Why Black and White Art is Right for a Room No Matter the Style

Black and white is a classic combo, the palette for old movies, and the kind of wall art that will upgrade your space, no matter what the style of your decor. More than just drawings, artists use basic black and white to create all kinds of works that can add a great deal of depth to a space. Still unsure that black and white wall art ideas are right for your home?  Here are five reasons to consider adding black and white artworks to your decor scheme.

A Respite from Color and Pattern

Many black and white artworks are spare or bold in a way that doesn’t compete with the furnishings and textiles already in the room. Whether the art is a line drawing, a graphic phrase or geometric composition, black and white art gives the eye a break from bright colors or busier patterns. Sometimes a quiet piece of wall art is all that’s needed to balance an area.

Spare lines give the eye a break.View in gallery
Spare lines give the eye a break.

This work by Venezuelan artist Annette Turrillo is a good example of a spare work that really provides a visual break in a lively space. Turrillo’s works create “an atmosphere of solicitude and mystery that invites the interaction of the visitor, as a participant, not merely an observer.” These types of works are ideal for rooms where there are already lots of patterns present.

Large graphics are a good contrast to lots of color.View in gallery
Large graphics are a good contrast to lots of color.

Graphic phrases are another option for black and white wall art ideas. These types of artworks have a big impact but can still balance more complex and colorful patterns. Phrases and words can have bold meaning, be inspirational or just invite conversation. In any case, they are ideal as a counterpoint to more vivid surroundings. This particular work is by Mel Bochner, who is known as a leader in the development of conceptual art in New York in the 1960s and 1970s and is recognized for his pioneering use of language in the visual arts.

Large-scale geometrics are eye-catching without being distracting.View in gallery
Large-scale geometrics are eye-catching without being distracting.

Geometric art is another great choice for giving the eye a break. The linear focus works well with other types of artwork and with virtually any type of decor. This is B/W XIV, created in 1968 by American artist Al Held, known for launching these types of “concrete abstraction” works.

Added Texture and Dimension

Black and white wall art can also add a great deal of texture and dimension to a space, especially if it is filled with more or less “flat” art. Pieces that are sculptural, include textures on a canvas or are collages of different materials can up the interest factor in your space very easily.

Wall sculptures can add a great deal of texture and dimension.View in gallery
Wall sculptures can add a great deal of texture and dimension.
The details add dimension to the art.View in gallery
The details add dimension to the art.

This is a delicate piece of sculptural wall art that is lends far more than just texture and dimension. Created by Anita Groener, a Dutch-born artist now based in Dublin, Ireland, the piece invites close inspection and casts interesting shadows that add complexity to the piece. Called Citizen, it is perfect for a feature wall thanks to the dimension that it adds to the room.

Art on a flat canvas can still add texture.View in gallery
Art on a flat canvas can still add texture.

An untitled work by Richard Long is made from China clay on linen on wood, which adds dimension to an otherwise flat canvas. Artworks like these are ideal for pairing with colorful pieces that might not have a lot of texture.

Playing up negative space adds dimension to a wall.View in gallery
Playing up negative space adds dimension to a wall.

Francisco Salazar’s pieces are a good example of how negative space adds dimension to artwork as well as to a room. The cut-outs also add shadow and an open element to the works.  Salazar is known for his monochromatic white works on cardboard, which he has created since the 1950s. His pieces work with light and shadow to manipulate the space and light.

Artworks with mixed materials always ad dimension to a feature wall.View in gallery
Artworks with mixed materials always ad dimension to a feature wall.

Canvases that incorporate more than just pigment on the surface are another way to add dimension with black and white art ideas. This piece by Greek artist Jannis Kounellis is characteristic of his works that incorporate non-art materials like textiles, glass bottles, soot, and a variety of others.

Monochrome art can be used for added depth and interest.View in gallery
Monochrome art can be used for added depth and interest.

Monochromatic works in wither white or black can add a good deal of dimension despite their single-color focus. American artist Louise Nevelson was acclaimed for her wood sculptures that were created from discarded pieces of wood that she either found or was given. By combining different pieces into a landscape of texture rendered only in black, the work has a good deal of dimension, ideal for a feature wall.

Extra Drama

Despite their lack of color, these types of artwork can add a big dose of drama to a space, either through some form of intricacy or boldness. From abstract paintings to photographic art, the right piece can become a dramatic focal point in any room of the house.

Large abstract pieces add a great deal of drama.View in gallery
Large abstract pieces add a great deal of drama.

Daniel Marin’s abstract piece is a big injection of drama for any space. Although there are shades of gray and a touch of brown, it’s still a predominantly black and white artwork. The wild nature of the painting is very attention-getting and will dominate a room.

Art made with unusual techniques is a dramatic addition to a room.View in gallery
Art made with unusual techniques is a dramatic addition to a room.

Photographs are another wonderful wall art idea for adding drama. Shots can be dramatic in many ways, both with traditional photography and with other styles. This work by Nick Veasey is dramatic because of the process used to create his distinctive art. The British photographer works with images created with X-ray imaging, developing images like this one with the classic Volkswagen Beetle and a surfboard.

Minimalist black and white pieces can still be dramatic.View in gallery
Minimalist black and white pieces can still be dramatic.

Michael Krebber’s minimalist piece is another example of dramatic art that relies on bold lines and sparse graphics.  Just because there is less pigment on the canvas doesn’t mean the piece las less drama – quite the opposite.

A combination of textures and patterns is attention-getting.View in gallery
A combination of textures and patterns is attention-getting.

Dalmation No 7 is a dramatic piece by Vaughn Spann, a 26-year-old Florida-born painter and it shows how a variety of black and white patterns and textures are a dramatic combination. Works like this rely on expression as well as texture and emotion to create a dramatic feel that will immediately elevate the style of a room.

Subtle texture plays up the drama of this stark piece.View in gallery
Subtle texture plays up the drama of this stark piece.
A closer look shows the detailing.View in gallery
A closer look shows the detailing.

Abstracts are always dramatic choices for wall art and make a big impact thanks to their bold strokes or large swaths of pigment. Gwythian is a work of oil on canvas by Janis Pozzi-Johnson and it attracts attention not only with its large sections of black and white, but also with the unusual visual texture visible throughout the piece. Dramatic art like this is fantastic as a contrast for splashy and vibrant pieces.

An Emphasis on Emotion

An artist doesn’t need to use a lot of color to appeal to viewers’ emotions and in fact, black and white artworks often evoke a deeper level of feeling. To warm up a space that might lack personality or feel a little sterile, opt for a black and white piece that draws viewers in and creates a mood.

A traditional style of a still life focuses on details and creates emotion.View in gallery
A traditional style of a still life focuses on details and creates emotion.
Black and white art can help evoke serenity.View in gallery
Black and white art can help evoke serenity.

A little more traditional, this still life by Laura Greenstein uses shadows and light in the folds and drape of the fabric to create emotion. A large and evocative work like this engages viewers and will add character to even the most sterile of rooms. It doesn’t matter what the subject of the art is, the emotion comes from the play of shadow and space, created through the skill of the artist.

Not all emotion has to be strong and bold. Sometimes, you want a softer vibe for a space and black and white art like this by Purume Hong certainly fits the bill. The most interesting thing about the piece, called At This Moment, is how bold strokes can create a work that conjures up a serene feeling. This is often the case when the subject includes water. Tranquil art is ideal for spaces where the mood should be calmer such as a living room, bedroom or office.

Like those depicting water, artworks with clouds have a calming appeal.View in gallery
Like those depicting water, artworks with clouds have a calming appeal.

Works that focus on the sky are also very calming as the other works by Hong demonstrate. The ink on paper pieces are part of the At This Moment series and their round shape and dramatic renditions of clouds make them very evocative.

Abstracts can also create a lot of emotions in viewers.View in gallery
Abstracts can also create a lot of emotions in viewers.

Of course, some people prefer bold and strong emotions, which can easily be drawn out with energetic, graphic lines. The acrylic on wood art by Alexis Hayère is named Peinture sculptée N°4, and brings about a strong, motivated feeling that might even make one think about taking flight. Regardless, the strong use of white lines on the black, irregularly shaped background create a powerful feeling.

A Focus on Details

A neutral black and white palette let the viewer — as well as the artist — focus on details. Including such artwork in a room adds interest and invites visitors to peruse the work and discuss it. Whether those details are intricate lines in a drawing, small but intriguing geometric or a graphics rendering, the piece adds visual complexity. If a space is filled with colorful abstracts or vivid modern works, a detailed black and white art piece provides diversity.

Large scale, detailed works make wonderful focal pieces.View in gallery
Large scale, detailed works make wonderful focal pieces.

A most intricate and engaging work, this ink on paper drawing by Ugo Rondinone has no lack of detail. There’s much to see among all the elements and one could spend hour inspecting the different sections of the drawing. Rondinone is most widely recognized for his brightly colored abstract installations and sculptures, but also has a body of work consisting of such drawings. The works are engaging thanks to their expressive and exacting details, which, along with the large size of the piece, are perfect for creating a feature wall.

Text in black and white puts the focus on the words.View in gallery
Text in black and white puts the focus on the words.

Graphic representations can be found in all sorts of colors but when done in black and white, they have a special appeal because the detail within makes a big statement. Together as a whole, the words create an artwork, but the stark black and white allow viewers to focus on the text.  In a modern space, graphic pieces like this by Xaviera Simmons, called Velvet, become a focal point thanks to the amount of detail created by the text and the way it is placed on the canvas.

Mosaic styles with unexpected materials draw attention to each tiny element.View in gallery
Mosaic styles with unexpected materials draw attention to each tiny element.
A closer look at the dice.View in gallery
A closer look at the dice.

The detail of mosaics have been popular for centuries and modern artists are taking the concept, applying it to modern materials and creating detailed artworks that add a huge amount of interest to a space. A trio of London-based artists working under the name of Troika create mosaics made from dice that have a techie, Pacman vibe up close. The level of detail in works like these add complexity to a room and are engaging because of the material used. You would be hard pressed to find a person who would not step closer to inspect the art, which adds to the appeal of any given space.

Art based on math or science focuses on the details.View in gallery
Art based on math or science focuses on the details.

Artist Jennifer Bartlett created this work that features geometrics on grids, which are arranged in a grid themselves. She is known for work that is a “lyrical conversation between mathematical abstraction and painterly figuration.”  Work that plays on mathematical concepts is intricate and adds a level and style of detail to an art wall that other types do not. Ideal for a modern space or an office, particularly for those who appreciate math and science, this type of artwork creates not only an intriguing wall of decor, but a definite conversation starter.

Minimalist art can also play on a small detail.View in gallery
Minimalist art can also play on a small detail.

In stark contrast to the intricate details in the previous artworks this one by Liliana Porter is mainly abstract with one detailed element. The spartan black and white canvas propels attention to the figurine at the top. Fans of minimalist pieces will find this one interesting because of its simple but intriguing nature. Porter is known for pieces that border on the absurd, but this is what generates appeal. The single detailed element is so compelling that it immediately attracts attention. It would be a great piece to include in a room that needs interest without adding color.

Myriad works of all styles can be found in this subdued palette, which means that it’s possible to choose a piece that fits the decor of a home and makes a big artistic and design impact at the same time. These black and white art ideas are just the tip of the iceberg and there’s almost no space that wouldn’t benefit from this type of art. So next time, skip the bright and bold and opt for the drama of black and white.