Art: Tate Modern

Hi Everyone! Hope you are having a great start to your week and welcome to another instalment of my adventures. This weekend I went to the Tate Modern to explore their Soul of Nation: Art in the Age of Black Power Exhibition which is open until 22nd October 2017.

Tate Modern

I personally love the Tate Modern, it is this beautifully vast open space dedicated to art. Though it can feel empty at times, it does add to the atmosphere of the place. Architecturally, it is also fascinating too with its mix of old and new, curves and straight lines.

The best way to travel to the Tate is from St. Paul’s Station (Central Line) and walk the Millennium Bridge over the Thames. It is roughly a 10-minute walk, depending on your leisurely speed and you have this wonderful view 360 degree view of London from the bridge. On one side, Tower Bridge, the Globe and the Shard, behind you is St. Paul’s Cathedral and in front of you is Tate Modern. Perfect post card shot, for sure!

Soul of a Nation: Art in the Age of Black Power 

I have heard wonderful things about this exhibition and booked my tickets for last weekend, several weeks in advance just in case it is sold out. Tickets cost £15 for an adult or it is 50% off with the Art Pass. I arrived at 2:30 pm on a Saturday and it was crammed. I recommend choosing either earlier or later in the day when the crowds subside.

The exhibition explores the works of Black artists in America from the Civil Rights movement in 1963 to 1983. There are twelve rooms and it covered a whole range different art movements/expressions of the time; from art published in Black Panther magazines, to photography of daily life and to very abstract art work. You will be getting your money’s worth!

Personal Favourites

Though I had studied the Civil Rights movement back in school for GCSE History, we did not even mention art of that time and the struggles that Black artists faced. The exhibition brings to life how art developed within these two decades.  Some pieces are extremely emotive and one can’t help to appreciate the struggles of the artists to share their story with the world. Overall, it was a humbling experience and I felt the exhibition gave an insight to a unknown artists (well, at least to myself).

To give you a flavour of the exhibit, I have selected one art piece in each of the 12 rooms. Many of which were my personal favourites. If you visit, do leave a comment below to tell me what you loved and whether you agree with me!

  • Room 1 (Spiral): Norman Lewis – America the Beautiful (1960). This is an example of semi-abstraction. It is hauntingly beautiful as the white triangles, upon closer inspection, you realise are the cloaked figures of the Ku Klux Klan
  • Room 2 (Art on the Streets): I didn’t have a favourite in this room, but this room showcased the art work from Emory Douglas and artwork that was included in Black Panther magazines.
  • Room 3 (Figuring Black Power): Faith Ringgold – American People Series #20: Die (1967). This is the most striking piece in the room. It takes a while to take the whole all of it in, where there is a mix of black and blond characters with their eyes wide and staring at you. One of the most memorable pieces in the whole of the exhibition.
  • Room 4 (Los Angeles Assemblage): This is probably my least favourite room in the whole exhibition. I struggled to connect with the artwork in this room. Though, do spend time looking at Melvin Edwards‘ work labelled Lynch Fragments made from welded steel.
  • Room 5 (Africobra in Chicago): This is the most colourful room and the vibrancy of the artwork shows how this movement moved away from the red (blood) and the monochrome artwork in the earlier years and concentrated more on aesthetics. There were many pieces I loved, but one being by Jeff Donaldson Wives of Sango (1970).
  • Room 6 (Three Graphic Artists): This room is in stark contrast with the colours of Room 5. Though, the piece that would draw your attention in this room would be David Hammons, Injustice Case (1970), which is a portrait of the trial of Black Panther Party co-founder Bobby Seale. It is really heart wrenching to see and the US flag border just makes it all that more shocking.
  • Room 7 (East Coast Abstraction): I am not a big lover of contemporary abstract art, but I really enjoyed the artwork in this room. I loved the different shapes and colours. Most were extremely large pieces, though the one that caught my attention is Jack Whitten’s Homage to Malcolm (1970), probably because it is shaped as a triangle and though it is mainly dark and black, various colours came through as you look at the piece in different angles.
  • Room 8 (Black Light): As a budding photographer, this room was my favourite. It portrayed life in the US during those two decades and really gave an insight of life at the time.  I spent most of my time admiring the beautiful monochrome photo and portraits prints. Favourite of mine is Beuford Smith – Woman Bathing/Madonna, New York (1967)
  • Room 9 (Black Heros): This is probably the most iconic room because of Barkley L. Hendricks Icon for My Man Superman (Superman Never Saved any Black People – Bobby Seale) (1969), which is featured as the piece to showcase the exhibition. However, my favourite piece was painted by him as well, Brilliantly Endowed (1977), a very tongue in cheek self-portrait.
  • Room 10 (Improvisation and Experimentation): This room contrasts from the rest of the exhibition. However, I found myself disconnecting with the artwork because it was very abstract and I failed to grasp the message. This is probably due to my untrained eye, though I was drawn to Joe Overstreet’s We came from there to get here (1970). The piece was created by different coloured canvases strung up together, which is supposed to recall the history of lynching.
  • Room 11 (Betyse Saar): I will be honest, I did not spend too much time in this room. The pieces were rather disconcerting, but one of the pieces I was drawn to was by Senga Nengudi Internal II (1977, 2015). It was eye catching and explored the role of women, particularly black women – an interesting piece.
  • Room 12 (Just above Midtown): The photos on the right hand side of the wall dominates this room, but again my favourite piece is from Senga Nengudi RSVP XI (1977, 2004).

Overall, I loved this exhibition and has made me want to explore more art and photography from black artists that was shown. I guess that is a great outcome from any exhibition. It was an educational day out and I had a wonderful time, therefore, the Tate Modern gets a snazzy 4 out of 5 pineapples. If you do get a chance to go, I would love to hear what you thought about the exhibition! Leave your comments below or on my Instagram!

With Sweet and Sour Love,

Pineapple Chicken