Arena for Contemporary African, African-American and Caribbean Art

Author: Christabel Johanson

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Isaac Julien: Looking for Langston


One of Julien’s aims in his work is to break down the barriers between different art forms like dance, film, poetry and so forth. So far this has been achieved and in doing so, Julien’s viewers are shown how to break down the perceived barriers of sexuality, class, culture and race.

Christabel Johanson on Looking for Langston of Isaac Julien
Looking for Langston, 1989, Courtecy the artist and Victoria Miro, London/Venice. Copyright the artist
First published: February 5,2022. Because of the Harlem Renaissance exhibition in The Met in New York, we publish the essay again.

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James Barnor. A Retrospective

James Barnor, Pearly King, Petticoat Lane Market, London, 1960s, Courtesy Galerie Clémentine de la Féronnière

James Barnor’s work is remarkable but not just for the lifespan of years recording culture around the world. In Barnor’s work you can feel the richness of life behind the portraits.

Christabel Johanson on British-Ghanaian photographer James Barnor
Pearly King Petticoat Lane Market, London 1960s, Courtesy Galerie Clémentine de la Féronnière.
First published: October 6, 2021

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Jennifer Packer at Serpentine Galleries London


Packer has previously said she has contemplated the devotion and fixation artists put into the process of creating. As such the show’s name is derived from a scripture in the Bible, “All things are full of weariness; a man cannot utter it; the eye is not satisfied with seeing, nor the ear filled with hearing”.

Christabel Johanson writes about the American artist Jennifer Packer.
Jess, 2018. Photo Jason Wyche. Courtesy Sikkema Jenkins & Co, New York
First published: February 6, 2021

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Simone Leigh


By working with the energy of this truth in her work rather than historical fact, Leigh reclaims the narrative and space independent from the timeline of colonialisation. In this way she achieves the eponymous state of “sovereignty”.

Christabel Johanson on Simone Leigh
Last Garment, 2022.
First published: November 6, 2022

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Aubrey Williams and the Caribbean Artists Movement (CAM)

AubreyWilliamsSun Hieroglyph

As powerful and impactful as Williams’ work was at the time – and as successful as he was as a solo artist – it is in relation to his work and service within the CAM that we can appreciate the movement as an act of political and social change. Through the members own creative talents CAM drove for a better representation of Caribbean life, art and community. Outwardly it reflected the culture of the time; it rebelled against white supremacy in Britain, brought its own flavour from back home and together sought to merge the two – much like the ethos of the Notting Hill Carnival.

Christabel Johanson about Aubrey Williams and the Caribbean Artists Movement
Sun Hieroglyph, 1983, ©Aubrey Williams Estate. Photo: Jonathan Greet
First published: October 6, 2018

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