Review: In The Black Fantastic at Hayward Gallery – ★★★★★
In The Black Fantastic is a spectacular, must-see exhibition featuring 11 Black artists’ mini retrospectives, which remake narratives around African diaspora.
Writer and curator Ekow Eshun brings together 11 artists into a book and exhibition project which pushes Afrofuturism and the possibility of a new Black narrative into the popular consciousness.
A breathtaking opening room features the dazzling work of Chicago artist Nick Cave (not the musician), with dazzling, carnivalesque, tall mannequins called Soundsuits; a wall of joining black hands (Chain Reaction, 2022); and a stunning trippy wallpaper in collaboration with Bob Faust (Wallwork). The room takes you out of the everyday, to an exciting Afrofuture full of hope and joy.
Further standout artist rooms include the stunning 24 carat-gold wonderland of Lina Iris Viktor: it is astounding to see up close, with textured detail and three-dimensional beauty that looks, in print, like Photoshop – but is much more complex and reveals untold stories of West Africa.
As a concept, the Black fantastic does not describe a movement or a rigid category so much as a way of seeing shared by artists who grapple with the inequities of racialized contemporary society by conjuring new visions of Black possibility. More than ever Black visual artists, as well as writers, film-makers and musicians, are thinking in boldly imaginative terms in order to explore race and cultural identity in the contemporary era.— Ekow Eshun, Curator
Ultra Wet – Recapitulation is a truly unique 3D pyramid video work by Tabita Rezaire, which uses projection in an unusual way to give voices to Black people via a fun, 360-degree, experiential whirlwind.
Rashaad Newsome’s room of trans power is electric, with a banging baseline and video bringing loud, queer power to this otherwise quiet and reflective exhibition.
Outdoor works proliferate around the Southbank Centre site, and it’s worth checking out these alongside an incredible film programme at BFI. The line-up includes a screening of the BBC documentary ‘Dark Matter: A History of the Afrofuture’, Southern Gothic classic ‘Eve’s Bayou’ and Beyoncé-influencing ‘Daughters of the Dust’.
Overall, the exhibition is a fantastic introduction to Afrofuturism and takes the concept further into a joyous exploration of magical possibility, reframing Black diasporic experience.
I am Joint Editor at To Do List. I like free, cheap & offbeat London, especially: cabaret, art, theatre, pop-ups, eating out, quirky films, museums, day trips, social enterprise & much more.