Essential Black Art
Rasheed Araeen, Mona Hatoum, Keith Piper, Sonia Boyce, Zarina Bhimjee, Gavin Jantjes, Eddie Chambers, Lubaina Himid, Sutapa Biswas, Alan de Souza
5 February 1988 – 5 March 1988
Opening: Friday 5 February

Chisenhale Gallery is hosting an exhibition curated by Rasheed Araeen and Black Umbrella, entitled Essential Black Art.

“The term ‘Black Art’ is now commonly used by both the black community as well as by people in general. But this common usage is a misuse of the term as far as the work that should be called Black Art is concerned. This term is actually a convenient term used to refer to the work of black artists, with an implication that their work should necessarily be different from the mainstream. But this does not explain the actual difference in terms of social and historical developments in this society since the war. The general tendency is to somehow treat Black Art as a category inherent to black people, without taking into account its relationship with black struggle. In other words, everything that goes within black community or whatever is produced by black artists is seen as Black Art.

Black Art is, in fact, a specific contemporary art practice that has emerged directly from the struggle of Asian, African and the Caribbean people (i.e black people) against racism and the work itself specifically deals with and expresses a ‘human condition’: the condition of black people resulting from their existence in a racist white society or/and in, global terms, from Western cultural imperialism. The condition of diaspora, the feeling of being uprooted and not belonging to the white/Western society one finds oneself living in, being somehow placed by this outside the contemporary culture, has lead to a new black consciousness, a black critical position that is fundamental to Black Art. The purpose of this exhibition is to put Black Art in its proper socio-historical context which is contemporary and has little to do with Asian/African traditions.”

Text by Rasheed Araeen, 1988

Lubaina Himid
The Ballad of the Wing
28 May 1989 – 29 June 1989
Opening: Sunday 28 May

A solo presentation at Chisenhale Gallery of paintings and sculptures by Zanzibar-born and Preston-based artist Lubaina Himid. As visitors entered the gallery they received a gold credit card proving their membership of the Wing Museum. In a text accompanying the exhibition, Himid described the legend of the Wing, “The Wing witnesses events and records the creativity of the people, the museum does not.”

The exhibition featured ten paintings on canvas with the Wing itself painted directly onto the wall at the far end of the gallery. Plinths were placed around the room presenting small object installations. As Himid explained, the paintings and objects “could be read separately as a verse or together as a ballad.” On one plinth a video of a sung ballad played continuously, written and filmed by artist and poet Maud Sulter.

The above quotations and the excerpt below are from Himid’s own reflections on The Ballad of the Wing published in AND Journal Of Art in 1990.

“The Ballad Of the wing has many verses. It is at one and the same time an homage to Black Creativity and a critique of theft and denial. The work requires a participation and an engagement, a detective novel/crossword puzzle curiosity. As models and sources for the installation I have used a vast array of venues, from the Bronte parsonage and its inextricable link with the film Wuthering Heights, to the hot still greenhouse that is the Sainsbury Centre. The John Soanes Museum inspired an enormous amount of pleasure and horror. […] How brave or perhaps just arrogant to admit in writing that the Egyptian sarcophagus had lost its colour due to the dampness of the English climate. The answer to those who seek the return of their treasures has always been that, inferior museum conditions do not a claim secure.

In the late twentieth century it is almost impossible to know what function the museum serves. To educate the artisan, to encourage learning in children, to destroy memory, to collect and restore? Far too much hoarding in poor conditions, too little money, and war between government and curators; these are the true circumstances of the museum today. The current mania for Victorian power structures has made these thoroughly Victorian edifices falsely popular; they stumble on, throwing money after money, trying to stay popular [...].

The Ballad is the touring branch (although it was not conceived as such) of the Wing Museum, itself a comment on funding priorities.”

Lubaina Himid. 1990.“The Ballad Of The Wing,” AND Journal Of Art 21: 13-14.

Lubaina Himid (born 1954, Zanzibar) lives and works in Preston, UK. Her solo exhibitions include Navigation Charts, Spike Island, Bristol; Invisible Strategies, Modern Art Oxford, Oxford (both 2017); Moments that Matter/ Cultural Olympiad, Harris Museum and Art Gallery, Preston (2012); Talking on Corners Speaking in Tongues, Harris Museum and Art Gallery, Preston (2007); Naming the Money, Hatton Gallery, Newcastle (2004); Double Life, Bolton Museum and Art Gallery, Bolton (2001); Plan B, Tate St Ives, St Ives (1999); Zanzibar, Oriel Mostyn, Llandudno (1999); Venets Studio, Transmission Gallery Glasgow, Glasgow, and 5th Havana Bienniale, Cuba (both 1994). Himid’s work has also been included in group exhibitions at Nottingham Contemporary, Nottingham (2017); Van Abbemuseum, Eindhoven (2016); The Whitworth, University of Manchester, Manchester (2015, 2012); Tate Liverpool, Liverpool (2014); INIVA, London (2013); Tate Britain, London (2012, 2011, 2001); and the Victoria and Albert Museum, London (1997). She has participated in the 14th Istanbul Biennale (2015), the Gwangju Biennale (2015) and the 5th Havana Biennale (1994).