With this essay on Black British artists from 1970 onward, Sophie Orlando explores their influences on the Western contemporary art and introduces readers to an important, long-marginalized movement, recontextualizing it with groundbreaking scholarship.
The conditions of development of British Black art are tied up with a social and cultural history of Europe, especially the anti-immigration policies of Margaret Thatcher and their consequences, such as the Brixton riots of the early 1980s. However, artistic productions from this period onward must now be understood within art history as model and agent of its revision.
Related to Elvan Zabunyan's Black Is A Color – A History of African American Art, this essay suggests new narratives about canonical artworks of the British Black art movement, such as Lubaina Himid's 1984 Freedom and Change, Eddie Chambers' 1980 Destruction of the National Front and Sonia Boyce's 1986 Lay Back keep Quiet and Think of What made Britain so great, interrogating their critical agency from an art historical perspective. These artworks, art historian Sophie Orlando argues, imply a critical analysis of Western art history.
Sophie Orlando is an art historian, researcher for “Black Artists and Modernism” (AHRC funded project based at UAL / Middlesex University, London) and associate professor of theory and contemporary art history at the National Art School, Villa Arson, in Nice. As a specialist in British art and in particular British Black Art, she has published in La revue de l'art, and Les Cahiers du Musée National d'Art Moderne. Her article “Artistic categories and the Situation of Utterance, the Period from 1989 to 1994 in Great Britain”, appeared in the magazine Critical Interventions: Journal of Art History and Visual Culture (#12, 2013). She is also curator for an exhibition on the British artist Sonia Boyce, at the Villa Arson in January 2016.