Lubaina Himid: Work from Underneath
June 26 – October 6 2019
In June 2019, the New Museum debuted an entirely new body of work by Turner Prize–winning British artist Lubaina Himid, which marked the artist’s first solo museum exhibition in the United States. A pioneer of the British Black Arts Movement of the 1980s and ’90s, Himid’s work long championed marginalized histories. Her drawings, paintings, sculptures, and textile work critiqued the consequences of colonialism and questioned the invisibility of people of color in art and the media. While larger historical narratives were often the driving force behind her images and installations, Himid’s works beckoned viewers by attending to the unmonumental details of daily life. Bright, graphic, and rich in color and symbolic referents, her images recalled history paintings and eighteenth-century British satirical cartoons. In many works, the presence of language and poetry—sometimes drawn from the work of writers such as Audre Lorde, Essex Hemphill, or James Baldwin—punctuated the silence of her images with commands, instructions, or utterances that were at once stark and tender. While Himid’s practice was grounded in painting, she identified less as a painter and more as “a political strategist who used a visual language to encourage conversation, argument, and change.”
The exhibition’s title, “Work from Underneath,” borrowed from the dictums of health and safety manuals but doubled as a subversive proclamation. With the sculptures, paintings, textiles, and sound works that comprised the exhibition, Himid examined how language and architecture generate a sense of danger or safety, fragility, or stability.
This exhibition was curated by Natalie Bell, Associate Curator.