Black Portraiture[s] III: Reinventions – Jo’burg Conference, 17-19 November 2016

“BLACK PORTRAITURE[S] III: Reinventions: Strains of Histories and Cultures” is the seventh conference in a series of transnational and diasporic conversations about imaging the black body. It offers a forum that gives artists, activists, educators and scholars from around the world an opportunity to share ideas, from historical topics to current research on the 40th anniversary of Soweto. Presenters will engage a range of topics such as Biennales, the Africa Perspective in the Armory Show, the global art market, politics, tourism, sites of memory, Afrofuturism, fashion, dance, music, film, art, and photography.

image: Kudzanai Chiurai, Genesis XI, 2016
image: Kudzanai Chiurai, Genesis XI, 2016

The conference takes place November 17-19, 2016 at the University of the Witwatersrand (Wits) in Johannesburg, South Africa, and was planned in collaboration with the U. S. Department of State, U.S. Ambassador to South Africa, Patrick H. Gaspard, Goodman Gallery, Hutchins Center for African & African American Research/Harvard University, New York University’s La Pietra Dialogues, Tisch School of the Arts and the Institute for African American Affairs.

When the conference was first announced, the Dean of Tisch School of the Arts, Allyson Green,  said:

“The world will be greater because of the conversations and explorations that will be held when more than 140 papers and performances are presented on topics such as the global art market, activism, politics, tourism, sexuality, sites of memory, Afrofuturism, fashion, dance, music, film, and photography.”

Allyson Green, Dean – Tisch School of the Arts,
New York University

To view the full conference schedule and see a list of participating speakers, please visit the website http://www.blackportraitures.info/schedule/.

Film footage of keynote presentations from previous conferences in this series can also be viewed online at http://www.blackportraitures.info/live-stream/.

Continue reading Black Portraiture[s] III: Reinventions – Jo’burg Conference, 17-19 November 2016

“Verses After Dusk.” A solo exhibition by Lynette Yiadom-Boakye (Serpentine Gallery, London)

It was worth braving the storm clouds a few days ago to visit the Serpentine Gallery in Kensington Gardens and view Verses After Dusk – a solo exhibition of recent works by the British figurative painter Lynette Yiadom-Boakye (b. 1977, London).

The Woman Watchful (2015), by Lynette Yiadom-Boakye
The Woman Watchful (2015), by Lynette Yiadom-Boakye

Although I have been aware of this artist since she was nominated for the Turner Prize in 2013, I had only previously seen a small number of individual paintings by her in group displays at Tate Britain (where her works ’10pm Saturday’ (2012) and The Generosity (2010) are part of the British Art Collection) and Leeds Art Gallery (where the beautiful seascape with two figures Condor and the Mole (2011) was shown in the Arts Council touring exhibition, One Day, Something Happens: Paintings of People, 6 March-24 May 2015) . For this reason it was fascinating to spend time delving deeper into her portfolio, appraising recently completed paintings, and learning more about Yiadom-Boakye’s artistic practice via this solo exhibition.

Curses (2011) by Lynette Yiadom-Boakye. This painting featured as the Serpentine’s promotional image for the Verses After Dusk exhibition.

Displayed on the ground floor in five inter-connected rooms, Verses After Dusk comprises c.25 contemporary oil paintings and  sketches of individuals, pairs and small groups depicted in a range of  quite ambiguous, quotidian settings – from dimly lit, under-defined interiors, to sparsely populated beach scenes and seascapes.

Interstellar (2012), by Lynette Yiadom-Boakye

The exhibition opens with a selection of individual portraits of young men and women – some facing out towards the viewer, but most painted at oblique angles with averted eyes looking away into the distance, or with their backs completely turned as if to avoid the onlooker’s gaze altogether.

An impressive oil on canvas titled ‘Interstellar’ (2012) is positioned on the wall immediately facing the entrance to the first room so that a tall, larger-than-life figure of an athletic and graceful dancer, with arms outstretched in a balletic relevé on demi-point provides the first glimpse of Yiadom-Boakye’s sublime work. From the outset, the scale, energy and refinement of this painting drew me in and provoked many questions – not only concerning the subject in the frame, but also musings about the artist herself.

Continue reading “Verses After Dusk.” A solo exhibition by Lynette Yiadom-Boakye (Serpentine Gallery, London)

A review of the Tate Britain symposium, “The Black Subject: Ancient to Modern”

A photograph of the sculpture 'Midonz' (1937) by Jamaican-British artist Ronald Moody. Source: Tate Britain. © The estate of Ronald Moody
A photograph of the sculpture ‘Midonz’ (1937) by Jamaican-British artist Ronald Moody. Source: Tate Britain. © The estate of Ronald Moody

On 20th and 21st February 2015 Tate Britain hosted a two-day event to explore a number of themes about representations of African and Asian people and their diasporic descendents within European art history. The symposium was scheduled to complement the display ‘Spaces of Black Modernism: London 1919–39’  – co-curated by Dr Caroline Bressey and Dr Gemma Romain (The Equiano Centre, University College London), and currently on view at Tate Britain until October 2015.

Through a carefully assembled programme of talks, film screenings and audio-visual provocations the title ‘The Black Subject: Ancient to Modern’ was brought to life by  a diverse group of scholars from the fields of visual arts, curating, art history and the social sciences –  with each participant offering unique insights into changing representations of the black image within artworks from the Tate’s British art collection, other UK art institutions, and European museums and galleries more broadly.

A photograph of American actor, singer, political activist  and philanthropist Paul Robeson (1898-1976)
A photograph of American actor, singer, political activist and philanthropist Paul Robeson (1898-1976)

Friday’s session featured a screening of Borderline (1930) – an avant-garde silent movie  created by British film director Kenneth Macpherson, starring African-American actors Paul Robeson and Eslanda (‘Essie’) Robeson. The resulting Q&A critiqued the complexities of the featured relationships that addressed inter-sected issues about ‘inter-racial’ intimacy, gender identities, notions of belonging and sexuality ‘across the colour line’.

A still from the film Borderline (1930) showing the African-American actress Eslanda Goode Robeson (1895-1965).
A still from the film Borderline (1930) showing the African-American actress Eslanda Goode Robeson (1895-1965).

Saturday’s symposium was arranged into four chronological and thematic sessions, considering: (1) the ongoing tensions that can arise during the process of documenting the longevity of the black presence whilst simultaneously noting the continuous absences, erasures and distortions of African, Asian and diasporic contributions within British art history; (2) photographic images and illustrations of black Victorians sourced from a range of public and private archives; (3) two case studies about artists’ models from early 20th century and inter-war colonial periods – specifically the life of the Jamaican artistic model Patrick Nelson (1916-1963), presented in Gemma Romain’s paper “Patrick Nelson: Identity, queerness and love in the life of a black artists’ model in interwar Britain”; and the lives of Dr Roshan McClenahan’s famous Indian aunts ‘Sunita and Anita’ who both modelled for artist Sir Jacob Epstein; (4) re-imagining and pluralising the modernist canon as global, hybrid and ‘multi-polar’, envisioned via scholarship about the life and work of the Indian modernist Jamini Roy, presented by Professor Partha Mitter.

Continue reading A review of the Tate Britain symposium, “The Black Subject: Ancient to Modern”

RC21 International Conference: ‘The Ideal City: between myth and reality. Representations, policies, contradictions and challenges for tomorrow’s urban life’ (27-29 August 2015 – Urbino, Italy)

The RC21 Conference 2015 (The Ideal City: between myth and reality…’) will be hosted by the School of Social and Political Sciences – Department of Economics, Society, and Politics at the University of Urbino Carlo Bo, Italy.

Ideal_City_1080x395_Conference_Image

It has been organised to enable sociologists, geographers, urbanists, town planners, artists and other creative professionals to consider the complexities of interactions between utopian imaginings of “cities on paper” and the lived realities of everyday city life.

“By questioning utopian and ideal visions of the city – as represented in policies and public discourses – it aims at putting them in perspective considering actual agency and current structural changes. How does socio‐economic change – neoliberalization? – affect cities and their ideal “diverse” visions? How do poverty and inequalities challenge ideal views of a just city? How are ideal cities contrasting real cities affected by segregation and social exclusion practices? Do different ideals coexist? Does the crisis affect our urban projects? In which direction? Who wins who loses? How do visions and ideals differ across the globe and how are they questioned by increasingly similar challenges?”
(Source: http://www.rc21.org/en/conferences/urbino2015/).

One of the central themes (or “streams”) of the conference is “Images of the City,” and a call for abstracts has recently been issued to attract contributions for the session titled: “Investigating urban image making: actors, processes and tactics.”

The deadline date for the submission of abstracts is 31st January 2015, and authors of accepted abstracts are invited to send their completed papers by 15th June 2015 to: papers@rc21.org.

An extract of the call for papers drafted by the session organisers David Chapin (CUNY Graduate Center, USA), Scott Lizama (CUNY Graduate Center, USA), and Lidia K.C. Manzo (Politecnico di Milano, Italy) is quoted below:

Continue reading RC21 International Conference: ‘The Ideal City: between myth and reality. Representations, policies, contradictions and challenges for tomorrow’s urban life’ (27-29 August 2015 – Urbino, Italy)

Africa’s contemporary art change-makers – Who would feature at the top of your list?

A recent series of articles posted to the AADAT (African & Afro-Diasporan Art Talks) website features a selection of visual artists described as “14 Contemporary Artists Who Are Challenging the Definition of African Art.”

The listing was compiled by art historian Martina Dodd and (at the time of writing this blog) features the following 8 out of 14 leading lights  ( with the remaining 6 artists due to be published in the concluding section of the series later in the year):

Artwork from the series 'Tati. Self-Portraits' (1997) by Samuel Fosso, used as the title image for the Africa Remix (2004) exhibition catalogue (Hayward Gallery, London).
‘The Chief (the one who sold Africa to the colonists),’ from the series ‘Tati. Self-Portraits’ (1997) by Samuel Fosso. This artwork was the title image for the Africa Remix exhibition catalogue (Hayward Gallery, London, 2005).
  • Rotimi Fani-Kayode (Nigeria)
  • Samuel Fosso (Cameroon)
  • Ousmane Sow (Senegal)
  • Sokari Douglas Camp (Nigeria)
  • Yinka Shonibare MBE (RA) (Nigeria)
  • Romuald Hazoumé (Benin)
  • Hassan Musa (Sudan)
  • Ouattara Watts (Cote D’Ivoire/Ivory Coast)

Although not arranged into any particular hierarchy or rank order, the featured selection are nevertheless the product of the author’s own subjective musings about who should be considered as global change-makers and innovators within the context of contemporary African arts, and the list was deliberately not compiled according to a pre-determined set of aesthetic selection criteria against which prospective entrants might be assessed, compared and contrasted.
Continue reading Africa’s contemporary art change-makers – Who would feature at the top of your list?