Black Diaspora Artists in Britain: Three ‘Moments' in Post-war History

Hall, Stuart (2006). Black Diaspora Artists in Britain: Three ‘Moments' in Post-war History. History Workshop Journal, 61(1) pp. 1–24.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.1093/hwj/dbi074

Abstract

The article offers a conjunctural analysis of three 'moments' in the post-war black visual arts in the UK. The main contrast identified is between the 'problem space' of the artists–the last 'colonials'–who came to London after World War Two to join the modern avant-garde and who were anti-colonial, cosmopolitan and modernist in outlook, and that of the second generation–the first 'post-colonials'–who were born in Britain, pioneered the Black Art Movement and the creative explosion of the 1980s, and who were anti-racist, culturally relativist and identity-driven. In the work of the former, abstraction predominated; the work of the latter was politically polemical and collage-based, subsequently embracing the figural and the more subjective strategy of 'putting the self in the frame'. This generational shift is mapped here in relation to wider socio-political and cultural developments, including the growth of indigenous racism, the new social movements, especially anti-racist, feminist and identity politics, and the theoretical 'revolutions' associated with them. The contemporary moment–less politicized, and artistically neo-conceptual, multi-media and installation-based–is discussed more briefly.

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