Socialist Worker

Back to Black

by Kelly Hilditch
Issue No. 1956

Back to Black — Art, Cinema and the Racial Imaginary
Whitechapel Gallery, east London
Until 4 September

If you're interested in the black arts movements in the US, Jamaica and Britain in the 1960s and 1970s this is the exhibition for you.

This was a period of dramatic transformation among black communities across the world.

Tracing its cultural impact in painting, sculpture, photography and drawing, the exhibition also focuses on the fashion, music and film that emerged over two decades.

Symbols such as the raised black power fist, afro and dreadlock hairstyles, African and Caribbean inspired clothing, media images of the inhabitants of the ghetto, and icons such as Angela Davis, Mohammad Ali and Bob Marley all became part of the art and popular culture of the period.

The artists Ernie Barnes, Vanley Burke and Peter Simon were fascinated with inner city ghettoes, such as those in Los Angeles in the US, Kingston in Jamacia, and Birmingham in Britain.

In Jamaica, Kapo and Osmond Watson conveyed images of a spiritual and idyllic Africanity.

Artists like Elizabeth Catlett, David Hammons and Gavin Jantjes combined political sentiment with beautiful art.

The Back to Black exhibition shows how the sounds and imagery of soul, funk and reggae, have all played an important role in mainstream popular culture.

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Sat 18 Jun 2005, 00:00 BST
Issue No. 1956
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