THE NEW MUSEUM is presenting the first-ever U.S. solo museum show of British artist Lubaina Himid next week. The 2017 Turner Prize-winner, who describes herself as a painter and a social activist, is debuting an all-new body of work at the New York City museum.

Opening June 26, “Lubain Himid: Work from Underneath” features works spanning painting, sculpture, textiles, and sound. According to the museum, Himid’s new work considers “how language and architecture generate a sense of danger or safety, fragility, or stability” and the exhibition’s title references “dictums of health and safety manuals but doubles as a subversive proclamation.”

 


LUBAINA HIMID, “Le Rodeur: The Lock,” 2016 (acrylic on canvas, 72 x 96 1/8 inches / 183 x 244 cm). | Courtesy the artist and Hollybush Gardens. Photo by Andy Keate

 

A pioneer in the UK Black Arts Movement, Himid’s practice dates back more than three decades. Since the 1980s, Himid has been a stalwart presence in the British art world whose wider recognition has come in more recent years. When she started out, the visibility of black people in British society was extremely limited and overwhelmingly negative. If the black community was present in the media, it was largely in the context of trouble, she has said. Black people were nearly invisible in terms of cultural contributions.

By contrast, her work celebrates black representation, identity, and creativity, particularly the contributions of black women artists, and challenges the institutional invisibility of the African diaspora. She makes graphic, immersive installations and two-dimensional works that examine the history of slavery, explore the legacy of colonialism, and reflect black experiences. She’s painted on canvas, and a variety of objects such as plates, wood furniture, drawer interiors, and The Guardian newspaper.

“Painting is about, for me anyway, filling in the gaps…,” she said last year in a Tate Shots interview. What I really like to do is use a whole series of found objects, so there is the sort of ‘given history,’ if you like, and then paint a history on them that isn’t as much talked about.”

“Painting is about, for me anyway, filling in the gaps. What I really like to do is use a whole series of found objects so there is the sort of ‘given history,’ if you like, and then paint a history on them that isn’t as much talked about.”
— Lubaina Himid

IN THE 1950s, Himid’s parents met while studying in London. Her father, who was from Zanzibar, was enrolled at London University and her British mother was at the Royal College of Art. He returned to Zanzibar and sent for her. They married and newly settled, Himid was born. Months later, the artist’s father, a teacher, died of malaria. She grew up in Britain with her mother, who is a textile designer.

Himid, 65, earned a B.A., in theater design from Wimbledon College of Art and has a master’s degree in cultural history from the Royal College of Art. She started out working in French theater, then designed restaurant interiors before focusing on visual art.

Today, she is a longstanding professor of contemporary art at the University of Central Lancashire, where she leads the Making Histories Visible project. Her work has been exhibited widely and featured internationally, and is represented in the collections of many British institutions.

She won Britain’s prestigious Turner Prize in 2017. The first black woman and oldest artist to be selected for the honor, the recognition came in the wake of critically reviewed solo exhibitions at Spike Island in Bristol, Modern Art Oxford, and Nottingham Contemporary.

 


Dec. 5, 2017: Lubaina Himid (left) with DJ Goldie, the artist and musician who announced she won the 2017 Turner Prize, and Maria Jane Balshaw, director of the Tate, at Hull Minster, in Hull, England. | Danny Lawson/PA via AP

 

Last year, solo shows included “Lubaina Himid: Meticulous Observations and Naming the Money” at Walker Art Gallery in Liverpool, “Lubaina Himid: Hard Times” at the Harris Museum and Art Gallery in Preston, and “Lubaina Himid: Our Kisses are Petals” at the Baltic Centre for Contemporary Art in Gateshead.

Also in 2018, “Lubaina Himid: The Tenderness Only We Can See” was on view at Hollybush Gardens, the London gallery that represents her. A new show at Hollybush Gardens features a selection of drawings by Himid exhibited for the first time through Aug. 15.

Meanwhile, her New Museum exhibition follows “Invisible Narratives,” a three-artist show curated by Himid at the Newlyn Art Gallery in Cornwall, where her work was presented alongside contributions from Magda Stawarska-Beavan and Rebecca Chesney. Himid was also featured in the Sharjah Biennial this year in the United Arab Emirates.

“From the moment I wake up, ’til the moment I go to sleep, I am listening to some music or other. It’s very, very difficult for me to paint without music on.” — Lubaina Himid

EARLIER THIS MONTH, Himid spoke at length about her practice, early exposure to art, and musical choices on the Desert Island Discs podcast. She told host Lauren Laverne some of her most treasured songs include Beyonce’s “If I Were a Boy,” “A Case of You” by Joni Mitchell, Petula Clark’s “Downtown,” and “Suzanne” by Nina Simone.

“From the moment I wake up, ’til the moment I go to sleep, I am listening to some music or other,” Himid said. “It’s very, very difficult for me to paint without music on. But, I kind of use music strangely. Not to sync into so much as to paint against. It’s really important, but I am not an expert, I’m just an eager listener.”

She went on to talk further about her work and influences:

On 1980s Britain
“You didn’t see many black people anywhere. We were here. We were on the streets, in your office, in the hospital, everywhere. But we were not on the television. We were not in the newspapers, except if something drastic or dangerous happened. So I guess the notion of black people being artists was completely alien to people in the British art world. People actually said to me, ‘Black people don’t make art.’ And I said, ‘Well, I am making art and I know other people making art.’ That sounds ridiculous (what was said), but it’s absolutely true.”

On Winning the Turner Prize
“Being the first black woman to win it was a bit was bittersweet, really, because there were many black women who’ve been up for it in the whole recent history of the prize. So I was happy to win it, but it was bittersweet, really. …What people have said to me is that it gave them hope that things were changing. And I absolutely know, because I’ve been around long enough to know, that things are changing but we have to kind of hang on to it and build on it.”

On Textiles and Her Mother’s Influence
“For many decades, I like to think she had no influence whatsoever, thank you very much, and I was having nothing to do with this fashion stuff. But I can remember hours spent looking at clothes in shops, looking at fabric and weaving, whatever, in museums, talking about other people’s clothes. My mother was very judgmental about what people looked like. When people were on holiday she was very much, ‘Hmm, I see she’s wearing last season’s dress.’ A great influence, in many ways, but it really wasn’t until much, much later on in my making that I understood that pattern is kind of some secret language and that I now use it to say all kinds of things you can’t say in a figurative way.”

On Museums and Department Stores
“Every other weekend we’d be in art galleries or we’d be in department stores. …They were designed, invented at the same time… They are really built on the same model in that you perambulate around, everything is beautifully lit, and you admire how lovely everything is. The thing is that in museums everything belongs to us, but we can’t touch it, and in department stores nothing belongs to us until we buy it, but you can touch everything. I think it’s totally affected the way I am about making, about showing work, and just about the taking in of culture.” CT

 

“Lubaina Himid: Work From Underneath” is on view at the New Museum in New York City, from June 26-Oct. 6, 2019. Himid will be in conversation with curator Natalie Bell on June 29.

 

LISTEN to the Lubaina Himid on the Desert Island Discs podcast

WATCH Lubaina Himid talk about her work during a recentTate Shots video interview

 

FIND MORE about Lubaina Himid on her website

FIND MORE about Lubaina Himid from the oral history interview conducted by the British Library’s sound archive

 

BOOKSHELF
“Lubaina Himid: Workshop Manual” the first full monograph of the British artist’s practice is currently available through the shop at Spike Island. Featuring writings by Himid and curators Zoe Whitley, Helen Legg, Courtney J. Martin, and Emma Ridgway, the fully illustrated volume will be released widely next month.

 

Provided by the New Museum, the accompanying images are representative of Lubaina Himid’s recent work. The forthcoming exhibition will feature all-new work.

 


LUBAINA HIMID, “Le Rodeur: The Exchange,” 2016 (acrylic on canvas, 72 x 96 1/8 inches / 183 x 244 cm). | Courtesy the artist and Hollybush Gardens. Photo by Andy Keate

 


LUBAINA HIMID, “Le Rodeur: The Captain and the Mate,” 2017–18 (acrylic on canvas, 72 x 96 1/8 inches / 183 x 244 cm). | Courtesy the artist and Hollybush Gardens. Photo by Andy Keate

 


LUBAINA HIMID, “How Do You Spell Change?,” 2018 (acrylic on paper, 28 3/8 x 40 1/8 inches / 72 x 102 cm). | Courtesy the artist and Hollybush Gardens. Photo by Gavin Renshaw

 


LUBAINA HIMID, “So Many Dreams,” 2018 (acrylic on paper, 28 3/8 x 40 1/8 inches / 72 x 102 cm). | Courtesy the artist and Hollybush Gardens. Photo by Gavin Renshaw

 


LUBAINA HIMID, “Tenderness Only We Can Bear,” 2018 (acrylic on paper, 28 3/8 x 40 1/8 inches / 72 x 102 cm). | Courtesy the artist and Hollybush Gardens. Photo by Gavin Renshaw

 


LUBAINA HIMID, “Le Rodeur: The Cabin,” 2017 (acrylic on canvas, 72 x 96 1/8 inches / 183 x 244 cm). | Courtesy the artist and Hollybush Gardens. Photo by Stephan Baumann

 


LUBAINA HIMID, “Why Are You Looking…,” 2018 (acrylic on paper, 28 3/8 x 40 1/8 inches / 72 x 102 cm). | Courtesy the artist and Hollybush Gardens. Photo by Gavin Renshaw

 

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