This summer the Hayward Galley will present Tavares Strachan: There is Light Somewhere

This summer the Hayward Galley will present Tavares Strachan: There is Light Somewhere

This summer the Hayward Gallery will present Tavares Strachan: There Is Light
Somewhere (18 June – 1 September 2024), the first mid-career survey of the New
York-based, Bahamian artist. A recipient of the MacArthur ‘Genius Grant’, Strachan has
created a range of boldly inventive and ambitious exhibitions over the past two decades,
including presentations at the 2019 Venice Biennale and the 2018 Carnegie International,
establishing him as one of the most compelling, imaginative and audacious artists of his
generation. Whether making expeditions to the North Pole and sending back a 4.5 ton block
of Arctic ice to his birthplace in the Bahamas; launching into orbit a gold sculpture of the first
Black American in the US space programme; or creating his own alternative 3,000-page
encyclopaedia, Strachan has worked to expand the boundaries of contemporary art with the
imaginative verve of a true pioneer.

This multifaceted exhibition will showcase the ways in which Strachan’s art vividly highlights
key questions of cultural visibility. Dedicated to telling ‘lost stories’, Strachan celebrates
unsung explorers and neglected cultural trailblazers, inviting audiences to engage with
overlooked characters whose lives illuminate histories hidden by bias. Featuring
monumental new sculptural commissions alongside striking large-scale collages, neon
works, bronze and ceramic sculptures, and mixed-media installations, Tavares Strachan:
There Is Light Somewhere will take visitors on a journey of discovery and recovery that is
simultaneously playful and impactful. Strachan’s vividly realised stories of erasure and
remembrance shine a light not only on histories of colonialism and racism, but also on how
the past impacts the universal desire for a sense of belonging.

The importance of this sentiment will be spelled out across the facade of the Hayward
Gallery in a nine-metre-high neon work that declares: You Belong Here. Accompanying this
work outside the gallery will be a giant bronze head of 20th century Black nationalist Marcus
Garvey, whose own ambitious projects were fueled, in no small part, by his desire to forge a
collective sense of belonging for people of the African diaspora. Marked and weathered so
as to resemble an ancient sculpture, Garvey’s head will be presented as if a relic of a lost

Inside the Hayward Gallery, presentations will be devoted to the three major thematic arenas
of Strachan’s work to date. A selection of his early work will focus on projects that address
cultural histories of exploration, including the artist’s 2008 creation of the Bahamas Air and
Sea Exploration Center (BASEC), conceived as a Bahamian community project to increase
young people’s access to science and technology. This section will bring together works that
deal with Strachan’s own activities as an explorer, many of which implicitly challenge
historical stereotypes, as well as pieces that pay homage to pioneers such as the
African-American explorer Mathew Henson, who may have been the first person to reach the
North Pole. Other works are inspired by individuals who broke physical and social barriers,
or who explored uncharted territories of knowledge.

A second part of the exhibition will be centred around Strachan’s Encyclopedia of
Invisibility (2018), which the artist describes as ‘a home for lost stories’. The product of an
immense (and ongoing) research project, this work features over 17,000 entries detailing
extraordinary figures forgotten by history. Conceived as a much-needed alternative to the
hidebound viewpoint reiterated by traditional encyclopaedias, Strachan’s enormous,
leather-bound volume calls into question the power relationships that frame and legitimise
certain stories, while obscuring and erasing others. Hundreds of select pages from the
Encyclopedia of Invisibility, many animated by vivid images, will be presented in a
wall-to-wall installation that will enable visitors to scan some of the volume’s expansive
contents. In addition, the exhibition will include a display of Strachan’s large-scale
Encyclopedia Paintings – collage-like compositions that strikingly, and pointedly, juxtapose
images drawn from diverse fields of history and culture.

A third section of the exhibition will feature recent work, mostly made during the past five
years, in which the artist imaginatively remaps lost connections to traditional African cultures.
Distant Relatives (2020) pairs tribal masks from different regions of Africa and Papua New
Guinea with plaster busts of Black cultural figures in the West, ranging from well-known
figures such as author James Baldwin and singer Nina Simone to Jamaican-British nurse
and entrepreneur Mary Jane Seacole. A selection of Black cultural and political figures –
from writer Derek Walcott to activist Steven Biko – also appear in Strachan’s painted,
ceramic sculptures, which recall traditional clay ceremonial vessels and pots whilst bringing
together dream-like mixes of objects and symbols that hint at a spiritual or mythic dimension
to these public personae. The exhibition will also include a new and enlarged version of
Coronation Hut (2022), an installation that implicitly links the pageantry through which the
British crown is empowered and legitimated to ancient African village rituals.

Tavares Strachan says: “My practice as an artist is a quest to reveal hidden histories and to
tell lost stories with a weight that matches the profound nature of the characters I speak for. I
have always thought about making as a form of storytelling, a way for us to engage in things
that might be more difficult to grasp during the normal course of our day.”
Ralph Rugoff, Director of the Hayward Gallery, says: “There Is Light Somewhere will
take visitors on a thrilling and deeply felt journey of discovery and recovery. Referencing
numerous histories, people, objects and belief systems that lie outside the often narrow
parameters of Western contemporary art, Tavares’ exhibition will offer revelatory lessons that
profoundly shift our view of the world. Through surprising juxtapositions, stirring memorials,
and inventive homages, his work extends an invitation to dig deeper and explore what lies
beyond what we already know.”

The exhibition will be accompanied by a fully illustrated catalogue designed in close
collaboration with the artist. It features an introduction and interview with the artist by
Hayward Gallery Director Ralph Rugoff, new essays by writer and curator Ekow Eshun and
American academic Maggie Cao, and an index featuring short biographies of some of the
leading characters that feature in Strachan’s art.

Tavares Strachan: There Is Light Somewhere is curated by Hayward Gallery Director Ralph
Rugoff, with Assistant Curator Thomas Sutton and Curatorial Assistant Hannah Martin. Its
themes will also inspire the Southbank Centre’s wider multi-artform programme ‘You Belong
Here’ across the summer of 2024, exploring the notion of welcome and belonging.
Tavares Strachan: There Is Light Somewhere is kindly supported by the Exhibition
Supporters’ Group: Perrotin, Marian Goodman Gallery, Bridgitt and Bruce Evans, Simon
Morris and Annalisa Burello and those who wish to remain anonymous.
Additional support for the exhibition’s outdoor public artwork is provided by VIA Art Fund.