artists & participants
Major international exhibition explores the work and influence of black artists working in America, Britain and Jamaica in the 1960s and 70s.
Back to Black traces the cultural impact of the Black Arts Movement through the painting, sculpture, photography, graphics and film that emerged over two decades. The exhibition explores seven major themes including black consciousness in art; the ghetto; black fashion; popular culture; and politics.
The 1960s and 70s was a period of dramatic transformation among black communities. In the United States the civil rights movement dismantled centuries of racial discrimination. For the first time in American history racial blackness was liberated from disadvantage and given a new discourse of equality and tolerance. Africa was rediscovered as black America’s cultural point of reference, while Jamaica and the Caribbean offered a distinct identity for Black Britons.
The symbols of this new racial consciousness – the raised fist, ‘Afro’ and ‘dreadlock’ hairstyles and icons such as Bob Marley, Muhammed Ali and Angela Davis – infiltrated the art and popular culture of the time. Along with the slogans ‘Black Power’ and ‘Black is Beautiful’ artists were pivotal in re-orientating public perception. American artists as diverse as Barkley L. Hendricks, Gordon Parks and David Hammons revealed a keen understanding of their own strategic importance while pioneering creative experimentation. This impulse also thrived in American cinema, through low budget ‘blaxploitation’ movies such as Sweet Sweetback’s Baadaaaasss Song (1971), Shaft (1971) and Superfly (1972). In London, artists were influenced by the Caribbean Artist Movement, and Trinidadian Horace Ove produced provocative pictures of the black radical Malcolm X. In Jamaica, filmmaker Perry Henzel’s The Harder They Come (1973), reggae music and rastafarian art brought global attention to Caribbean culture.
Back to Black’s themes delineate the issues, characteristics and moods of 1960s and 70s artists and audiences. Black consciousness before the historic signing of the Civil Rights Act by U.S. President Lyndon Johnson in 1965 is explored through the work of artists such as Mel Edwards, Donald Locke and Aubrey Williams. Whereas Robert Crawford, David Miller Jr and Faith Ringgold reveal a fascination with the inner city ‘ghetto’ – from Kingston, Jamaica to communities in London and the U.S. The work of Elizabeth Catlett, Barkley L. Hendricks and Robert Senstacke show how the fashions and hairstyles of the time were used as vehicles for social masquerading and self-invention. Political works of art on show include several large sculptures and a pivotal body-print-on-paper by David Hammons. Finally, the impact of black music on the Black Arts Movement is shown through the rhythmic and painterly works of artists such as Jeff Donaldson and Margo Humphrey.
Back to Black – Art, Cinema and the Racial Imaginary is curated by David A.Bailey, Professor Richard J Powell and Dr Patrine Archer-Straw. Bailey is a London based curator whose recent exhibitions include Mirage - Enigmas of Race, Difference and Desire, ICA, London, and Rhapsodies in Black - The Harlem Renaissance, Hayward Gallery, London. Powell, Professor in the History of Art, Duke University, is a renowned scholar of African American art history. In 1997 he published Black Art and Culture in the Twentieth Century, and in 1999 curated To Conserve a Legacy - American Art from Historically Black Colleges and Universities. Petrine Archer-Straw, curator, National Art Gallery of the Bahamas, is a British/Jamaican art historian known for her work on Caribbean Art. Her books include Negrophilia - Avant Garde Paris and Black Culture in the 1920s (2000); New World Imagery - Contemporary Jamaican Art (1995); and Jamaican Art - An Overview, (1990).
The exhibition tours to; Walsall, Sept - Nov 2005, New York, Spring 2006, Chicago, Summer 2006 and Los Angeles, Autumn, 2006.
Artists include; Rasheed Araeen, Theodorus Bafaloukous, Ernie Barnes, Romare Bearden, Stig Bjorkman, Dawoud Bey, Everald Brown, Vanley Burke, Stephen Burrows, Marcel Camus & Maya Deren, Elizabeth Catlett, Eddie Chambers, Robert Downey Sr., Mikki Ferrell, Armet Francis, Neville Garrick, Haile Gerima, Christopher Gonzales, Jean-Paul Goude, Bill Gunn, David Hammons, Barkley L. Hendricks, Perry Henzell, Gavin Jantjes, Kapo, Kofi Kayiga, Jacob Lawrence, Patrick Litchfield, Donald Locke, Ed Love, Edna Manley, Arthur Marks, Horace Ové, Joe Overstreet, Gordon Parks, Faith Ringgold, Betye Saar, Robert A. Sengstacke, Peter Simon, Melvin Van Peebles, Osmond Watson, Aubrey Williams, Valerie Wilmer, Charles White, Llewellyn Xavier.
Funded by The Andy Warhol Foundation for Visual Arts, Norton Family Foundation, The Judith Rothschild Foundation in support of Charles White and Arts Council England.
The exhibition’s partner organisation is Rich Mix, and an audio tour will take people from the Whitechapel to Rich Mix, a major international arts, culture, education and heritage centre in East London, scheduled to open in 2005. The Whitechapel is developing a creative partnership with Rich Mix to generate exciting new opportunities for artistic and cultural ventures. The exhibition is a major part of Africa 2005, a year-long celebration of contemporary and past cultures from across the continent and the Diaspora which embraces the diversity of arts, heritage and audiences.
Back to Black - Art, Cinema and the Racial Imaginary
Kuratoren: David A.Bailey, Richard J Powell, Patrine Archer-Straw
mit Rasheed Araeen, Theodorus Bafaloukous, Ernie Barnes, Romare Bearden, Stig Bjorkman, Dawoud Bey, Everald Brown, Vanley Burke, Stephen Burrows, Marcel Camus & Maya Deren, Elizabeth Catlett, Eddie Chambers, Robert Downey Sr., Mikki Ferrell, Armet Francis, Neville Garrick, Haile Gerima, Christopher Gonzales, Jean-Paul Goude, Bill Gunn, David Hammons, Barkley L. Hendricks, Perry Henzell, Gavin Jantjes, Kapo, Kofi Kayiga, Jacob Lawrence, Patrick Litchfield, Donald Locke, Ed Love, Edna Manley, Arthur Marks, Horace Ové, Joe Overstreet, Gordon Parks, Faith Ringgold, Betye Saar, Robert A. Sengstacke, Peter Simon, Melvin Van Peebles, Osmond Watson, Aubrey Williams, Valerie Wilmer, Charles White, Llewellyn Xavier