Art Chronicles: Migrations

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The newish show at Tate Britain – Migrations: Journeys into British Art – largely drawn from the Tate’s own holdings, sets out to register the impact of succeeding generations of immigrants on British art from the 17th century onwards, and, in so doing, presents a broader version of same gallery’s larger show detailing the influence of Picasso on Modern British Art.

Of necessity, it’s something of a whistle-stop tour – van Dyck & portraiture, Italian Neoclassicism, Jewish Artists & Refugees from Nazi Europe up to  the present day. These are really pointers, and pointers only, most sections capable of shouldering a show on their own accord, but, taken together, they make for a diverting hour or so, one which, here and there, demands greater attention.

The Mud Bath 1914 by David Bomberg 1890-1957

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There are some fine, almost stunning, pieces here: David Bomberg’s The Mud Bath placed alongside the lesser-known Jews at Prayer by Jacob Kramer, both pieces near-perfect meldings of traditional Jewish culture with the tenets of modernity; Kurt Schwitters’ Picture of Spatial Growth – Picture of Two Small Dogs, a three-dimensional collage built from the collected ephemera of his enforced travels; Mona Hatoum’s video installation, Measures of Distance, made during the Lebanese civil war and based around intimate but interrupted conversations between the London-based artist and her Lebanese-Palestinian mother in Beirut; the Black Audio Film Collective’s 1986 film, Handsworth Songs, its images of urban rioting in Birmingham and London, the latter including the funeral of Cynthia Jarrett, which led to rioting on the Broadwater Estate in Tottenham and the consequent death of PC Keith Blakelock, sadly pertinent today.

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