The History of British Art, Volume 3, 1870 - Now: Black Visual Art Activity in the 1980s (2008).
The 1980s was an unprecedented period of activity for Britain’s black artists. The previous decade had seen a number of important visual arts initiatives involving black artists. These practitioners, such as Emmanuel Jegede (b. 1943) and Ronald Moody, were immigrants who had come to Britain from countries of the British Empire/Commonwealth. The 1980s however, produced a new generation of artists, for the most part British-born, the majority of whom were, or were to become, art school graduates. The decade was significant for two reasons. Firstly, it produced many professional artists who went on to make important contributions within Britain and further afield. Sokari Douglas Camp (b. 1958), Veronica Ryan (b. 1956), Eugene Palmer (b. 1955), Denzil Forrester (b. 1956), Sonia Boyce (b. 1962) and others all established reputations for themselves during the course of the decade. Secondly, the 1980s delivered many new opportunities for black artists to have their work included in the group exhibitions that frequently took place within galleries and other venues across the country.
…Meanwhile, Creation for Liberation, a group of cultural activists based in Brixton, took a pronounced interest in black artists’ work and organised a series of open exhibitions that attracted the work of a great many artists. The first such exhibition was held in 1983 and other exhibitions followed throughout the course of the decade. Within these open submission exhibitions, the work of lesser-known and newly emerging artists was hung and shown alongside professional and established painters, print-makers and sculptors, giving many artists important exposure that had traditionally been denied to them by many of the country’s art galleries. The profile of black British artists received a further and major boost with the opening (again in 1983) of The Black-Art Gallery in Finsbury Park, north London. The gallery, under the directorship of Shakka Dedi (b. 1954), was run by a group calling themselves the Organisation for Black Arts advancement and Leisure (later changed to Learning) Activities – OBAALA. The Black-Art Gallery was the first publicly funded art gallery dedicated to promoting the work of the country’s black artists. To this end, a significant number of artists were able to exhibit in a supportive professional environment, where they were provided with exhibition paraphernalia such as posters, opening view cards and critically important catalogues.
The full version of the above text written by Eddie Chambers appeared in The History of British Art, 1870 - Now, Yale Center for British Art, 2008: 226 - 227