12. Juli - 22. October 2017 Tate Modern


Andy Warhol Muhammad Ali.1978. Synthetic polymer and silkscreen inks on canvas. 1016 x 1016 mm. Private collection. © 2017 The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, Inc. / Artists Rights Society IARSI. New York and DACS, London
Barkley L. Hendricks. Icon for My Man Superman (Superman Never Saved any Black People—Bobby Sealej). 1969. Oil, acrylic and aluminium leaf on linen canvas. 1511 x 1219 mm. Collection of Liz and Eric Lefkofsky. © Barkley L. Hendricks. Courtesy of the artist and Jack Shainman Gallery, New York
Betye Saar (b. 1926). Eye. 1972. Mixed media assemblage 216 x 349 mm. Collection of Sheila Silber and David Limburger. © Betye Saar. Courtesy of the Artist and Roberts & Tilton, Los Angeles, California
Carolyn Lawrence. Black Children Keep Your Spirits Free. 1972. Acrylic paint on canvas. 1245 x 1295 x 51 mm. © Courtesy of Carolyn Mims Lawrence
Wadsworth Jarrell (b.l 929). Revolutionary. 1972. Screenprint on paper 864 x 673 mm. Courtesy Lusenhop Fine Art. © Wadsworth Jarrell

Art In The Age Of Black Power

What did it mean to be a Black artist in the USA during the Civil Rights movement and at the birth of Black Power? What was art's purpose and who was its audience? Tate Modern presents Soul of a Nation: Art in the Age of Black Power, a landmark exhibition exploring how these issues played out among and beyond African American artists from 1963 to 1983.

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. Featuring more than 150 works by over 60 artists, many on display in the UK for the first time, Soul of a Nation is a timely opportunity to see how American cultural identity was re-shaped at a time of social unrest and political struggle.

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 are 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".

Away from New York artists across the Unites States engaged in the Black Art debate. In Chicago in the late 1960s, Jeff Donaldson, Wadsworth Jarrell, Jae Jarrell, Barbara Jones-Hogu, Nelson Stevens and Gerald Williams, formed AfriCOBRA (the African Commune of Bad Relevant Artists), the only group to devise a manifesto for Black Art during this period.

Their striking works offered a unique aesthetic combining bright colours, texts and images in dynamic ways. Meanwhile in Los Angeles the Watts Rebellion of 1965 had a direct impact on the art being produced there, with many artists calling attention to the politics of a divided city.

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.

The exhibition 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.

"Soul of a Nation: Art in the Age of Black Power" is co-curated by Mark Godfrey and Zoe Whitley, with assistant curator Priyesh Mistry. It takes place until October 22, 2017 in the Tate Modern in London.

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