Join us to celebrate the 40th anniversary of ‘Black Art an’ done’ which opened at Wolverhampton Art Gallery on 9 June 1981.
This is a unique chance to reflect on the legacy of Black Art an’ done , a historic exhibition which sowed the seeds of the British Black Art Movement,
showcasing the work of five young black artists: Keith Piper, Eddie Chambers, Andrew Hazel, Dominic Dawes, and Ian Palmer. All were students at the time. Since then, Keith Piper and Eddie Chambers have gone on to have highly successful careers as artists, curators and academics, and the British Black Art Movement has inspired many more young artists to make their voices heard through art.
This event will bring together Keith Piper, fellow artist Claudette Johnson and curator Brendan Flynn. Johnson visited Black Art an’ done as a student at Wolverhampton Polytechnic in 1981 and joined Piper as a member of the newly formed BLK Art Group the following year. Brendan Flynn was one of the curators at the Gallery in the early 80s and will provide fascinating insights into the context of this ground breaking exhibition and the cultural scene in the West Midlands at the time.
About the speakers
Keith Piper is a leading Black British artist, curator, researcher and academic. He currently teaches Fine Art at Middlesex University, London. Piper’s creative practice responds to specific issues, historical relationships, and geographical sites. He has exhibited work nationally and internationally and he has works in many major collections. In the early 1980s, Piper was a founder member of the BLK Art Group, an association of young artists of African Caribbean descent, based in Wolverhampton. During this period, he established a research driven approach to art practice, prioritising thematic exploration over an attachment to any particular media. His work has ranged from painting, through photography and installation to a use of digital media, video and computer-based interactivity. Recent solo shows include: Unearthing the Bankers’ Bones, Bluecoat Gallery, Liverpool and New Art Exchange Nottingham (2017), and Body Politics: work from 1982 – 2007, Wolverhampton Art Gallery (2019). Piper’s current project Jet Black Futures is being developed for solo exhibition at New Art Gallery Walsall later this year. In 2002, Keith Piper was awarded an honorary Doctorate of Arts at Wolverhampton University.
Claudette Johnson is one of the most arresting figurative artists working in Britain today. She creates larger than life studies of black men and women that are both intimate and powerful. Johnson continues to be driven by a sense of urgency “about our apparent absence in a space we’ve inhabited for several centuries”. Johnson was a member of The BLK Art Group from 1981 -1983. She helped organise the First National Black Art Convention, held at Wolverhampton Polytechnic where she was a final year degree student. Her talk and seminar at the Conference are considered formative moments in the Black feminist art movement. In the 1980s Johnson showed her work in many significant shows including The Pan-Afrikan Connection, Herbert Art Gallery; Five Black Women, Africa Centre, London; Black Women Time Now, Battersea Arts Centre; The Thin Black Line, Institute of Contemporary Arts; and In This Skin: Drawings by Claudette Johnson, Black Art Gallery, London. Recent solo exhibitions include Claudette Johnson: I Came to Dance, Modern Art Oxford (2019) and Claudette Johnson, Hollybush Gardens, London (2017). Johnson has participated in numerous group exhibitions and her work is held in many public collections, including Tate, British Council Collection, Arts Council Collection, Manchester Art Gallery, Wolverhampton Art Gallery, Rugby Museum, and Herbert Art Gallery & Museum. Her forthcoming solo show at Hollybush Gardens Gallery will take place in Autumn 2021.
Brendan Flynn was Keeper of Fine Art and later Senior Curator of Visual Art at Wolverhampton Art Gallery. In 1998, he was appointed Curator of Fine Art at Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery where he developed the Pre-Raphaelite, Modern British and Contemporary International Art Collections. He retired in 2012 and is now working as a freelance exhibition curator and lecturer. In 2015 he was elected as Professor of Art History for the Royal Birmingham Society of Artists.