Critical Interventions, Black Artists in Europe

Special issue of Critical Interventions, Journal of African art history and visual culture. This issue, Number 12, Fall 2013 is devoted to subjects relating to Black Artists in Europe.


Editor’s Desk - Eddie Chambers - Black Artists in Europe

Interventions - Sophie Orlando - Artistic Categories and the Situation of Utterance: The period from 1989 to 1994 in Great Britain

Research - Ugochukwu-Smooth C. Nzewi - The Individual and Community: Aesthetics of Blackness in the works of three Black British Artists; Richard Hylton - Keeping up Appearances: Black artists, state patronage and the politics of visibility; Ingrid von Rosenberg - Black British Art and the German Art Scene

Portfolio - Hurvin Anderson: The Frontiers of Abstraction, text by Eddie Chambers

Recollectons - Mora J. Beauchamp-Byrd - London Bridge: Late 20th Century British Art and the Routes of ‘National Culture’

Contributors - Notes on Contributors

Within this special issue of Critical Interventions, a number of scholars and researchers offer fresh critical insights into issues relating to the presence, status, and histories of Black artists in Europe, particularly those within the United Kingdom.

The issue is introduced and contextualised by Eddie Chambers’ text, Black Artists in Europe. Within the text, an attempt is made to identify and reference a number of the challenges faced by “the would-be researcher” in “seeking to contribute to the researching and establishing of more substantial histories of Black artists in Europe”. Chambers moves on to suggest that, “The texts assembled for this issue of Critical Interventions reflect the extent to which the United Kingdom is the European country in which the presence of Black artists is perhaps most vigorous, notwithstanding challenges of visibility to be referenced presently.”

Within the Interventions text in this volume, France-based writer and academic Sophie Orlando cites Shocks to the System as being a particularly important attempt to present the work of certain Black artists within a broader social, political, aesthetic and curatorial context. Orlando (who recently earned her doctorate from the Sorbonne) looks at a critically important period in the history of Black artists in Britain, when their multiple practices were displayed in what she argues was an era-defining exhibition, Shocks to the System, alongside artists from a range of backgrounds, including, perhaps most significantly, certain white British artists.

In The Individual and Community: Aesthetics of Blackness in the works of three Black British Artists, Ugochukwu-Smooth C. Nzwei (who recently earned his doctorate from Emory University) explores the practices of Denzil Forrester, Tam Joseph and Eugene Palmer, three British artists who each have made critically important contributions.

In Keeping Up Appearances, London-based researcher, writer and Goldsmiths College, University of London doctoral candidate Richard Hylton explores the vagaries of recent state-sponsored developments in the fortunes of Black-British artists, and questions whether these vagaries mean that artists have in effect been doing little more than keeping up appearances.

In Black British Art and the German Art Scene, Berlin-based academic Ingrid von Rosenberg, discusses the various ways in which a current crop of high-profile Black-British artists (such as Yinka Shonibare, Steve McQueen and Chris Ofili) have been received in Germany.

The Portfolio section featured an appreciation of painter Hurvin Anderson and his practice, together with a number of plates of his paintings, reproduced in monochrome.

Mora J. Beauchamp-Byrd’s text, London Bridge: Late 20th Century British Art and the Routes of ‘National Culture‘ was an edited version of her substantial introductory essay written for the catalogue of Transforming the Crown: African, Asian and Caribbean Artists in Britain 1966 - 1996, an exhibition presented by The Caribbean Cultural Center, New York. The exhibition was shown across three venues between October 14, 1997 and March 15 1998. [The Studio Museum in Harlem, The Bronx Museum of the Arts; and the Caribbean Cultural Center]. Transforming the Crown was a comprehensive undertaking, which brought together a large number of artists, all of whom had connections to the UK, either by birth, or by residence, either permanent or temporary.

Journal cover image:

Wangechi Mutu, You were always on my mind, 2007.
Ink, paint, mixed media, plant materials, plastic pearls on Mylar, 56 x 37 inches.
Image courtesy of the Artist. Collection of Tate Modern, London.

Wangechi Mutu, You were always on my mind, 2007, Afro Modern: Journeys through the Black Atlantic, Tate Liverpool, 29 January - 25 April 2010 catalogue cover, © Tate 2010