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Landmark exhibition at Somerset House


Somerset House, exhibition, ‘Get Up, Stand Up Now: Generations of Black Creative Pioneers’‘Acknowledging the significant contribution of Black culture and individuals’.

This summer, Somerset House is celebrating the impact of 50 years of Black creativity in Britain – and beyond – with an exhibition showcasing art, film, photography, music, literature, design and fashion.

The exhibition ‘Get Up, Stand Up Now: Generations of Black Creative Pioneers’ opens in Somerset House on 12 June.

‘Get Up, Stand Up Now’ is curated by artist Zak Ové, and begins with the work of his father, Trinidadian Horace Ové, who is credited as the creator of the first feature film by a Black British director, and his pioneering peers who were part of what is now known as the Windrush generation, such as Armet Francis, Charlie Phillips and Vanley Burke.

During the 1960s and 1970s, they developed a new creative model for modern multicultural Britain, paving the way for the next generation of artists, such as John Akomfrah, Sonia Boyce and Steve McQueen, who all contribute to the exhibition.

Get Up, Stand Up Now extends to works from today’s young Britain-based talent too, including photographer Ronan McKenzie, fashion designer Mowalola Ogunlesi and musician Gaika, who interrogate identity in innovative ways.

Carrying forward the line of enquiry and internationalist ambition established by Horace Ové and his dynamic creative circle, a number of renowned contemporary diasporic artists also participate in the exhibition, including David Hammons, Carrie Mae Weems and Sanford Biggers.

Many works reflect on the act of remembrance and recognition of places and people, acknowledging the significant contribution of Black culture and individuals, both those renowned today and those overlooked or forgotten by history.

The 2017 Turner Prize winning artist Lubaina Himid’s painting ‘Venetian Maps: Ceramicists’ represents the contribution made by Africans to the cultural history of Venice.

Jamaican artist Ebony G. Patterson’s intricate tapestries compile images of murder victims in the crime scene, uploaded onto social media from around the world.  The works are highly embellished with beads, glitter, flowers, fringing and appliqué fabrics, seducing viewers into witnessing the underreported brutality experienced by those of lower socioeconomic standings, often from Black communities.

Birmingham-based artist Barbara Walker’s detailed drawings recall Britain’s Black servicemen. Created using archive material from the First and Second World Wars, the pictures are a powerful reminder of how they are often missing in representations of the British Armed Forces.

And Somerset House Studios resident ‘Jenn Nkiru‘ – one of Jay Z’s and Beyoncé’s collaborators on APESH*T – showcases her trailblazing films, made with the likes of Neneh Cherry and Kamasi Washington.

Berlin-based artist Satch Hoyt presents ‘Ice Pick’, an Afro hair pick cradled in an upholstered musical instrument case, usually carried by classical orchestras.  It is accompanied by a rhythmic soundscape of two African-American women performing the daily ritual of combing their hair with wooden, plastic and metal picks.

And the archives of Althea McNish, Britain’s first Black textile designer of international repute who brought tropical colour to British textiles and changed interior design trends, have been referenced for the exhibition. McNish’s work resonates with Yinka Shonibare’s trademark wax batik fabric, summoned in ‘Self Portrait (after Warhol)’ and incorporated into the 24-carat gold gun-toting ‘Revolution Kid (Calf)’.

This is the first time that this distinguished group of approximately 100 artists have been represented together, with their work articulating and addressing the Black experience and sensibility from the post-war era to the present day.

And historic artworks and new commissions sit alongside items from personal archives, much of which has not been seen by the public before.

The original photographs, letters, films and audio clips in the exhibition connect the creative, the personal and the political, and show how artists have responded to the issues of our times.

Get Up, Stand Up Now runs from 12 June – 15 September; entrance costs £12.50; £9.50 concessions; Under-12s free.

For further information click here.

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