Himid, Lubaina (13 of 23).  National Life Stories: Artists' Lives

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  • Recording date

    2006-09-11, 2006-09-12, 2006-10-02, 2006-10-03, 2006-11-06, 2006-11-07, 2007-01-15, 2007-01-16

  • Recording locations

    Interviewee's home, Preston

  • Interviewees

    Himid, Lubaina, 1954- (speaker, female)

  • Interviewers

    Dyke, Anna, (speaker, female)

  • Abstract

    Part 13: [1:16:15] Elbow Room was first in Vine Yard; warehouse floor being converted by PT into luxury flats. LH reopened Elbow Room with MS in ACME house in Martello St, near first Matt’s Gallery. Two or three group shows of black artists. LH and MS both interested in different way of showing art. Comparison to working at Vine Yard; LH not good at collaborating; different views from MS re-working with artists; showed Rasheed Araeen, EC, TJ. Put on a show for sickle cell charity, and a selling show - naïve, because hadn’t spent years nurturing buyers. Impact in East London area; refers to Robin Claznick [RC], Maureen Paley. Reasons for not applying for Arts Council grants to run Elbow Room; has seen hoops that RC has had to jump through to run Matt’s Gallery; audience outreach; restrictive effect on the work. MS was interested in selling the work, but didn’t know buyers. Describes gallery space. LH more interested in making shows than running a gallery. Beginning of series of disagreements with MS re-strategy. Describes the work shown eg. EC piece using altered comic book imagery, RA collage piece; more conventional, smaller work than that shown at Vine Yard. Second Elbow Room more about developing an audience than developing work. Describes TJ’s work. Opinion of Harlem Renaissance artists; Romare Bearden’s collages, Jacob Lawrence’s series paintings. Looked at that work, but more influenced by living that way of life, constructing an environment for artists to interact. [23:32] LH and MS didn’t show own work at Elbow Room. Lack of living/working space; renting flats; led to decision to leave London. 6 month period in Martello St, ended chaotically - lost some belongings when the house was rented to new tenants, eg. ‘Samburu’ storybook LH had as child. [30:47] ‘State of the Art’ show at ICA; TV series by Sandy Nairne and James Lingwood. LH’s involvement; missed out on being with the other artists when the programme was broadcast. LH’s ‘Running Women’ was in the show. Didn’t notice any wider impact from TV or book - not being in London at the time. The programme was used a lot in art schools. Liked the way she came across on TV. [Interruption] [38:10] ‘The Other Story’ 1989 at Hayward Gallery; being invited to show. Showed Carrot piece [title?]; series of watercolours made for ‘Depicting History for Today’, daily life of Toussaint L’Ouverture, from reading CLR James’ book - Darcus Howe’s objection to this piece; refers to Gilane Tawadros, Stuart Hall. Also showed remake of ‘Three Women at a Fountain’, from TTBL. Being in ‘The Other Story’; critical response from social commentators and art press re-survey shows. Private view; LH had lost contact with the other artists since leaving London. MS wanted LH to focus on making own work; LH felt she had made a mistake by leaving. Didn’t discuss her leaving with others; refers to IP, SB, Sutapa Biswas. Black art scene at that time: INIVA; Black Art Gallery in Finsbury Park; artists having exhibitions, teaching; DR show at Chisenhale; KP showed at Hayward; SB showed at Whitechapel; by late ‘80s, working as separate artists. Rest of country was catching up with black art survey shows. While working as assistant curator at Rochdale art gallery, put on DR and CJ solo shows. INIVA-facilitated show at Cornerhouse, curated by KP and Marlene Smith, included photographer Roshini Kempadoo; work around how black people had been represented in media. [1:01:15] Activities of black male artists at time of TTBL etc: putting on shows all over country, as individuals and together. DR although ill, showed at Chisenhale, curated by Rasheed Araeen. Poster projects. EC started African and Asian Visual Artists Archive in Bristol, writing for Artists Newsletter. KP solo show in Birmingham. Having conversations with David A. Bailey, Stuart Hall, Paul Gilroy. Taking on bigger questions, cultural industry strategies. If LH hadn’t organised the shows as she did, those women would not have been shown, until later; impact of making all-woman shows. TTBL at ICA; decision to show women-only; but only a very limited space. All thought it would have been one of many shows - reasons why that didn’t happen: went out of fashion; art spaces could get away with not doing it; local authority agenda vs. art world. A lost opportunity for British art; would have been stronger if it had strand of political art as well as commercial art. YBAs more commercial; press could write about it. Black art flourished in Thatcherite years, ie. something to kick against. But as enterprise culture took hold, a different art became popular. YBAs understood commercialism while using shock tactics - being in and out at same time. 2001 conference by INIVA, African & Asian Artists Visual Arts Archive [AAVAA], SB and DB, ‘Shades of Black’; papers re-black art in ‘80s; black art movement lacked strategy for archiving; didn’t have staying power for longer-lasting movement. Aimed to make something happen straightaway; didn’t have enough of eye on history. Importance of alliances with black American artists/historians in 1990s; sustaining black art into ‘90s; survey shows were organised - being in shows which looked back, rather than looking forward. [1:16:15]

  • Related transcripts

    Lubaina Himid interviewed by Anna Dyke: full transcript of the interview

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