Shades of Black

Assembling Black Arts in 1980s Britain

Shades of Black

Book Pages: 368 Illustrations: 116 (31 in color; 85 in timeline as b/w) Published: April 2005

Art and Visual Culture > Art History, Cultural Studies, Postcolonial and Colonial Studies

In the 1980s—at the height of Thatcherism and in the wake of civil unrest and rioting in a number of British cities—the Black Arts Movement burst onto the British art scene with breathtaking intensity, changing the nature and perception of British culture irreversibly. This richly illustrated volume presents a history of that movement. It brings together in a lively dialogue leading artists, curators, art historians, and critics, many of whom were actively involved in the Black Arts Movement. Combining cultural theory with anecdote and experience, the contributors debate how the work of the black British artists of the 1980s should be viewed historically. They consider the political, cultural, and artistic developments that sparked the movement even as they explore the extent to which such a diverse body of work can be said to constitute a distinct artistic movement—particularly given that “black” in Britain in the 1980s encompassed those of South Asian, North and sub-Saharan African, and Caribbean descent, referring as much to shared experiences of disenfranchisement as to shades of skin.

In thirteen original essays, the contributors examine the movement in relation to artistic practice, public funding, and the transnational art market and consider its legacy for today’s artists and activists. The volume includes a unique catalog of images, an extensive list of suggested readings, and a descriptive timeline situating the movement vis-à-vis relevant artworks and films, exhibitions, cultural criticism, and political events from 1960 to 2000. A dynamic living archive of conversations, texts, and images, Shades of Black will be an essential resource.

Contributors. Stanley Abe, Jawad Al-Nawab, Rasheed Araeen, David A. Bailey, Adelaide Bannerman, Ian Baucom, Dawoud Bey, Sonia Boyce, Allan deSouza, Jean Fisher, Stuart Hall, Lubaina Himid, Naseem Khan, susan pui san lok, Kobena Mercer, Yong Soon Min, Keith Piper, Zineb Sedira, Gilane Tawadros, Leon Wainwright, Judith Wilson


“An important slice of our cultural history.” — The Independent

Shades of Black lays the round for more specific inquiries into each of the artists and artworks that it summarizes, whose invisibility can no longer be accepted as a given. In the end, their premise is solid, if also provocative for the work that will surely follow it.” — Courtney J. Martin, Art Journal

“[A] serious and probing look at Black art in the 1980s and the important and ongoing issues that still remain from that key period in British (and US/UK Black) art. Many of these issues are important not only for Black artists, but for all artists, historians and curators, and this book has done us all a service by keeping these issues in the foreground (if I can put it that way without being accused of 'conceptual chaos and confusion'!). This is the best book on Black art and culture I have read for some time.” — Gen Doy, The Art Book

"[A] book that brings much clarity to an area of contemporary art that remains unknown to far too many North Americans. This reviewer gained much from it, and only wishes that a companion volume reversing the ratio of plates to text would now be published. The oversize format even suggests a picture book, and we need to see more black art from Britain."
— Michael R. Moser, Leonardo Reviews

"[A] lively—and sometimes contentious—discussion. In the best tradition of scholarly discourse, the essayists debate how to analyze and present the work created by these artists. . . ." — Zoë Ingalls, Duke Magazine

"[A] vibrant collection." — Julia Bryan-Wilson, Bookforum

"[A] welcome addition to the literature of the visual arts. . . . Shades of Black seems to me to demonstrate that the momentum gained in the recognition of the achievements of black artists is already very considerable and gathering pace." — Sandy Nairne, History Workshop Journal

"An accessible academic text that anyone with even a cursory interest in the visual arts will find provoking and inspiring." — Suede

"[S]et to be the key text of recent times that attempts to explore and present something of the work of black British artists of the late 20th century. . . . [T]he book's chronology of artistic, cultural, and political events . . . gives Shades of Black a particular usefulness." — Eddie Chambers, Art Monthly

"This richly illustrated volume . . . bring[s] together a lively dialogue of leading artists, curators, art historians and critics." — International Review of African American Art

Shades of Black is a remarkable document of creative thinking and archival importance. The editors have brought to life a decade rich in artistic experimentation and collaboration, which will shape the vision of artists and thinkers across generations and geographies.” — Homi K. Bhabha, Anne F. Rothenberg Professor of English and American Literature, Harvard University

Shades of Black is an invaluable text for anyone and everyone in diaspora studies, cultural studies, and comparative British and American studies and for historians and critics of visual art. It brings together a wide range of visual art with a superb collection of essays that set the historical and critical context for understanding one of the most vibrant moments in art history.” — Hazel V. Carby, author of Cultures in Babylon: Black Britain and African America

“The explosion of creativity and the critical debates on black culture that emerged in Britain in the 1980s transformed reigning assumptions about black art around the world. This collection is an important effort to assess the work of that period and its lasting impact.” — Coco Fusco, interdisciplinary artist and Associate Professor of Visual Arts, Columbia University


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Price: $29.95

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Author/Editor Bios Back to Top

David A. Bailey is a photographer and Senior Curator at Autograph ABP in London. He is coeditor of Veil: Veiling, Representation, and Contemporary Art and Rhapsodies in Black: Art of the Harlem Renaissance.

Ian Baucom is Associate Professor of English at Duke University. He is the author of Out of Place: Englishness, Empire, and the Locations of Identity and Specters of the Atlantic: Finance Capital, Slavery, and the Philosophy of History (forthcoming from Duke University Press).

Sonia Boyce is an internationally renowned visual artist. She is Associate Lecturer in Fine Art at Central Saint Martin’s School of Art and Design at the University of the Arts, London. She was a co-director of the African and Asian Visual Artists Archive at the University of East London (1996–2002).

Table of Contents Back to Top
Shades of Black: Assembling the 1980s / David A. Bailey, Ian Baucom, and Sonia Boyce xi

Part One. Texts

Assembling the 1980s: The Deluge—and After / Stuart Hall 1

The Success and Failure of the Black Arts Movement / Rasheed Araeen 21

Wait, Did I Miss Something? Some Personal Musings on the 1980s and Beyond / Keith Piper 35

Inside the Invisible: For/Getting Strategy / Lubaina Himid 41

Iconography after Identity / Kobena Mercer 49

A to Y (Entries for an Inventory of Dented "I"s) / susan pui san lok 59

On Becoming at Artist: Algerian, African, Arab, Muslim, French and Black British? A Dialogue of Visibility / Zineb Sedira in collaboration with Jawad Al-Nawab 67

CoRespondents / Young Soon Min and Allan deSouza 77

Triangular Trades: Late-Twentieth-Century "Black" Art and Transatlantic Cultural Commerce / Judith Wilson 89

Collaborative Projects: Toward a More Inclusive Practice / Dawoud Bey 103

Why Asia Now? Contemporary Asian Art and the Politics of Multiculturalism / Stan Abe 109

Choices for Black Arts in Britain over Thirty Years / Naseem Khan 115

A Case of Mistaken Identity / Gilane Tawadros 123

Color Plates 133

Part Two. The Conference

Conference Papers and Speakers 166

Dialogues / Jean Fisher 167

Part Three. Time Lines

Introduction / Adelaide Bannerman 199

Time Lines 210

Part Four. Recommended Readings

Introduction / Leon Wainwright 307

Histories and Positions 309

Visual Practices 312

Exhibitions and Displays 314

Institutions, Policies, and Reports 316

Contributors 319

Acknowledgments 327

Index 329
Sales/Territorial Rights: World

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Additional InformationBack to Top
Paper ISBN: 978-0-8223-3420-0 / Cloth ISBN: 978-0-8223-3409-5
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