Any reference to British art of the 1980s will shine a light on the YBAs or Young British Artists, the face of which is almost exclusively white with Damien Hirst crowned as the art movement’s poster child. While England was hot with socio-political issues of the time (Thatcherism, class and race wars, economic depression), the YBAs emerged from the decade with a branded image and marketing/business savvy that catapulted them to the top of the international contemporary art market. Alternatively, within the same decade, a whole generation of (mostly Black) artists of color emerged with an imperative to explore their relationship to Britain’s colonial past as well as to art history.
Spanning painting, sculpture, photography, film and archives, The Place Is Here brings together works by 25 under-recognized artists and collectives. Of specific interest are the photographic works which include Joy Gregory’s three silver gelatin photographic prints from her series Autoportraits (1989–90, one image shown above), Ingrid Pollard’s C-prints from her series Photographs from Passion Exhibition (1984–89) and Isaac Julien’s After George Platt-Lynes, Looking for Langston (Vintage series 1989/2016) which became the cover image for the film’s poster as seen on the wall of the installation view below.
In Brexit’s wake, a resurgence of nationalistic and conservative policies is signaling a rise in violence amongst other issues. British society today seems to be a reinterpretation of its Eighties self. In this oppressive climate, the works on view in The Place Is Here are timeless expressions of self-determined identity and culture that function as a salve on the inevitable wounds.
If you can’t make it to London, check out the installation views below of this remarkable exhibition. Also, each of the artist names and archives listed below are linked to either their website (if available) and/or related Tate museum pages, interviews, PDFs or videos. Or you can download the Gallery Guide for a full list of artworks and archives in the exhibition.
The Place Is Here
On view now through September 10, 2017
South London Gallery (UK)
Artists and archives featured in this exhibition:
Rasheed Araeen, Martina Attille, Zarina Bhimji, Black Audio Film Collective, Blk Art Group Research Project, Sonia Boyce, Brixton Art Gallery Archive, Ceddo Film and Video Workshop, Eddie Chambers, The June Givanni Pan African Cinema Archive, Joy Gregory, Mona Hatoum, Lubaina Himid, Making Histories Visible Archive, Gavin Jantjes, Claudette Johnson, Isaac Julien, Chila Kumari Burman, Dave Lewis, Pratibha Parmar, Maybelle Peters, Keith Piper, Ingrid Pollard, Donald Rodney, Marlene Smith.
Shades of Black: Assembling Black Arts in 1980s Britain (Duke University Press)
TOP IMAGE: Joy Gregory, Autoportrait [part-work], 1990. © Joy Gregory