Standing Figure with African Masks, 2018. Image courtesy of the artist and Hollybush Gardens. Photo by Andy Keate. Tate: Purchased using funds provided by the 2018 Frieze Tate Fund supported by Endeavor to benefit the Tate collection 2019

Claudette Johnson

I Came to Dance

One of the most arresting figurative artists working in Britain today, Claudette Johnson (b. 1959, Manchester, UK) creates larger than life studies of black women that are both intimate and powerful.

Modern Art Oxford’s major show of her work is the artist’s first major institutional exhibition in almost three decades and included approximately 30 paintings and drawings in pastel, paint, ink and charcoal from the early 1980s to 2019.

Throughout her career, Johnson has continued to redefine the space assigned to images of black women. Musing that “it is a very small twisted space that is offered”, Johnson invites her sitters to “Take up space in a way that is reflective of who they are.”

The texts in this exhibition catalogue offer fresh insights into her practice and the dynamic impact of her event at the First National Black Arts Convention organised by the BLK Art Group in Wolverhampton, 1982. Also included is an interview with Johnson and archival materials.

“Claudette Johnson’s work is rooted in her African heritage. Her talent is as powerful as it is obvious.” — Steve McQueen (1992)

Published on the occasion of the exhibition, Claudette Johnson: I Came to Dance at Modern Art Oxford (1 June – 8 September 2019).

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