Joe Minter, Four Hundred Years of Free Labor, 1995

    History Refused to Die: Highlights From the Souls Grown Deep Foundation Gift, 2018

    Metropolitan Museum of Art

    Photo by Agaton Strom

  • An installation view of Joe Minter: Once That River Starts To Flow at the Atlanta Contemporary in 2018.

    Joe Minter: Once That River Starts To Flow, 2018

    Atlanta Contemporary

Under the Stars, Under the Sun

Joe Minter

August 24 -October 21, 2023

Circa 1989

February 9 -April 2, 2022

We Lost Our Spears

Joe Minter

February 9 -April 2, 2022

Joe Minter is an artist and cultural historian living in the Titusville neighborhood of Birmingham, surrounded by his magnum opus, a sprawling didactic artwork that he has dubbed the African Village in America. Built on land adjacent to both his home and the Shadow Lawn Memorial Gardens, a historically black cemetery, the environment is constructed almost entirely from discarded elements, a direct symbolic gesture reflecting his belief that African Americans have themselves been discarded throughout American history. Minter is constantly at work on this ever-evolving outdoor installation that recounts both immediately local and world events that have affected humanity, with a focus on the contributions and tribulations of African Americans. Individual artworks document the Civil Rights Movement, the 1963 bombing of the 16th Street Baptist Church, American participation in various wars and conflicts, terrorist attacks, the legacies of slavery, and more recently, Trump’s wall and Covid-19, all narrated with Minter’s intuitive assemblage. There are, of course, moments of respite from the turmoil of the modern world with an implicit honoring of ancestors, loved ones, faith, and an essential acknowledgement of the power of love.

Minter began work on the African Village in America in the summer of 1989, in response to an announcement that the city of Birmingham was planning to build a civil rights museum. He worried that the “foot soldiers” would be left out of the official narrative and got to work making a literal place for them. Specifically, Minter writes “When I heard that Birmingham was going to build a civil rights museum, that gave me what you call a stepping stone. From what I was hearing, the main players in the freedom struggle, the foot soldiers, was left out of the story. We need the leaders, but without the foot soldiers, the struggle and fight can’t be won. But where is the recognition for the soldiers?” That recognition continues to come as Minter’s works are shown in museums and publications across the United States.

Joe Wade Minter Sr. was born in Birmingham on March 28, 1943 to Lawrence Dunbar and Rosie McAlpin Minter, the eighth of 10 children. His father served in World War I with the U.S. Army’s 366th Infantry Regiment, working as a mechanic in the segregated unit. Upon his return home, Minter’s father found work as caretaker for Birmingham’s Elmwood Cemetery. Like his father, Minter also served in the U.S. military and was drafted in 1965 to attend a “mech and tech” school learning skills related to engineering and mechanics. He would later operate generators across the Southern United States before being discharged in 1967.

After his brief, though impressionable military stint, Minter worked a variety of jobs in construction, disassembling and reassembling trucks, and, perhaps most importantly, building things out of metal—school furniture, exercise equipment, and truck beds. Minter’s military experience combined with years spent doing metal work and construction would give him the knowledge and practical experience needed to create the African Village in America and the hundreds of works that populate its ever-expanding site.

Joe Minter has recently exhibited at the Royal Academy of Arts in London, Mana Contemporary, and the Minneapolis Institute of Art. His work has been the subject of solo exhibitions at the Alabama Contemporary, Atlanta Contemporary, James Fuentes Gallery, and Tops Gallery, and he was featured in the 2019 Whitney Biennial, curated by Rujeko Hockley and Jane Panetta.

His work is in the permanent collections of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, the National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C., the Smithsonian American Art Museum, Washington, D.C., the Ackland Art Museum at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco, CA, the High Museum of Art, Atlanta, GA, the New Orleans Museum of Art, New Orleans, LA, the Birmingham Museum of Art, Birmingham, AL, and the Minneapolis Museum of Art, Minneapolis, MN, among others.

Download full CV

February 1, 2024
Ruth Foundation for the Arts Announces New $100,000 Artist Awards
By Maximilíano Durón

August 2023
Aladdin’s Cave: A photographer-turned-gallerist offers up a treasure trove of artworks in Tennessee
By Pei-Ru Keh

Evening Standard
March 14, 2023
Souls Grown Deep Like the Rivers at the Royal Academy review: an essential show
By Ben Luke

The Guardian
March 14, 2023
Souls Grown Deep Like the Rivers review – art of poverty and resilience from the US south
By Ashish Ghadiali 

The Guardian
December 10, 2020
Hanging trees and hollering ghosts: the unsettling art of the American deep south
February 5, 2020
By Lanre Bakare

November 25, 2020
‘Self-Taught Black Artists Are Often the Last to Benefit When Their Prices Go Up. But We Can Change That––Here’s How.
By Maxwell Anderson

August 19, 2020
African American Art From the Deep South
By Amanda Holiday

July 10, 2020
Art in a World of Social Change
By Sarah Buklan

January 20, 2020
What Art Defined the Civil Rights Era? We Asked 7 Museum Curators to Pick One Work That Crystallized the Moment
By Katie White

Burlington Contemporary
June 2020
Curating and photographing art and resistance in the American South
By Hannah Collins

The Wall Street Journal
April 18, 2019
Newcomers Bristling With Hope
By Brenda Cronin

The New York Times
April 24, 2013
Scrap Iron Elegy
By Michael Tortorello

April 24, 2010
Birmingham folk artist Joe Minter turns junk into spiritual statement
By Greg Garrison

Raw Vision, #68
Winter 2009/10
Joe Minter’s Stations of the African American Passion
By Charles Russel


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