Art in the Diaspora

Unit London Presents In Praise of Black Errantry Exhibition, During 60th Venice Biennale

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During the 60th Venice Biennale in 2024, Unit will present In Praise of Black Errantry (17 April–29 June), a group exhibition that celebrates the radical Black imagination. In Praise of Black Errantry is inspired by the Martinique-born French writer and philosopher Édouard Glissant (1928–2011), who proposed errantry as a form of freedom and resistance, evoking a spiritual or purposeful wandering beyond national borders or the limits of exile. As a mode of survival, errantry infers fugitivity as well as improvisation. Underlying the emergence of Black modernity, errantry has engendered the dissonance of jazz, the politics of refusal, and ultimately, revolution. Curated by Indie A. Choudhury (The Courtauld Institute of Art, London) with assistant curator Kelsey Corbett (Unit), the exhibition brings together 19 modern and contemporary Afro-diasporic artists. As a mode of survival, errantry infers fugitivity as well as improvisation. The poetics of errantry offers a counter-discourse about Black cultural production, raising critical questions: how has errantry been employed aesthetically and politically as a form of Black dissent? How do incidental encounters of the itinerant or the arbitrary inform technical and formal innovations, as well as other artistic freedoms? How do the terms of disobedience and waywardness figure in the art of the Black diaspora?

Romare Bearden, Seance, 1984-86, watercolour and gouache on paper, 188.72 x 139.52cm

Newly commissioned works by Stacey Gillian Abe, Winston Branch, Jonathan Lyndon Chase, Rachel Jones, Hilda Kortei, Sola Olulode, Anya Paintsil, and Charmaine Watkiss will be on view alongside works by Jean-Michel Basquiat, Romare Bearden, Phoebe Boswell, Adelaide Damoah, Paul Dash, Miranda Forrester, Claudette Johnson, Keith Piper, Hank Willis Thomas, and Joy Yamusangie. The exhibition also presents a site-specific sound installation by Trevor Mathison (Dubmorphology and Black Audio Film Collective). If “Foreigners Everywhere”, the theme of the 2024 Venice Biennale, emphasises a multiplicity of ethnicities, genders, and nationalities, all in service of what the curator Adriano Pederosa calls a “celebration of the foreign, the distant, the outsider, the queer, as well as the indigenous”, In Praise of Black Errantry explores the significance of wandering beyond national borders or the limits of exile in celebration of artists who are, themselves, challenging conventional discourses.

On view from 17 April–29 June the exhibition will be in the Palazzo Pisani S. Marina, a 15th-century palace located in the Cannaregio area of Venice and depicted in a Renaissance painting by Jacopo de’ Barbari. The palazzo previously hosted the Diaspora Pavilion in 2017 and the Croatia National Pavilion in 2015.

Stacey Gillian Abe, The Father’s Daughter 2, 2024, Acrylic, oil and hand embroidered details on canvas, 150cm x 130cm

In Praise of Black Errantry will mark Unit’s first presentation during the Venice Biennale, as part of the gallery’s commitment to research-led initiatives that nurture artists and contribute to contemporary cultural discourse beyond conventional programming structures. The exhibition is part of a greater dialogue on Afro-diasporic art which includes current exhibitions Soulscapes, Dulwich Picture Gallery, London; Entangled Pasts: 1768-Now, Royal Academy, London; The Time is Now: Artists Reframe the Black Figure, National Portrait Gallery, London; and Giants: Art from the Dean Collection of Swizz Beatz and Alicia Keys, Brooklyn Museum, New York, among others. The accompanying exhibition catalogue includes contributions by the curator Indie A. Choudhury; artist Jonathan Lyndon Chase; award-winning poet Roger Robinson; and Robert G. O’Meally, the Zora Neale Hurston Professor of English and Comparative Literature at Columbia University. With special thanks to Company Gallery, DC Moore Gallery, Felix & Spear, Pace Gallery, the Romare Bearden Foundation, Sapar Contemporary, Sheffield Museums, Tiwani Contemporary, Varvara Roza Galleries, and private lenders including Sonia Johnson-Brown and Thaddaeus Ropac. Members of the press are invited to see the exhibition during the morning preview on 17 April from 9–11am, with the show on display from 17 April–29 June 2024.

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