Study in Black Modernity Iris Kensmil
Dutch artist Iris Kensmil has made a new work for the Van Abbemuseum’s collection. Kensmil combines abstract patterns, classical portraiture and references from politics and literature that resonate with her position as a Black artist.
The installation includes a series of publications from key figures within what Kensmil calls Black Modernity. All of these books are available to read in our Library. In the installation, these books are accompanied by a series of drawings, large and small, which reflect on the historic position of the back subject within emancipatory politics, art history, hiphop and the anti racist and Black Lives Matter protests which have recently gained increasing visibility and traction. For Kensmil her style of painting and use of portraiture has a specific function. By bringing them into the European art museum she gives Black individuals, who have had a formative historic role, their place in art history.
Study in Black Modernity was commissioned as part of Becoming More, a ten-day caucus event comprising lectures, performances, screenings, commissions, discussions and food hosted by the Van Abbemuseum. Kensmil has been invited along with other artists to develop and co-author the caucus. Drawing on previously neglected histories and generating new work with promising artists in the Netherlands stimulates the Van Abbe to take part in a broader dialogue as a catalyst for change. In this context Iris Kensmil has convened the programme of the opening on Thursday 18 May (lecture by Gloria Wekker) an the programme On experiences and Choices on Friday 19 May.
Iris Kensmil (1970) is a Dutch artist of Surinamese descent who makes oil paintings, drawings and installations. Her work investigates contemporary concepts of image and artistic strategies, which she elaborates in a European painting and drawing style. Through her work, she draws from previously neglected histories - classically excluded by the western canon - to give Black individuals a place in art history. For Kensmil, art has a potential to generate alternative histories and catalyse change.
Iris Kensmil’s work is held in many public collections such as the Van Abbemuseum, the Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam, Gemeente Museum Den Haag, Contemporary Art Museum Moengo Surinam, Jan Cunen Museum Oss, she is represented by Dieten-Office, Amsterdam. Recent solo and group exhibitions include: Club Solo, Breda (2015), Shifting Colours Tropenmuseum Amsterdam (2014), Contemporary Art Museum Moengo, Suriname (2013), How Far How Near, The World in the Stedelijk, Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam (2014), Out of History, Amsterdams Museum (2013), Time, Trade Travel, SMBA, Amsterdam & Nubuku Foundation Accra Ghana (2012), Mutualism, Co-Prosperity, Chicago, Monumentalism, Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam (2010).