An exhibition that explores racial injustice and cultural identity opens tomorrow (29 June) at London’s Hayward Gallery.
In the Black Fantastic, curated by writer and broadcaster Ekow Eshun, includes painting, photography, video, sculpture and mixed-media installations. The 11 Black artists use fantastical elements to investigate alternative realities and confront ideas about race through folklore, myth, science fiction, spiritual traditions, pageantry and the legacies of Afrofuturism.
Eshun said: “What these artists are doing is offering other ways of looking and other ways of seeing that grapple with the racialised every day and reach beyond some of the ways that Black people have been confined and constrained by a Western imaginary that offers them, historically, as figures who come out of a cultural tradition that is somehow less sophisticated, less contemporary, less modern, and less present than the Western world.”
“We see artists work across a range of art forms – painting, photography, collage, sculpture, film – all of whom are conjuring new possibility, new ways of exploring space, new sets of dreaming that assert or insist upon blackness as a zone of discovery, as a territory that remains and continues to be open to further definition. These are works that reach back in time towards myth, towards history, and towards African cultural survival.”
A new commission by US artist Nick Cave opens In the Black Fantastic. The installation comprises hundreds of casts of the artist’s own arm that are joined together like links in a chain. Alongside this are Cave's Soundsuits, a series of wearable artworks that were started 30 years ago in response to the brutal police beating of Rodney King in Los Angeles. A new Soundsuit commemorating the killing of George Floyd is also on show.
Edinburgh-born Hew Locke has created an immersive installation that comprises a series of portrait photographs of the artist masquerading as corrupt kings, tyrants and bandits.
Other artists featured at In the Black Fantastic include Rashaad Newsome, whose multi-disciplinary practice explores themes of gender, sexuality and race, and Tabita Rezaire, who critiques Western conventions of narrow binaries by invoking a spiritual connection to pre-colonial Africa.
Ellen Gallagher addresses the horror of the Atlantic slave trade through paintings inspired by mythical sub-aquatic realms inhabited by the ancestors of Africans drowned during the Middle Passage.
Works by Sedrick Chisom and Kara Walker address the ideology of whiteness and America’s history of racial violence.
In the Black Fantastic runs from 29 June until 18 September.
The Victoria and Albert Museum (V&A) opens an exhibition dedicated to the impact of fashion from Africa on 2 July. The show features more than 250 objects, with about half drawn from the museum’s collection, including 70 new acquisitions.
A foreword by Christine Checinska, the V&A’s senior curator of African and African diaspora: textiles and fashion, acknowledges that the exhibition has been a long-time coming.
“Since 1852, the V&A has sought to showcase the very best in art and design,” Checinska writes. “Yet African creativity has been largely excluded, or misrepresented, owing to the historic division between art and ethnographic museums arising from our colonial roots and embedded racist assumptions. Africa Fashion begins to address this, presenting a story of unbounded creativity told through multiple African voices.
“Africa Fashion is long overdue. But it is more than an exhibition. It is a stepping stone towards a more inclusive and representative V&A that reflects the fullest range of creative endeavour.”
Africa Fashion runs from 2 July until 16 April.