Donald Rodney, ‘How the West was Won’ 1982
Donald Rodney
How the West was Won 1982
Tate
© The estate of Donald Rodney

Introduction to The Blk Art Group

All of the members of the group were children of Caribbean migrants raised in the industrial landscape in and around the West Midlands. Their first exhibition, Black Art An’ Done, was held at Wolverhampton Art Gallery and focused on the concerns of the black community and racial prejudice. The group sought to empower black artists as well as encouraging young white artists to be more socially relevant in their practice. Working with a variety of mediums such as painting, installation, assemblage and sculpture they questioned Britain’s social, cultural and political legacies by appropriating, critiquing and reinventing past art.

Many of the artists associated with the Blk Art Group went on to participate in the British black arts movement.

Artists associated with the group include Eddie Chambers, Dominic Dawes, Lubaina Himid, Claudette Johnson, Wenda Leslie, Ian Palmer, Keith Piper, Donald Rodney, Marlene Smith.

In focus: Donald Rodney

Artist Donald Rodney appropriated images from mass media and popular culture to explore issues associated with history, representation, masculinity, racial identity and racism. He also questioned the legacy of museums and galleries: David Lawson explained in an interview in 2004 that Rodney once told him he would like to re-create Tate Britain out of sugar cubes – a material which had brought Britain prosperity at a human cost.

The key theme of Donald’s work was the social position of the black person in a predominantly white society…. He explored his own history and that of his family as immigrants to the UK in works like Land of Milk and Honey and In the House of My Father and he used his illness as a metaphor with which he expressed the marginalisation of the black and disabled.
David Thorpe