Known as one of the pioneers of the British Black Arts Movement of the 1980's, Lubaina Himid has continued her career as an artist, curator, and professor, furthering her initial rethinking of art history. Centered on challenging the stereotypical depictions of black figures throughout art history, Himid discusses gender, class, and race within Western society.
In her largest major survey at Modern Art Oxford, entitled Invisible Strategies, Himid recently displayed numerous paintings, ceramics, and installations all dedicated to exploring elements of past representations. With a combination of works from the 1980's to contemporary, Himid showcases her long standing efforts and visually effective style. One of her older installations, A Fashionable Marriage (1986), references William Hogarth's Marriage A La Mode series (1743-1745). The original painting depicts a sort of after party in the countess's bedroom, in which certain suggestions of adultery and other misgivings are implied. Himid appropriates this imagery and replaces the countess with Margaret Thatcher and her supposed lover, the lawyer, with Ronald Reagan. The piece conveys a relative depiction of 1980's sociopolitical ideals.
In conjunction with Modern Art Oxford's exhibition, HImid is also featured on Spike Island as well as Nottingham Contemporary. Her large work on Spike Island showcase her signature "cut-outs", freestanding, painted pieces that allow viewers to walk amongst them. Naming The Money (2004) is made up of 100 of these cut-outs and represent African slaves from the Eighteenth century Europe royal courts. The characters of the installation are historically influenced by the traditional positions they were forced into such as entertainers, toy makers, dog trainers, ceramicists, and musicians. As the viewer walks among the figures, taped voices speak about their dual identities; their original African names and lives and their now given names and their new lives of enslavement. A powerfully interactive experience, Himid creates a conversation spanning generations.
Himid's past and continued work gives us not only a consistent dialogue about her work's ideals and motivations, but showcases the importance of the discussion itself. Utilizing past representations and dissecting them to discuss African diaspora offers a critical and necessary analysis that only proves to maintain its importance.
Lubaina Himid, A Fashionable Marriage, 1986. Courtesy of Modern Art Oxford.
William Hogarth, La Toilette, 1743.
Lubaina Himid, Installation view of Invisible Strategies. Courtesy of ArtNet News.