The former is an act of violence and the latter an everyday occurrence, yet in today’s society it’s Samson who is seen as a hero and black men who are often demonised. It’s the type of contradiction that contemporary sculptor Thomas J Price draws our attention to and it’s present throughout his excellent exhibition where his sculptures have been placed in and among the permanent sculptures of the V&A.
It’s the reason why his sculptures are either smaller or larger than life-size to challenge us to stop and really look at them, as they aren’t what we’re expecting. At the opposite end of the scale is the larger-than-life black woman in the V&A courtyard. It draws people in but also recognises that not everyone is comfortable in museums, and statistics show that it’s persons of colour who are less likely to visit museums. She acts as a symbol to show that everyone is welcome inside to see the rest of Price’s works.
Three large-scale heads made from aluminium contrast with the rest of the sculptures around them, many made from marble. Yes, these every-men belong alongside these deities and notable figures but they are clearly from a post-industrial civilisation as a contrast to the classical sculpture. In every one of Price’s works there’s this contrast of making his works contemporary but also containing nods to art history.
At the other end of the scale a golden head of a young black woman stands among the classical busts with their Western hairstyles, recognising that many black girls have been sent home from school for ‘inappropriate’ hair, and yet it’s nowhere near as elaborate as the coiffed heads on either side of it.
It’s important to note that none of the works are based on one single person and Price creates them from composites. When there are so many public sculptures dedicated to single persons, including those who committed atrocities during colonialism, his works represent all black men and women. In the sculptor’s own words: 'I want people to recognise themselves and feel valued.'
Thomas J Price grew up in London visiting the V&A and didn’t see anyone who represented him. Now others will get to visit and see his sculptures perfectly sited among the V&A’s permanent sculpture galleries in an exhibition that’s important, timely and well deserved.
|Thomas J Price, V&A, review
|V&A, South Kensington, Cromwell Road, London, SW7 2RL | MAP
|South Kensington (underground)
22 Jul 23 – 27 May 24, 10:00 AM – 6:00 PM
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