Thin Black Line(s): Display at Tate Britain, until 18th March 2012, admission free
The Thin Black Line(s) display at Tate Britain focuses on the contribution of Black and Asian women artists to British art in the 1980s. Taking as its starting point three seminal exhibitions curated by artist Lubaina Himid in London from 1983 to 1985, the display charts the coming to voice of a radical generation of British artists who challenged their collective invisibility in the art world and engaged in their art with the wider social and political issues of 1980s Britain and the world.
In the early 1980s three exhibitions in London curated by Lubaina Himid – Five Black Women at the Africa Centre (1983), Black Women Time Now at Battersea Arts Centre (1983-4) and The Thin Black Line at the Institute for Contemporary Arts (1985) – marked the arrival on the British art scene of a radical generation of young Black and Asian women artists. They challenged their collective invisibility in the art world and engaged with the social, cultural, political and aesthetic issues of the time. This display features a selection of key works by some of these artists. At their core is a conceptual reframing of the image of black and Asian women themselves. Drawing on multiple artistic languages and media, these works repositioned the black female presence from the margins to the centre of debates about representation and art making.
Most of the works on display have been lent by the Arts Council and from artists’ private collections. They and local museums were more proactive at the time than national museums such as Tate in collecting these works. The participants in the three exhibitions were: Brenda Agard, Sutapa Biswas, Sonia Boyce, Chila Burman, Jean Campbell, Jennifer Comrie, Margaret Cooper, Elizabeth Eugene, Lubaina Himid, Claudette Johnson, Mumtaz Karimjee, Cherry Lawrence, Leslee Wills, Houria Niati, Ingrid Pollard, Veronica Ryan, Marlene Smith, Maud Sulter and Andrea Telman.
This display has been devised by artist Lubaina Himid MBE, Professor of Contemporary Art at the University of Central Lancashire, with curator Paul Goodwin. It is part of an ongoing series of one-room Focus Displays that take a look at an artist, theme or period of British art, using works from the Tate Collection.