My best friend is in town from overseas and today was our day, just the two of us. I have a few special things planned for the limited time that’s she’s over here in London and so the day started off with a visit to the Tate Modern , Bankside. We were so excited to see the highly anticipated and recommended Soul of a Nation – The Art of Black Power. The exhibition has been running since the 12th of July and did not disappoint. “Celebrating the work of Black artists” from the turbulent times of the civil rights era through to 2 decades later, the artists expressed their points of view and emotions regarding the political and cultural mood at the time through various mediums of art.
Elizabeth Catlett, Black Unity 1968
Barkley Hendrick’s 1969 Icon for My Superman (Superman Never Saved any Black People – Bobby Seale
Soul of a Nation explores the juxtaposition between African-American artists speaking directly to a “Black audience” &/or a “Universal one”. Depicting a strong sense of pride and identity within the African-American community, you can feel the emotive tone and tensions of the time through the eyes of photographers, painters, sculptors, poets and political activists to name a few. The many artworks display what it meant to be a Black artist at the racially charged era of the 1960s & onwards. Beginning at the height of the civil rights movement, we were treated to archived footage of poignant moments in Black history specifically paying homage to Dr Martin Luther with his 1963 “I have a dream” speech in Washington D.C, Writer & social critic James Baldwin, the prominent Stokely Carmichael, the eloquent human rights activist Malcom X and an interview with academic, author & political activist Angela Davis.
We entered the main room and were inspired, humbled and filled with cultural pride to see photos, literature and sculptures that may at first seem a long time gone by but in reality it really isn’t. My friend and I glided from one room to the other taking it all in; the images bringing us to each particularly documented point in time with every spoken word, click of the camera, stroke of a paint brush. From inspirational iconic video footage, intimate interviews and historical speeches from prominent Black icons from the civil rights era to powerful art work from LA to Chicago to Harlem, “era-defining artworks that changed the face of art in America.
Wadsworth Jarrell’s Revolutionary 1972
David Hammons’ Injustice Case 1970 – this picture refers to the trial of Black Panther co-founder Bobby Seale for conspiracy to incite violence
1978 Acrylic paint and screenprint of Muhammad Ali by Andy Warhol
Dana C Chandler‘s 1975 recreation of Black Panther Fred Hampton’s bullet-ridden door after he was shot in his bed by the LAPD.
David Hammon’s Untitled 1976 double body print collage
After exiting the exhibition, we had lunch in the 9th floor restaurant with views overlooking St. Paul’s. Our Cajun inspired 2 course meal and great conversation over glass of wine (for me, vodka & tonic for her), an hour or so later we left the tranquility of the Tate Modern heading to the shops to treat ourselves to dessert & cocktails.
The exhibition runs until 22nd October. I definitely recommend a visit (take advantage of the exhibition & lunch offer that they have running at the moment). I have always believed that one should look back now and then to learn from your past experiences in order to move forward in your future.
“If one wants to know the future, they must study the past” – Confucius.