Lubaina Himid review – a promise unfulfilled

The Lubaina Himid retrospective at Tate Modern ought to be momentous. It is certainly overdue – a full-dress museum show for this 67-year-old artist, the first black woman to win the Turner prize, a visionary of evergreen inventiveness and humour, and a much-admired champion of her fellow artists.

Himid’s work is as open-armed as her ideas of what art might achieve in this world. Given a whole floor of the Blavatnik building, she has conceived of this event as a kind of promenade theatre in which viewers participate. Which ought to yield a sure-fire hit. Born in Zanzibar to a white English mother and a black African father, the infant Himid was brought to London immediately after his premature death. Her work is constantly circling back to that lost island, making connections between past and present; it has motion as an abiding characteristic.

And she studied theatre design at Wimbledon School of Art. The traces remain in Himid’s painted tableaux, in the drama of her political satires and the sheer force of her renowned cut-out figures, waiting to confront you in spectacular lifesize pageants.

The stage appears perfectly set at Tate Modern. Embroidered banners raise questions outside a dizzying magenta entrance – questions continued in vaudeville script across the show’s walls. Why are you looking? How do you spell change? What is the purpose of monuments? There are walk-through installations, a bus shelter complete with bike racks, painted wooden carts like props from a medieval mystery cycle and – most radically for an art show – a continuous soundtrack, shifting from torch song to classical music and spoken word.

And yet the show has odd slumps and bewildering intermissions; it is even, at times, uninvolving.

Where are Himid’s satires on race? It feels as if her political art has been rationed

True, Himid is always on the move through her scenes and themes. Architecture: what would the world be like if women designed buildings (paintings of women talking and thinking in purposeful groups, with alternately estranging or lyrical backdrops, but precious few buildings). Monuments: an installation of overturned jelly moulds painted with African textiles on a tabletop landscape. The colour blue: the sound of slowly intoned free associations accompanying a frieze of painted patterns that runs exhaustively through the various shades and hues without rising much above decoration.

The blue of the sea itself washes through Himid’s art from first to last, sometimes as a distant strip of water, or viewed through a high window to disorientate the scene (are we below the water line?). Sometimes it is the dark and perilous tide beneath a boat. In one painting, it threatens to pour straight into an otherwise safe-looking room.

Old Boat/New Money, 2019 by Lubaina Himid at Tate Modern. Photograph: Neil Hall/EPA

An array of upended spars, painted in marine blues, with cowrie shells at the base, leans in undulating ripples along a wall. A wave of bowsprits, of oars, or high masts – it speaks of migration across the oceans, a tragic history of crossings. Its title is piquant: Old Boat/New Money. But the poignant poetry is undermined by a crass soundtrack of waves.

Turn around and there is A Fashionable Marriage, arguably Himid’s best-known parade of cut-outs, sending up the sex-art-cash-greed of the Thatcherite 1980s. Or so it perhaps once seemed. The Hogarthian figures come across now as peculiarly ineffectual, with their bulbous, stockinged calves and their giant penises; and the pastiche of Picasso’s Gertrude Stein on the wall above has never felt provocative in any way. At least not compared to the wonderful parody of Picasso’s monumental bathers thundering along a beach, reprised by Himid as two black women dressed in airmail envelopes surging along a bedsheet, for a canvas. This remains a far sharper skit.

‘Tidied into a corner’: A Fashionable Marriage. 1986. Photograph: Neil Hall/EPA

A Fashionable Marriage is so presented that you can go backstage and see the plywood and cardboard that holds it all up. But so what? These figures were meant to be viewed as 2D objects, flat as stage sets, in the first place. This arrangement adds nothing; indeed the piece is tidied into a corner.

A series of new paintings centres on the making of objects. Written instructions are lettered in eye-popping colours beneath images of tools – Allow for Short Breaks beneath a primitive picture of a saw; Keep Moving Parts Lubricated beneath a quintet of pencils. The juxtaposition of word and image feels as if it is telling, mordant possibly even significant – yet the promise of meaning fades fast, after the first optical pleasure.

And it feels the same with her latest double portraits of black youths in fabulous clothes. One man accosts another, who simply looks away; two men stand idle. A man in lime-green trousers points at the hand of another in a tight yellow jacket. Himid’s way of painting uplifts: superbly graphic heads and hands, frieze-like compositions against blocks of soaring cobalt, luscious brushwork, gorgeous colour contrasts.

But these men are dandies in more than just their dapper boots and patterned satin. What are they doing (in both senses) in these paintings? The titles, taken from recipe books, seem intended to distract and deflect. But one of these men is wearing a white mask, of which nothing at all is made, either by the picture or the exhibition.

Indeed, where are Himid’s satires on race, or any of her 100 lifesize figures representing enslaved black people employed in 18th-century European courts? We only hear a recitation of their names. It feels as if her political art has been rationed. The great Le Rodeur paintings are here, with their deathless mythologies of departure and arrival, so graphic in their facture, so enigmatic in their legends of voyage and loss. But even these paintings are distanced behind official cordons.

Everything feels deactivated, neutralised. But towards the end, it is as if Himid herself has given in. If she really agreed to make a bus stop/smoking shelter that the visitor cannot enter, in order to contemplate the question Do You Want An Easy Life, written in faux graffiti, then her own vision has gone awry. Or she has acquiesced to Tate Modern’s curatorial constraints.

• Lubaina Himid is at Tate Modern, London until 3 July 2022

News Related

OTHER NEWS

Australian Open 2022: Alize Cornet's Birthday comeback

© Provided by The Times of India Alize Cornet could be an expression – intense and effusive. Volatile even. The Frenchwoman, who celebrated her 32nd birthday to the beat of ... Read more »

DOJ exec: Failed recovery of NBP jail breakers within 24 hours 1st in 5 years

Justice Undersecretary Deo Marco said Sunday that the failure to recapture within 24 hours inmates in recent New Bilibid Prison jailbreak — the first that happened in five years — ... Read more »

Malaysia's ex-PM Mahathir stable after latest hospital admission

© Provided by Al Jazeera Mahathir has had numerous heart problems over the years, suffering several heart attacks and undergoing bypass surgery [File: Lim Huey Teng/Reuters] Former Malaysian Prime Minister ... Read more »

S.Korea says Iran to regain UN vote after delinquent dues paid with frozen funds

© Reuters/LISI NIESNER FILE PHOTO: The Iranian flag flutters in front the International Atomic Energy Agency headquarters in Vienna SEOUL (Reuters) – Iran is expected to regain its vote in ... Read more »

Todesdrama im Ruderboot: Französischer Abenteurer (†75) bei Atlantik-Überquerung im Ruderboot verstorben

Jean-Jacques Savin feierte eben seinen 75. Geburtstag an Bord seines Ruderbootes, mit dem er den Atlantik überqueren wollte. Mit dem Abenteuer wollte er «das Alter auslachen». Am Samstag wurde Savins ... Read more »

COVID-19: New Zealand's Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern postpones wedding as she places country under strict coronavirus restrictions

New 'red list' restrictions come into force on Monday - but Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has urged that the latest changes are not a lockdown. Read more »

Saoirse Ronan and boyfriend Jack Lowden quietly arrive in Australia

American-Irish actress Saoirse Ronan and her actor boyfriend Jack Lowden quietly slipped into Australia earlier this month, as she prepares to film Amazon Studios sci-fi thriller Foe. And on Thursday, ... Read more »

We Will Soon Know the Genome Sequencing of Every Complex Species on Earth

The Earth Biogenome Project, a global consortium that aims to sequence the genomes of all complex life on earth (some 1.8 million described species) in ten years, is ramping up. ... Read more »

5 Indian foods that can cure your gut problems

A healthy gut is a key to living a happy life and having a healthy body. And so, we have wellness advocate and nutrition coach Eshanka Wahi here to spell out ... Read more »

Hangatkan Tahun Baharu Cina dengan melawat 'Regal Kingdom of Spring.' Temui juga 'Harimau Bersalut Emas'

BAHANG Tahun Baharu Cina semakin terasa. Tahun ini sangat ditunggu-tunggu kerana masing-masing berpeluang untuk pulang ke kampung halaman kan? Bagi menghangatkan Tahun Baharu Cina 2022 yang merupakan adalah tahun Harimau ... Read more »

Henti rasuah, mohon maaf kepada yang teraniya: Mufti

© Provided by Sinar Harian GEORGETOWN – Golongan pemimpin yang diberi kepercayaan untuk mengendalikan urusan rakyat sama ada dalam jabatan kerajaan atau syarikat-syarikat tertentu yang ada kaitan dengan kerajaan dinasihatkan ... Read more »

Ende des rückläufigen Uranus: Diese Veränderung erwartet die Sternzeichen ab dem 18. Januar 2022 – laut Horoskop

© Getty Images Ende des rückläufigen Uranus – Horoskop für jedes Sternzeichen Getty Images Rückläufige Planeten haben in der Astrologie nicht das beliebteste Image. Bestes Beispiel ist etwa der rückläufige ... Read more »

Healing The Divide co-founder Iris Koh, 2 men charged with falsifying COVID vax status

SINGAPORE — Iris Koh, the controversial 46-year-old co-founder of anti-vaccination group Healing The Divide, and two men have been charged with an offence of abetment by conspiracy to cheat. They ... Read more »

Peru declares 'environmental emergency' after oil spill

© Provided by DW The spill has polluted 2,384 cubic meters of sand The Peruvian government on Saturday declared a 90-day “environmental emergency” in damaged coastal territories, after an oil ... Read more »

Fed meet, Q3 earnings among key factors that may steer market this week

NEW DELHI: Domestic benchmark equity indices broke under pressure last week and slid about three-and-a-half per cent amid geopolitical tensions in Europe and rising probability of earlier-than-expected interest rate hikes. ... Read more »

Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose birth anniversary: President, PM pay tributes

President, Vice President and Prime Minister on Sunday paid tributes to Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose on his 125th birth anniversary. President Ram Nath Kovind said, “India gratefully pays homage to ... Read more »

India reports 3.3 lakh COVID-19 cases, death toll climbs to 4.89 lakh

India logged 3,33,533 new coronavirus infections, taking the total tally of COVID-19 cases to 3,92,37,264, according to the Union Health Ministry data updated on Sunday. The active cases have increased ... Read more »

The epic filibuster standoff that created the 60-vote Senate

© CNN Illustration/US Senate Historical Office/Getty Images Democrats failed spectacularly this week to change filibuster rules in the Senate. The end results are twofold: The total collapse of Democrats’ effort ... Read more »

Spotify settings to change to make listening to music even better

© Provided by CNET You can change a lot more than the volume when you listen to music. James Martin Whether you typically use earbuds, headphones or speakers, your music ... Read more »

Uttar Pradesh shuts all educational institutes till THIS date amid Covid-19 surge

© Provided by DNA In wake of rising number of Covid-19 cases, the Uttar Pradesh government has ordered all educational institutions, including schools and colleges to remain closed till January ... Read more »

With Over 3.33 Lakh Fresh COVID Cases, India Sees Dip In Daily COVID Cases

New Delhi: India on Sunday recorded 3,33,533 fresh COVID cases in the last 24 hours, over 4,000 cases less than the previous day, according to the latest data released by ... Read more »

Uttarakhand Elections 2022: Cong releases first list of 53 candidates; name of Harish Rawat missing

© Provided by Jagran English Dehradun | Jagran Politics Desk: A month before the polling, the Congress on Saturday night released its first list of 53 candidates for the crucial ... Read more »

TIPS: Cara lindungi privasi di media sosial

Melalui media sosial, pengguna boleh gunakannya untuk kongsi berita, gambar, pandangan peribadi dan bermacam lagi perkongsian bergantung kepada ciri yang ada. Dalam masa yang sama, orang ramai juga boleh mencari ... Read more »

PRN Johor: PAS nak jumpa MB, bincang jayakan MN

© Provided by Free Malaysia Today PAS Johor sedang berusaha ke arah menjayakan Muafakat Nasional dan sudah berhubung dengan pihak Umno untuk bertemu dengan Hasni Mohammad, menurut Abdullah Hussin. PETALING ... Read more »

All NHS patients suffering from psoriatic arthritis to use daily pill

All NHS patients with a painful type of arthritis triggered by the skin condition psoriasis will now be able to benefit from a drug that dramatically reduces symptoms in more ... Read more »

Lydia West suddenly becomes bookies favourite to be the next Doctor Who

When it comes to picking the next Doctor Who, the Bookies seem to be a fickle bunch as last week one established star was tipped to be the new time ... Read more »

Push for tougher sentences in Indonesia sex assault cases

Medan, Indonesia – It was every parent’s worst nightmare. As six distraught families looked on, the man accused of sexually assaulting their daughters was handed a 10 year prison sentence ... Read more »

Bruno Lage answers Adama Traore question after 'strange' Wolves win over Brentford

Match report Even a drone couldn’t prevent flying Wolverhampton Wanderers from picking up another three points at Brentford. Bruno Lage’s Wolves made it three Premier League wins on the spin ... Read more »

Sussanne Khan joins Hrithik Roshan at his sister Sunaina's birthday bash - PHOTOS inside!

© Provided by Zee News New Delhi: Even after parting their ways in 2014, Hrithik Roshan and Sussanne Khan never miss any chance to be part of family celebrations and ... Read more »

10 Word Games to Play on Your Phone If You Like Wordle

© Provided by Spot.ph PHOTO BY Google Play © Provided by Spot.ph PHOTO BY Google Play (SPOT.ph) Wordle, a web-based word game, is recently taking social media by storm as ... Read more »

6 Luxury Bags That Are Perfect for Beginners, According to Rei Germar

© Provided by Preview.ph If you follow her on Instagram, you’d see that Rei Germar loves rocking different designer bags in her OOTDs. More than just arm candy, however, the ... Read more »

Anand L Rai on Raksha Bandhan, Good Luck Jerry, Action Hero: ‘Each story will be different' from what you've already watched'

© Provided by Firstpost Anand L Rai on Raksha Bandhan, Good Luck Jerry, Action Hero: ‘Each story will be different’ from what you’ve already watched’ Anand L Rai is a ... Read more »

Andrew Garfield explains WHY 'fibbing' about his Spider-Man: No Way Home role felt like playing a game

© Provided by Pinkvilla Andrew Garfield lied about starring in Spider-Man: No Way Home in several media interactions and during a recent interview on The Jess Cagle Show for SiriusXM, ... Read more »

When John Abraham slapped a fan after the latter grabbed his arm and pulled him for a selfie

© Provided by BollywoodLife.com There have been a few times when Bollywood celebrities came across their crazy fans who crossed their limits and did unwarranted things that have irked their ... Read more »

Pondok Darul Syahadah tidak boleh beroperasi jika langgar peraturan

© Provided by Sinar Harian KOTA BHARU – Pondok Darul Syahadah Lubuk Kuin, Gunung Bachok yang didakwa mengamalkan ajaran bertentangan dengan Islam tidak boleh beroperasi sekiranya terbukti melanggar peraturan pihak ... Read more »

Warisan teliti jika tanding PRN Johor

© Provided by Sinar Harian KOTA KINABALU – Parti Warisan (Warisan) akan meneliti secara mendalam bagi menentukan untuk bertanding dalam Pilihan Raya Negeri (PRN) Johor. Presidennya, Datuk Seri Mohd Shafie ... Read more »

Spot & Win sasar 60 pemenang di NS, Melaka

© Provided by Sinar Harian SEREMBAN – Seramai 60 pemenang bertuah disasarkan dalam peraduan ‘Spot & Win’ yang dianjurkan sempena konvoi #RasuahBusters pada siri kedua di Negeri Sembilan dan Melaka. ... Read more »

Islanders still searching for third player to fit on top line

The Islanders have tried five different players on the line alongside Mathew Barzal and Anders Lee in their last four games. Between Josh Bailey, Kieffer Bellows, Zach Parise, Austin Czarnik ... Read more »

ALEXANDRA SHULMAN'S NOTEBOOK: Andre Leon Talley was a true colossus

Andre Leon Talley, the fashion journalist and commentator who died last week, was one of the industry’s great characters. At 6ft 7in, he was, quite literally, larger-than-life. Swathed in his ... Read more »

French adventurer Jean-Jacques Savin found dead while attempting to row Atlantic

© Provided by ABC NEWS Jean-Jacques Savin’s team says he loved the ocean. (Facebook: Jean-Jacques Savin) The body of a 75-year-old Frenchman who was attempting to row solo across the Atlantic ... Read more »
On free-english-test.com you will find lots of free English exam practice materials to help you improve your English skills: grammar, listening, reading, writing, ielts, toeic