Skip to main content Start of main content

Colour, Race, Abstraction. Afterall Reading Group with Hussein Mitha

19 feb 2020
Reading Group
Central Saint Martins Library, Pod A
Lee Wen, Anthropometry Revision: Yellow Period (After Yves Klein) #2, performance, SooBin Art Int’l UBI Warehouse, Singapore, 2008. Courtesy the artist and Asia Art Archive, Hong Kong

Part of UAL Research Season, this reading group presents four texts from writer Hussein Mitha’s reading of the Afterall archive in relation to colour, race, abstraction, extraction and representation. All UAL students and staff are welcome to attend.

  • ‘Kerry James Marshall: The Painter of Afro-Modern Life’, Kobena Mercer, Afterall, Issue 24, 2010.
  • ‘Fractal Freedoms’, Hannah Black, Afterall, Issue 41, 2016.
  • ‘Lee Wen: Performing Yellow’, Alice Ming Wai Jim, Afterall, Issue 46, 2018.
  • ‘Blue, Bling: On Extractivism’, Heather Davis, Afterall, Issue 48, 2019.

The reading group centres around decoloniality and representation. Over the two sessions, it aims to give participants tools for reading ‘colour’ as it appears in art, within contexts and histories that are far from neutral, and within the context of gendered, racialised capitalism and environmental crisis.

The texts will open a discussion on the interaction between formal, aesthetic elements in contemporary art (here, the abstract phenomenon of colour) with the social, concrete reality of historically constructed racialised identities.

Session I, 19 February:

In the work of Kerry James Marshall and Lee Wen the definition of race and ethnicity through ‘colour’ (black and yellow respectively) is exposed through critical painterly strategies and a conceptual approach.

Session II, 26 February:

Hannah Black’s text, ‘Fractal Freedoms’, takes as a point of departure the recent discovery of a racist, anti-black joke, discovered on the reverse side of Kasimir Malevich’s Black Square (1915) (the idealised apotheosis of abstract painting). And Heather Davis’s text, drawing on the practices of Mary Mattingly and Otobong Nkanga, understands the relation between extractivism and visuality as something which manifests powerfully in colour, here, Cobalt blue.

Participants are encouraged to read the texts beforehand. The texts will be circulated to all booked attendees ahead of the sessions. Publications from the Afterall archive will also be displayed in the CSM library for the duration of the Research Season.

Space in CSM Library Pod A is limited, and so booking is essential.

For further information please email