Isaac Julien, Pas de Deux with Roses (Looking for Langston Vintage Series) 1989, 2016.
Isaac Julien, Pas de Deux with Roses (Looking for Langston Vintage Series) 1989, 2016.

Isaac Julien: Trailblazing Films and Installations Exhibition

Isaac Julien: Trailblazing Films and Installations Exhibition – 26 April – 20 August 2023, Tate Britain

Prepare to be immersed in the world of Sir Isaac Julien, one of the most influential artists and filmmakers of our time. Tate Britain is proud to present the UK’s first-ever survey exhibition of Julien’s career, highlighting the groundbreaking and provocative works that have made him a leading figure in the art world.

Julien’s compelling and lyrical films and video art installations have earned him international acclaim. His works are known for their fierce experimentalism and political charge, drawing inspiration from a range of artistic disciplines such as film, dance, photography, music, theatre, painting, and sculpture. He defies categorisation and challenges conventional notions of art, creating aesthetically beautiful and intellectually stimulating works.

The exhibition will showcase Julien’s evolution over four decades, from the 1980s to the present day, as he broke down the barriers between different artistic disciplines. It will feature a selection of his most groundbreaking works, from his earliest experiments in moving images with the Sankofa Film and Video Collective to his kaleidoscopic, sculptural multi-screen installations for which he is renowned today.

Julien’s use of dance to articulate the movement of peoples across different continents, times, and spaces will be on full display, featuring works such as Western Union: Small Boats (2007) and Lina Bo Bardi – A Marvellous Entanglement (2019). The former is a poetic reflection on African migration histories and the effects of trauma on people, buildings, and monuments, while the latter is a mesmerising meditation on the legacy of visionary modernist architect Lina Bo Bardi.

Julien’s works are politically charged and often address issues of race, gender, and sexuality. The exhibition will feature his pivotal film Looking for Langston (1989), which explores Black, queer desire through poetry and image, and This is Not An AIDS Advertisement (1987), an essential work of LGBTQIA+ history that continues to resonate powerfully today.

For the first time in Europe, the exhibition will premiere Julien’s latest film, Once Again…(Status Never Die) (2022) examines the relationship between collector Albert C. Barnes and philosopher Alain Locke, known as the ‘Father of the Harlem Renaissance’. The exhibition will also showcase Julien’s critically acclaimed ten-screen film installation Lessons of the Hour (2019), a portrait of Frederick Douglass that showcases the artist’s 40-year commitment to cultural activism and the power of an image.

Overall, this exhibition is an ambitious and exciting celebration of a true trailblazer in the art world. Take your chance to experience the powerful and thought-provoking works of Sir Isaac Julien.

About Isaac Julien

Isaac Julien Portrait - Photo © Thierry Bal
Isaac Julien Portrait - Photo © Thierry Bal

Isaac Julien, a pioneering British filmmaker and installation artist, was born in London in 1960 and currently resides and works in London and Santa Cruz, California. He obtained a BA in Fine Art Film from Central St. Martin’s School of Art in 1984 and completed post-doctoral studies at Les Entrepreneurs de L’Audiovisuel Européen in Brussels in 1989.

Julien is a celebrated artist with a cult following. His 1989 documentary-drama Looking for Langston, which explores author Langston Hughes and the Harlem Renaissance, propelled him to fame. His debut feature film Young Soul Rebels, also won the Semaine de la Critique prize at the Cannes Film Festival in 1991.

In recognition of his contribution to art and culture, Julien was awarded the title Commander of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire (CBE) in the Queen’s birthday honours in 2017 and was made a Royal Academician in 2018. In 2022, he was honoured with a knighthood for his services to diversity and inclusion in art.

Julien’s work is highly regarded and is held in numerous public collections, including Tate, the Museum of Modern Art in New York, Centre Pompidou in Paris, the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in New York, the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden in Washington DC, the Albright-Knox Art Gallery in Buffalo, New York, Fondation Louis Vuitton in Paris, the LUMA Foundation in Arles, the Kramlich Collection, and the Zeitz Museum of Contemporary Art (Zeitz MOCAA) in Cape Town.

As an artist who continually pushes boundaries and experiments with different artistic disciplines, Isaac Julien’s works are a must-see for anyone interested in contemporary art and culture.

Tate Members have the exclusive benefit of unlimited free entry to all Tate exhibitions, including the upcoming Isaac Julien exhibition. For those aged 16-25, joining Tate Collective provides access to all Tate exhibitions for just £5. Become a Member or join Tate Collective.

Main image: Isaac Julien, Pas de Deux with Roses (Looking for Langston Vintage Series) 1989, 2016.

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