BLK Art Group

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The BLK Art Group was the name chosen in 1982 by a group of four influential conceptual artists, painters, sculptors and installation artists based in the United Kingdom. Keith Piper, Marlene Smith,[1] Eddie Chambers [2] and Donald Rodney were initially based in the Midlands.

The group were all from the British African-Caribbean community and exhibited in a number of group exhibitions in both small and prestigious galleries throughout the country. Their work was noted for its boldly political stance, producing dynamic conceptual art that offered a series of inventive critiques on the state of inter-communal, class and gender relations in the UK.[3] They were themselves influenced by a variety of artistic currents including ideas associated with the USA's Black Arts Movement. Donald Rodney, who suffered from sickle cell anaemia (anemia), died aged 36 in 1998.

Institutional impact[edit]

In 1982–83 the BLK art group's exhibited at "The Pan-Afrikan Connection" that toured to Trent Polytechnic in Nottingham; King Street Gallery in Bristol; and the Africa Centre in London. In 1983–84 the touring exhibition The BLK Art Group was held at the Herbert Art Gallery in Coventry, Battersea Arts Centre and again the Africa Centre.[4] In 1988 Eddie Chambers curated the exhibition Black Art: Plotting the Course.[5]

The group's critique of the institutional racism of Britain's art world was part of the impetus that led to The Other Story, a seminal survey of African and Asian artists at London's Hayward Gallery in 1989, as well as the founding of the Association of Black Photographers and the establishment of Iniva, the Institute of International Visual arts. Piper and Chambers themselves have both gone on to achieve veteran status as educators, writers and curators.

Critical appraisal[edit]

Eddie Chambers has argued that despite their undoubted creativity and social relevance, the group suffered from the general lack of serious critical attention given to black artists by the British arts media.[6] Nevertheless, their enthusiasm and commitment to making art relevant to everyday life ensured that they were a strong influence on the later generation of black British artists that included YBAs such as Chris Ofili and Steve McQueen, both of whom went on to win Turner Prizes, while maintaining a clear political element to their work.[3]

Other artists associated with the BLK Art Group[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Marlene Smith recounts founding of BLK Art Group on Tate Britain website. Updated 30 July 2014.
  2. ^ Eddie Chambers Biography by Richard Hylton. "As a facilitator and mentor to many in the visual arts, the importance of his contribution cannot be overstated". Accessed 22 December 2006.
  3. ^ a b Shades of Black: Assembling Black Arts in 1980s Britain. Duke University Press. 2005. ISBN 978-0822334200. Retrieved 29 August 2009.
  4. ^ Pauline de Souza, "Rodney, Donald Gladstone (1961–1998)", Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004.
  5. ^ Adelaide Damoah, "Lime Exhibitions Feature: 50 Years of Black Art in the African Diaspora", Lime.
  6. ^ Eddie Chambers, Review of Shades of Black, Art Monthly. Accessed 23 February 2007.
  7. ^ Faisal Abdu'Allah Gallery Universes in Universe - Worlds of Art. Accessed 8 October 2006.
  8. ^ Eddie Chambers, Profile of Tam Joseph. Accessed 13 March 2007.

Further reading[edit]