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How Sweet It Was

Article relating to an exhibition, 2005
Published by: Guardian Magazine
Year published: 2005

image of How Sweet It Was

The Guardian Magazine, May 14 2005, pp. 38 - 45/Illustrated with film stills, photographs and other images/Article written by Mike Phillips, in The Guardian Weekend magazine of May 14 2005/preview of the exhibition: Back to Black at the Whitechapel Gallery, London.

Titled: How Sweet It Was, introduced as follows: “The 1970s saw a renaissance in black art and film in the wake of the independence struggles and civil rights victories of the 60s. Mike Phillips considers the legacy of the era as a summer of exhibitions and revivals begins.”

The article begins with a brief discussion of Mario Van Peebles, his father Melvin Van Peebles, and the significance of the latter’s “groundbreaking independent movie… Sweet Sweetback’s Baadasssss Song of 1971, with particular reference to the film “sparking off the “blaxploitation… genre. Moving on, Phillips touches on the flowering of the “concept of the black diaspora… and the significance of the Harlem Renaissance, before discussing the importance of how “during the late 1960s, the black world changed.… Phillips discusses the ways in which artists responded to and contributed to the sensibilities of these moments. Erroneously, Phillips states that “Ron“ Moody graduated from the Slade. He goes on to talk about his meeting with the Van Pebbles father and son, interweaving it with other references to Black cultural expression, such as The Last Poets. There then follow references to BFI’s Black World film season and Back to Black at the Whitechapel, and the significance of the latter undertaking. But Phillips has critical words about what he sees as the potential restrictiveness of these ventures. “The downside is that slogans like “Black World… and “Back to Black… locate all the artists in a narrowly racial context, obscuring the fact that while black artists might have been inspired by the same events, they were all individuals from different countries and backgrounds working towards their own individual goals.… Phillips has crittical words about art galleries’ preferences, a glamorised “blackness… and other things, before ending with a discussion of Horace Ové and his film, Pressure.

The piece has a number of errors, including the incorrect labelling of several artists’ work.

Related people + view all 8

»  Vanley Burke

Born, 1951 in Jamaica

»  Jack Hill

»  Patrick Lichfield

Born, 1939

»  Horace Ové

Born, 1939 in Trindad and Tobago

»  Melvin Van Peebles

Born, 1932

Related exhibitions

Related venues

»  The New Art Gallery Walsall

Walsall, United Kingdom

»  Whitechapel Art Gallery

London, United Kingdom