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Solange Releases Interactive Project on Black Womanhood Tied to Tate Modern’s ‘Soul of a Nation’ Show

The cover art for A Seat at the Table (2017), by Solange Knowles Ferguson.

SAINT RECORDS/COLUMBIA RECORDS

Tate Modern in London has just published a multimedia collaboration between Solange Knowles Ferguson and artist Carlota Guerrero, titled Seventy States (2017). The work, a stunning combination of a manifesto and poetry, videos and gifs, responds to an undated photograph of a young Betye Saar and the role the artist played in the Black Arts Movement of the 1970s, while addressing the themes of black womanhood and black identity.

The project is tied to the museum’s current survey “Soul of a Nation: Art in the Age of Black Power,” which looks at the contributions of black artists to the American art canon. That shows spans 20 years of history, beginning with the 1963 March on Washington, and includes work by Saar, Barkley L Hendricks, Benny Andrews, Norman Lewis, Noah Purifoy, Melvin Edwards, Alma Thomas, and Martin Puryear.

In an accompanying text, Solange writes, “There would be no hesitation should I be asked to describe myself today. I am a Black woman. A woman yes, but a Black woman first and last. Black womanhood has been at the root of my entire existence since birth.”

Betye Saar.

©FIDEL DANIELI/COURTESY BETYE SAAR AND ROBERTS & TILTON, LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA

The work, which is billed as a “dossier,” is a continuation of Solange’s 2016 studio album, A Seat at the Table. That album contains one track, “Interlude: Tina Taught Me,” that sets an interview with her mother, Tina, to a slow-tempo beat. Tina tells the listeners, “I think part of it is accepting that there’s so much beauty in being black. And that’s the thing that I guess I get emotional about because I’ve always known that. I’ve always been proud to be black, never wanted to be nothing else. Love everything about.”

In her artist statement, Solange discusses the range of emotions and “different states of being” that she experienced during the album’s creation, but says, “The state I so greatly wanted to experience, but that never arrived was optimism.”

The work includes 15 sections of interspersed text and video that draws on the visuals and unused concepts for the music videos for two of A Seat at the Table’s singles, “Cranes in the Sky” and “Don’t Touch My Hair,” as well as a new piece the two artists created at Tate Modern this year, directed by Alan Del Rio Ortiz and titled we sleep in our clothes, (because we’re warriors of the night).

The piece begins with a short poem, below. For the full project, please follow this link.

Seventy States
I mourned. I grieved. I raged. I feared. I felt triumph.
I often thought of their laughter amongst troubled waters and painful hardships; their ability to transform.
I studied the way they spoke over the line, and tried to sketch their faces and trace the windows of their car doors and homes in my mind.
I was often wrong.

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