The Rivington Place Portfolio, 2007


This portfolio of 6 prints and one three-dimensional print in paper was created in collaboration with the Rivington Place, the first visual arts center in London dedicated to the study and presentation of diverse cultural backgrounds, which celebrated ten years on October 5, 2017.

30 x 20 inches each

Edition of 70. Published by the Brodsky Center at PAFA, Philadelphia.

Collaborating Master Printer: Randy Hemminghaus

Sonia Boyce (British, b. 1962)

1930s to 1960s, 2007
Soft ground, hard ground etching and spitbite aquatint

Boyce is a British Afro-Caribbean artist, living and working in London. She began her career as a painter, focusing on black identity and the dynamics of belonging. In the 1990s, she moved to explore personal relationships and, subsequently, worked with music, film, and video, inviting members of the public-i.e., gallery visitors or refugee communities-to work collaboratively with her. Boyce was in residence at Brodsky Center in 2007, when she created handmade paper works and prints based on her interviews with women about their memories of black female singers, part of the artist’s ongoing archive project that celebrates the contribution of black British female performers to the UK music scene. Linear contouring around names and lyrics enact a rhythmic pattern reminiscent of the grooves in vinyl records, or sound waves, or elevation lines in maps that evoke the place of music in women’s lives. Her handmade paper work entitled weak as I am is also featured in this room.

Isaac Julien (British, b. 1960)

Untitled (Déjà-Vu No.2, Baltimore Series), 2007
Digital ink jet print with gold leaf on Somerset Enhanced Velvet paper. Two parts.

The narratives in Julien’s films represent, in his words, "artistic expression that is animated from a black perspective," which he felt was thoroughly lacking in the late 1980s, when he began his career. Time, music, sound rhythm, and scenography are equally important components of his films, which are typically projected on multiple screens. Untitled (Déjà-Vu No.2, Baltimore Series) are prints of production stills for Julien’s 16mm film Baltimore (2003), shot in the city’s Great Blacks in Wax Museum, Peabody Library, and The Walters Art Museum. The three waxwork figures represent notable Marylanders-gospel singer Pauline Wells Lewis (c. 1911-1998); homeless shelter founder Beatrice F. "Bea" Gaddy (1933-2001); and former Democratic Congressman Kweisi Mfume (born 1948)-seemingly admiring late Renaissance paintings in the Walters Art Museum, including the Allegory of the Element Earth (c. 1580) by Leandro Bassano (1557-1622). Julien says his intention is to "bring together two worlds, black wax works and Renaissance artworks-two western cultures, with black culture seen as deriving from meeting western culture, around slavery." Two additional contexts are also drawn together here: Julien’s interest in unveiling the constructed nature of museums’ display, a subject matter of his earlier films; and his study of the styles, gestures, iconography, and language of cult blaxploitation movies, the first film genre that directly addressed black audiences, and the main theme of Baltimore and Julien’s TV documentary Baadasssss Cinema (2002). These production images are document, instrument, and artwork at once, in a unique combination of fiction, documentary, and artistic techniques. The ambiguity triggered by the instrumental quality of museum and movie sets, props, and hot cinema illumination, is further reflected in the golden border framing the images, referencing multiple perspectives on notions of style and value, high and popular culture.

Glenn Ligon (American, b. 1960)

Untitled, 2007
Photogravure on paper

In his ongoing signature painting series "Stranger" (1996-present), Glenn Ligon uses coal dust to stencil quotes he lifts from James Baldwin’s 1953 essay Stranger in the Village. "I wanted the material that I was using for the paintings to have the same kind of gravitas as the text," the artist has said. Baldwin’s essay offers a sharp analysis of why segregation in America has been constrained by history. Yet, it sees black-white relations as evolving in time, holding the promise that this world "will never be white again." In this Untitled print, Ligon reproduces a 1987 article on Dutch painter and art theoretician Samuel van Hoogstraten (1627-1678). The article was written by Joyce Plesters, a scientist at the National Gallery’s conservation department in London, who spearheaded the examination of old masters’ paintings by chemical microscopy in the 1950s. Describing black pigment, the excerpted text and photograph are reproduced by Ligon as reassigned to his own process. In an earlier instance, Ligon had used a conservator’s report on Untitled (I Am a Man), his 1988 painting derived from Ernest C. Withers’s photograph of the 1968 Memphis Sanitation Workers Strike. Condition Report (2000) represented time and exposure altering Untitled (I Am a Man), his first text-based painting; but, symbolically, the report echoed as well the changing relationship that younger generations of African Americans have to the historical Civil Rights Movement. In this print, Ligon appropriates a digital image taken through a microscope (micrograph) to describe the use of the color black as a metaphor for representing black identity. In the context of Ligon’s work, the captioned micrograph spirals off its straightforward scientific purpose. It reverberates, instead, the artist’s psychological and intellectual dialogue with himself, as he aspires to disengage from the boundaries of history and speak from his inquisitive, contemporary perspective.

Hew Locke (British, b. 1959)

The Prize, 2007
Digital images with silkscreen cut into 43 pieces and re-collaged into a three-dimensional object, 30 x 20 x 5 inches overall

Locke is a British artist of Guyanese descent. He spent his formative years, from 1966 to 1980 in Guyana. In his work, he addresses the history and ongoing repercussions of European colonialism. Historical coats-of-arms, public statuary, trophies, weaponry, naval warships, and the costumes and regalia of state are interpreted in Locke’s sculptures, wall-hangings, installations, and photographs as icons of power and imperialism. To make The Prize, Locke scoured the local dollar stores in New Brunswick, NJ, for plastic toys and decorations, which he then scanned into preliminary images. The images were cut up in forty-three parts, which were woven into a three-dimensional picture. The toys and decorations range from daggers and Kalashnikov rifles, to yellow roses and black dolls. The work is further embellished with actual plastic flowers and beads. Locke lives and works in London. Locke’s work will be featured in a solo exhibition this November at PPOW Gallery, New York, NY.

Chris Ofili (British, b. 1968)

After the Dance, 2006

Ofili is a painter who rose to prominence in the 1990s for his complex multi-layered paintings that included resin, glitter, collage, and, often, elephant dung. They irreverently employed a wide range of imagery, from Catholic icons to figures from 1970s Afropop comics. As a part of the Young British Artists wave, his work was very influential for breaking away from traditional notions of beauty as well as decorum. Following a residency in Trinidad in 2000, he moved to the island in 2005. This new context provoked a profound shift in his work. "I’ve found that the night and twilight here enhances the imagination. In the city, our relationship to the night is very particular because it’s always illuminated, but here it’s unlit, so you’re relying on the light of the moon and sensitivity of the eyes. It’s a different level of consciousness that is less familiar to me, and stimulating through a degree of fear and mystery." After the Dance is part of a body of works all painted in hues of blue and silver, referencing the early-twentieth century painting movement in Germany of the Blue Rider, which aspired to relate visual and musical sensibilities.

Carrie Mae Weems (American, born 1953)

When and Where I Enter the British Museum, 2007
Inkjet digital print on Epson Ultrasmooth Fine Art paper

Carrie Mae Weems was trained at the California Institute of the Arts, the hotbed of American conceptual and theoretical approach to art and photography. Weems questions the traditional documentary approach by staging photographic and film narratives. Weems’s stories reflect on relationships of power. This print follows a series made during the artist’s residency in Rome, in 2006, where Weems took to decipher the city’s majestic monumental environment and tackle the essential and factual quality of architecture as representing power: "I thought" the artist said, "I could use my own skin in performance, my own body as a way of leading the viewer into those spaces, highly aware, challenging those spaces, and marking them for what they are.... I am not confused about what they are supposed to mean. Some people accept to submit to them. I am more interested in contesting them, even when I think that they are sublime." Since 1759, the British Museum has become the model for encyclopedic museums all over the world, representing and interpreting world history through culture and artifacts. Its model continues to embody the very notion of colonialism. In When and Where I Enter the British Museum, "I" stands for "we" as Weems asks "when" African, African American and other diasporic African cultures did enter the museum’s discourse on culture? "What placement" do they occupy in it? Weems upsets the tourist’s proud shot in front of the institution that has dictated over centuries how history is to be interpreted. She turns diaristic photography into inquisitive photography, and so suspends the universal belief in this seemingly intact building and its construct of history.