Donald Rodney

8 July 2015
Donald Rodney Land of Milk and Honey II (1997) Glass vitrine, copper coins, milk 168 x 61 x 31cm. © Birmingham Museums Trust. Photo: David Rowan .

Birmingham Museums and Art Gallery

Donald Rodney (1961–1998, Birmingham, UK) was a leading figure in Britain’s BLK Art Group of the 1980s and became recognised as one of the most innovative artists of his generation. Rodney’s work appropriated images from the mass media, art and popular culture to explore issues of racial identity and racism.

From childhood Rodney suffered from sickle cell anaemia and while he could not escape or conquer the disease he refused to declare himself a victim of it and created work not to draw attention to it but to act as a metaphor to represent the ‘disease’ of apartheid, the ‘disease’ of police brutality and the ‘disease’ of racism that lay at the core of society. Land of Milk and Honey II was created as part of Donald Rodney’s final exhibition ‘9 Night in Eldorado’ held at the South London Gallery in 1997. The exhibition was a eulogy to the memory of his father who had died three years earlier. The work Land of Milk and Honey II, refers to Rodney’s fathers belief that moving to Britain (the supposed land of milk and honey) in the 1950s was to be full of prospects and potential, however, the move failed to live up to his expectations. The souring of his father’s hopes is shown through the inclusion of milk and copper coins, which change over time. The use of these materials also represents the artist’s own exploration of fragility in relation to sickle cell anaemia and for what he saw as the diseased nature of modern British society and the treatment of the black community.

Gifted by the Estate of the artist through the Contemporary Art Society, 2014

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