Skip to main content

No results found

Hanborough Gate banner
What's On, Culture, Art

Oxford Unfiltered - August

Claudette Johnson: I Came to Dance

divider
Philip Baldwin
Claudette Johnson Reclining Figure
Claudette Johnson Reclining Figure

Modern Art Oxford is known for its groundbreaking exhibitions and

Claudette Johnson Seven Bullets
Claudette Johnson - Seven Bullets

Claudette Johnson’s ‘I Came to Dance’ is no exception.

Johnson was born in Manchester and in the 1980s became a key member of the Blk Art Group, which had originally been formed in Wolverhampton. Johnson is at the forefront of black feminist art and explores the way in which black women have been depicted in Western art.

Thirty of her predominantly large scale pieces are displayed throughout the galleries. The works show black women, in a variety of poses, many clothed but sometimes nude.

Throughout the exhibition I was repeatedly challenged and surprised. A range of influences are apparent in her works. The catalogue points out references to Egon Schiele, Willem de Kooning, Paul Klee and Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec. Her use of pastel as a medium, with its particular delicacy, made me reflect on the great French pastelists of the 18th century.

Claudette Johnson Figure with Figurine
Claudette Johnson - Figure with Figurine

I found ‘Figure with Figurine’, painted in 2019, particularly interesting. It juxtaposes an image of a clothed black woman with that of an idealised and scantily clad African sculpture. My initial reaction was to think of Picasso, who vaunted the beauty of African carvings and had a number in his studio. Picasso helped to bring these art works into the mainstream consciousness, but also set a precedent for the way in which they are perceived.

Naming the exhibition ‘I Came to Dance’ is a reflection on the relationship between the role of dance in Afro-Caribbean culture, its often sensuous nature, but also a criticism of the way in which this has been distorted and stereotyped within Western society.

Johnson often invites her sitters to select a pose which they consider reflective of them, does not include their names, or place them within a specific location. The women she portrays transcend time and individual identity, giving them an iconic status. Johnson shows us what real African women look like. They are proud, empowered and must be seen.

Claudette Johnson ‘I Came to Dance' runs until 8 September at Modern Art Oxford

Twitter Icon @philipcbaldwin

Claudette Johnson Trilogy

RECOMMENDED

055cac56 7bbc 43bd ab9d 8e90c7af6384 luopde
Fri 29 May 2020

We would like to thank you for your continued support during these recent months when we have been unable to open as usual. With the Government’s most recent announcement that ticketed

New OFS 91 2 aqnkxx
Fri 29 May 2020

Art Is For Everyone, Everyone Has Potential

Arts At The Old Fire Station

Life is a circus: Not sure what we do to help people change their labels? Life Is A Circus is a documentary following our 2017 Hidden Spire project from start to finish. A group of people -

22nd jessica parker tgmflv
Fri 22 May 2020

Oxfordshire Artweeks 2020

Mountain and Moors’ Art Trail

As Oxfordshire Artweeks invites you to take a trip into the mountains in a virtual art trail, we talk artists Ian https://www.artweeks.org/galleries/2020/ian-bailey and Heather Bailey

1
Thu 21 May 2020

Art for Gardens

With Briony Lawson

For anyone thinking of buying a piece of sculpture to adorn a special place in their garden, Briony Lawson is truly inspirational