Howardena Pindell: A New Language

13.11.21 – 02.05.22

This was Howardena Pindell’s first solo exhibition in a public organisation in the UK, taking its cue as well as its title from her. Writing in the 1980s, she described the overwhelming whiteness of exhibitions and the exclusion of artists of colour as all but tokens, and asserted: ‘I am an artist. I am not part of a so-called “minority”, “new” or “emerging” or “a new audience”. These are all terms used to demean, limit, and make people of color appear to be powerless. We must evolve a new language which empowers us and does not cause us to participate in our own disenfranchisement.’ The exhibition tracked the development of Pindell’s artistic language from the 1970s to now, and examined her work as exemplary in articulating empowerment.

Pindell makes beautiful, abstract paintings by spraying paint through a hand-made, hole-punched stencil. She makes intricate, complex paintings that layer paint with collaged paper circles, thread, glitter, powder and sequins. She makes paintings about war, Apartheid, police violence, the AIDS crisis, slavery and the environment. Her works on paper play with the tropes of lists, tallies, graphs and grids. And her two videos, Free White and 21 (1980) and Rope/Fire/Water (2020) confront racism head on. The exhibition brought together a significant selection of her work, and did its best to celebrate and communicate her vision, in the hope that we might all be able to respond to her urgent call for change.

Organised by the Fruitmarket, Edinburgh in collaboration with Kettle’s Yard, Cambridge and Spike Island, Bristol

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Images: Tom Nolan


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