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Tavares Strachan Reimagines ‘The Last Supper’ in a Monumental Tribute to Black Historical Figures — Colossal



History of art

#arthistory #bronze #gold #identity #sculpture #Tavares Strachan

February 9, 2024

Kate Mothes

Detail of “The First Supper (Galaxy Black)” (2023), bronze, black patina and gold leaf, 217.3 x 928.6 x 267.9 centimeters. Installation view of ‘Tangled Pasts, 1768-present’. Art, Colonialism and Change’ at the Royal Academy of Arts in London. All photographs by Jonty Wilde, courtesy of the artist, Perrotin and Glenstone Museum, Potomac, Maryland, shared with permission.

From a satellite orbiting the Earth for seven years in celebration of Robert Henry Lawrence, Jr., the first black astronaut, to a pulsating neon human skeleton illuminating Rosalind Franklin’s contributions to the field of science, Tavares Strachan embraces technology and experimental processes to rethink history. narratives.

This month the Royal Academy of Arts opened in London. Tangled Pasts 1768-Now. Art, Colonialism and Change, a large-scale study of works by giants of British art history such as JMW Turner, Joshua Reynolds and John Singleton Copley in dialogue with leading contemporary artists of today such as Hew Locke, Yinka Shonibare, Lubaina Himid and Sonia Boyce. And in the courtyard, a stunning life-size reimagining of Leonardo da Vinci’s iconic tempera mural, “The Last Supper,” replaces the subjects of the Renaissance painting with black scientists, activists, artists and other prominent figures.

In “The First Supper,” which took Strachan four years to complete, notable figures include abolitionist Harriet Tubman, activists Marcus Garvey and Marsha P. Johnson, nurse Mary Seacole and singer-songwriter Sister Rosetta Tharpe, among others. Strachan places the former Ethiopian emperor Haile Selassie in the place of Jesus and himself in the role of Judas Iscariot.

Aayo art historian Akinkwege suggests in an essay for the exhibition catalog that positioning himself as a traitor represents the artist’s betrayal of the “status quo of history by bringing these marginalized figures to light in a composition typically associated with Christ and his disciples.” Strachan also continues a long tradition of surreptitiously including a self-portrait within a larger subject, perhaps most famously in Jan van Eyck’s “Arnolfini Portrait” of 1434 or Raphael’s famous Vatican fresco, “The School of Athens,” completed between 1509 and 1511.

Installation view of “The First Supper (Galaxy Black)” at the Royal Academy of Arts in London

While “The First Supper” draws on the past to reconsider the present and contemplate the future, it is also about the act of eating together and how this simple but meaningful ritual, from small dinners to large gatherings, builds and sustains relationships.

Strachan describes gathering around a table as “part of the fabric of the human experience”, and every detail of the food and drink in this work has symbolic meaning. He will find African rice, catfish, breadfruit, cocoa, chicken, cherimoya and soursop, all foods consumed in the Caribbean that date back to indigenous and African influences, paralleling disturbing stories of slavery and indentured servitude.

The use of bronze covered in gold and black patina also nods to African visual and material culture and the excellent craftsmanship of the artisans who devised the first known method of lost wax casting as early as the 10th century. Some of the works The most famous bronze sculptures were created in the Kingdom of Benin, now Nigeria.

Gold carries a similar symbolic weight, referencing the attraction of Europeans to the “Gold Coast” of West Africa in the 15th century. Strachan notes that the material is “one of Africa’s most abundant natural resources and has indisputably shaped its history and its people over time.”

Tangled Pasts continues until April 28. Find more on Strachan’s website.

Detail of “The First Supper (Galaxy Black)”

Detail of “The First Supper (Galaxy Black)”

#arthistory #bronze #gold #identity #sculpture #Tavares Strachan

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