"Oftentimes abstract painting is not as celebrated as more figurative work by the black community. From the mainstream art world, it's just the sense of not being preoccupied with what black artists are doing, period,"*
-Valerie Cassel Oliver-
The Black Cube Collective is an arts group founded in 2020 by artist Yvette Miller. It's aim is to support, celebrate and recognize the contributions that black women abstract artist make and have made in the art world, a contribution that is often overlooked due to the historical and present day Eurocentric narrative surrounding abstract art practitioners.
I started the Black Cube Collective because as a black woman abstract artist I was surprised by the lack of exposure and recognition artists like myself receive when it comes to our work. Growing up in the UK I only ever really learned about white, male abstract artists. I think this is the main reason why, as a new artist, I really struggled to come to terms with my own artistic identity. There seems to be an unspoken assumption that if you are an artist of colour then you should automatically create art that reflects your race. Now while there is nothing wrong in this, it's important to realise that there is more than one way that black artists can express themselves. This needs to be recognized and received as an important and worthy contribution to creating a new narrative for 'black art' in a decolonised world.
Piet Mondrian, Mark Rothko and Wassily Kandinski were just a few of the abstract artists that I was introduced to when growing up, I instantly fell in love with their style of art and dreamed about one day doing the same thing. However, I couldn’t help noticing that these artists, and many other artists like them all had similar traits in that they there were all white and male. The championing of artists like this extended to the art galleries I visited, and art books that I read throughout my education. Therefore, over the years I came to the assumption that abstract art was something that well, only white men did, and that as a black woman artist I didn’t quite belong in this exclusive world.
I began to think differently however when I encountered the work of the late artist Alma Thomas. Her work reignited my dream of becoming an abstract artist. Not only was she African American but her vibrant and colourful abstract artworks were created in a way that I connected with instantly. Her ethos of not being constrained by her gender or race when it came to her art practice was an inspiration to me. She challenged the status quo and bucked against the expectations of what artists like her were doing at the time, which was predominantly figurative work and representing subjects related to black culture and racism. Her determination in finding her own space in the art world helped me to let go of my fears and gave me the courage to create, regardless of what others thought. Since learning about Alma, I have also found other artists like her, and because of this my commitment to being true to my artistic expression has grown from strength to strength and has manifested itself in the form of the Black Cube Collective.
*Quote source: Art News, The Changing complex profile of black abstract artists, 2014.