Soul of a Nation shines a bright light on the vital contribution of black artists to a dramatic period in American art and history.
The show opens in 1963 at the height of the Civil Rights movement and its dreams of integration. In its wake emerged more militant calls for Black Power: a rallying cry for African American pride, autonomy and solidarity, drawing inspiration from newly independent African nations.
Artists responded to these times by provoking, confronting, and confounding expectations. Their momentum makes for an electrifying visual journey. Vibrant paintings, powerful murals, collage, photography, revolutionary clothing designs and sculptures made with Black hair, melted records, and tights – the variety of artworks reflects the many viewpoints of artists and collectives at work during these explosive times.
Some engage with legendary figures from the period, with paintings in homage to political leaders Martin Luther King, Malcolm X and Angela Davis, musician John Coltrane and sporting hero Jack Johnson. Muhammad Ali is here in Andy Warhol’s famous painting. An original Sugar Shack painting by Ernie Barnes – known as a Marvin Gaye album cover – leaves the US for the first time.
Spanning the emergence of Black feminism, debates over the possibility of a unique Black aesthetic in photography, and including activist posters as well as purely abstract works, the exhibition asks how the concept of Black Art was promoted, contested and sometimes flatly rejected by artists across the United States.
With most of the 150 artworks on display in the UK for the first time, the exhibition introduces more than 50 exceptional American artists, including influential figures Romare Bearden, Norman Lewis, Lorraine O’Grady and Betye Saar, among numerous others. This landmark exhibition is a rare opportunity to see era-defining artworks that changed the face of art in America.
SOUL OF A NATION: ART IN THE AGE OF BLACK POWER
Soul of A Nation- Art in the Age of Black Power runs at the Tate Modern from 1st July to 22nd October. For further information please visit the Tate’s website