• Aug 12,2022
  • In Review
  • By Abundant Art

In The Black Fantastic – Hayward Gallery Review

Light installations, emotive paintings and intricate sculptural costumes – Hayward’s latest offering showcases eleven contemporary artists from the African diaspora. In The Black Fantastic exhibits multidisciplinary works exploring science fiction, spirituality, myth and Afrofuturism. The works imagine new futures, free from racial injustice and inequality. 

The exhibition is varied and visually impactful. Many of the artworks take over entire spaces, affecting the viewer’s senses as they weave between the works. In Rachaad Newsome’s space, a heavy bass reverberates around the room, a video flashes in the corner and frames of collaged figures are lit by harsh spotlights along the wall. This environment removes the viewer from the traditional, stuffy preconceptions of the gallery and allows them to connect with the works in a different way.

Upstairs this continues – Cauleen Smith’s mixed-media installation stops you in your tracks. Epistrophy, 2018 is composed of a large central round table containing a jumble of wires, monitors, CCTV cameras, tiny figurines and house plants. The walls opposite the table are covered with bright projections – imagery created from the intimate scenes on the table, magnified and saturated. Smith’s work is often concerned with the everyday possibilities of the imagination and this piece is no exception. Here, Smith creates a space where time and place cannot be identified, where there is no space for familiar narratives. The work is immersive and dream-like. 

In The Black Fantastic is curated with care and precision by the writer-journalist-curator, Ekow Eshun. Eshun’s chosen layout allows each artist just the right amount of space to reveal their individual perspectives, whilst still maintaining cohesion in the show. Eshun ruminates the show as “a way of acknowledging, a way of looking at the racialised everyday beyond the constraints that the Western imaginary has put around Black beings, Black personhood and Black experiences”

In The Black Fantastic is absorbing and powerful – one not to be missed.

Installation view of Rachaad Newsome works, In the Black Fantastic at Hayward Gallery, 2022. Photography by Zeinab Batchelor, courtesy of the Hayward Gallery.

In The Black Fantastic is supported by the US Embassy London, Gagosian, Cockayne – Grants for the Arts and The London Community Foundation, Victoria Miro, David Zwirner, Pilar Corrias and Sprüth Magers. In The Black Fantastic is showing at Hayward Gallery until 18th September 2022. Tickets are available to purchase here.

Reviewed by Amy Melling – Amy is a Curator and Creative Producer whose practice is centred around community-led arts projects. Her current research is focused on curatorial methods for exhibiting artworks outside. Amy has a keen interest in the arts and recently completed an MA in Curating and Collections at Chelsea College of Arts, UAL.


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