Isaac Julien | Artist Overview

Isaac Julien

b.1960, American

Filmmaker and installation artist, Isaac Julien KBE RA, was born in 1960 in London. His work breaks down the barriers between different artistic disciplines, drawing from and commenting on film, dance, photography, music, theatre, painting, and sculpture, and uniting them to construct powerful visual narratives through multi-screen film installations. His 1989 documentary-drama exploring author Langston Hughes and the Harlem Renaissance titled Looking for Langston garnered Julien a cult following while his 1991 debut feature Young Soul Rebels won the Semaine de la Critique prize at the Cannes Film Festival. Hist latest work Once Again . . . (Statues Never Die) is an immersive five-screen installation that explores the relationship between Dr. Albert C. Barnes, an early US collector and exhibitor of African material culture, and the famed philosopher and cultural critic Alain Locke, known as the “Father of the Harlem Renaissance.” Drawing on Julien’s extensive research in the archives of the Barnes Foundation, the film explores the reciprocal impact of Alain Locke’s political philosophy and cultural organizing activities, and Albert E. Barnes’s pioneering art collecting and democratic, inclusive educational enterprise. Julien’s recent international solo exhibitions include Once Again . . . (Statues Never Die) at the Barnes Foundation in Philadelphia, 2022; Lessons of the Hour, Smith College Museum of Art, Northampton, USA, 2022; Isaac Julien: Lina Bo Bardi - A Marvellous Entanglement, Bechtler Museum of Modern Art, Charlotte, NC, USA, on view until 27th February, 2022; Isaac Julien: Lina Bo Bardi — A Marvellous Entanglement, CentroCentro (Panorama Madrid), Madrid, Spain (2021); Isaac Julien: Lessons of the Hour, McAvoy Foundation for the Arts, San Francisco (2020–2021); Isaac Julien: Lina Bo Bardi — A Marvellous Entanglement, MAXXI, Rome (2020–2021); Isaac Julien: Western Union: Small Boats, Neuberger Museum, New York (2020); Isaac Julien: Frederick Douglass: Lessons of the Hour, SCAD Museum of Art, Savannah (2019); Looking for Langston at Tate Britain (2019); and Playtime at LACMA (2019). Julien has previously exhibited at venues including Museum of Modern Art, New York (2013), Art Institute of Chicago (2013), Museum of Contemporary Art, San Diego (2012), and Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris (2005). He participated in the Venice Biennale at the inaugural Diaspora Pavilion at the 57th edition in 2017 with Western Union: Small Boats. Previously, he presented Kapital and directed Das Kapital Oratorio in the 56th edition of the Venice Biennale, curated by Okwui Enwezor, in 2015. His work has also been exhibited in the 7th Gwangju Biennial, South Korea (2008); Prospect 1, New Orleans (2008); Performa 07, New York (2007) and in documenta 11, Kassel (2002). Julien has taught extensively, holding posts such as Chair of Global Art at University of Arts London (2014-2016) and Professor of Media Art at Staatliche Hoscschule fur Gestaltung, Karlsruhe, Germany (2008 – 2016). He is the recipient of the James Robert Brudner ‘83 Memorial Prize and Lectures at Yale University (2016). In 2018, Julien joined the faculty at the University of California Santa Cruz where he is a distinguished professor of the arts and leads the Moving Image Lab together with Arts Professor Mark Nash. Julien is the recipient of The Royal Academy of Arts Charles Wollaston Award 2017. Most recently, he was awarded a Kaiserring Goslar Award in 2022, and was granted a knighthood as part of the Queen’s Honours List in 2022. From 26th of April 26 to 20th of August 2023, Tate Britain will organise Isaac Julien’s survey show which will present works from early films to large-scale, multi-screen installations which investigate the movement of peoples across different continents, times and spaces. Isaac Julien’s work across forty years will be presented for the first time in the UK.

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