Soul of a Nation: Art in the Age of Black Power

Tate Modern

July 12 – October 22, 2017

‘Art for me now must develop from a necessity within my people. It must answer a question, or wake somebody up, or give a shove in the right direction – our liberation.’

-Elizabeth Catlett.

Painting and sculpture used to be understood as a powerful vehicles for protesting against the violence and communicating the urgent message of Black liberation. In order to explore the deeper contemporary meaning and deep cultural connotation of Black Art within Black Power during the Civil Rights movement, Tate Modern presents an exhibition: Soul of a Nation: Art in the Age of Black Power from 12 July to 22 October. Tracing a series of creative artworks among African-American artists form 1963 to 1983, featuring more than 150 works, many on display in the UK for the first time, Soul of a Nation provides an opportunity to see how American cultural identity was re-shaped at a time of social unrest and political struggle.

At a time when race and identity became major issues in music, sport and literature, brought to public attention by iconic figures like Aretha Franklin, Muhammad Ali and Toni Morrison, ‘Black Art’ was being defined and debated across the country in vibrant paintings, photographs, prints and sculptures, ‘Black Art’ was being defined and debated across the country in vibrant paintings, photographs, prints and sculptures.

Sam Gilliam Carousel Change 1970. Tate.

The show begins in 1963 with the formation of the Spiral Group, a New York–based collective. They questioned how Black artists should relate to American society, with key figures like Romare Bearden and Norman Lewis responding to current events in their photomontages and abstract paintings. Artists also considered the locations and audiences for their art – from local murals to nationally circulated posters and newspapers – with many turning away from seeking mainstream gallery approval to show artwork in their own communities through Black-owned galleries and artist-curated shows. The exhibition uses archive photographs and documentary material to illustrate the mural movement, including the ‘Wall of Respect’ in Chicago and the ‘Smokehouse’ wall paintings in Harlem. The way artists engaged with street activism will be explored through posters and newspapers, such as the work of the Black Panther Party’s Culture Minister Emory Douglas, who declared “The ghetto itself is the gallery”.

The call for Black Power initiated powerful and inspiring images of political leaders such as Malcolm X and Angela Davis and even works of radical abstraction invoking Martin Luther King’s legacy. Soul of a Nation showcases this debate between figuration and abstraction, from Faith Ringgold’s American People Series #20: Die 1967 and Wadsworth Jarrell’s Black Prince 1971 to Frank Bowling’s Texas Louise 1971 and Sam Gilliam’s April 4 1969. A highlight is Homage to Malcolm 1970 by Jack Whitten, who was awarded the National Medal of Arts by Barack Obama in 2015, which will be going on public display for the very first time.

Further themes investigated in the exhibition include the emergence of Black Feminism through the work of Betye Saar and Kay Brown, showing how the period marked a revolutionary moment of visibility for Black women, and debates over the possibility of a Black aesthetic in photography featuring work by Roy DeCarava. It also spotlights Just Above Midtown gallery (JAM), a pioneering New York commercial gallery that displayed the work of avant-garde Black artists and whose legendary programme spanned innovative approaches to sculpture and performance, using materials as unexpected as Black hair and tights.

Barkley Hendricks, Icon For My Man Superman (Superman Never Saved Any Black People-Bobby Seale), 1969. Oil, acrylic and aluminium leaf on linen canvas. Collection of Liz and Eric Lefkofsky ©️ Barkley L. Hendricks. Courtesy of the artist and Jack Shainman Gallery, New York.

泰特現代美術館(Tate Modern)于7月12日至10月22日展出1963年至1983年美國黑人平權運動發展至頂峰時期近50位藝術家創作的近150件藝術作品,展現出美國藝術家對黑人藝術(Black Art)的定義、否決、再定義的過程。同時,大部分《民族之魂:黑人藝術的力量》(SOUL OF A NATION: ART IN THE AGE OF BLACK POWER)的作品是首次在英國展出。

黑人权力(Black Power)作為一個政治標語,強調種族自信、追求種族集體利益與共同價值。這股黑人藝術家的强大力量在美國藝術史上有著舉足輕重的地位。上世界60年代發展至頂峰的美國黑人平權運動中,先鋒藝術家們聚集一堂,承擔著推動社會進步與實現種族平等的社會責任,用醒目的繪畫、街頭塗鴉、雕塑、攝影與服裝設計等多種多樣的藝術形式予以不同風格的回應與支持。





展覽時間:2017年7月12日 – 10月22日 0

地點:泰特現代美術館 Bankside, London SE1 9TG