Culture

Portrait of the Artist: Käthe Kollwitz

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Käthe Kollwitz was a leading German artist, whose work spanned the end of the 19th century and both World Wars.

Not as well known in Britain as her male contempories Otto Dix and George Grosz, she comes from the same socially critical tradition and her keen interest in politics is reflected in all her work.

In the exhibition powerful woodcuts and prints depict the realities of hunger, motherhood, death and bereavement and offer us an insight into the experience and struggle of working people during one of Germany’s most turbulent periods.

Opera: Passion, Power and Politics

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Any attempt to root opera in a broader social, political and cultural context is to be welcomed. The leitmotiv (so to speak) of this new exhibition, staged in collaboration with the Royal Opera House, is the link between an opera and the city of its first performance. It starts with Monteverdi’s Coronation of Poppea in Venice in 1642, and ends with Shostakovich’s Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk in Moscow in 1934.

Detroit

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The 1967 Detroit rebellion erupted in the thick of the Civil Rights Movement as a result of police racism, poor housing and lack of decent jobs. Director Kathryn Bigelow says she was inspired to tell the story after the 2014 Black Lives Matter demonstrations in Ferguson, Missouri.

The film is a hard-edged action-thriller, packed with expensive looking set pieces. It is another example of Hollywood’s continuing preoccupation with race and resistance.

The State

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Channel 4’s The State is a four-part drama following two British men and two British women who decide to go to Syria and join Islamic State. As you can expect, the subject matter itself is incredibly divisive. The harrowing drama was not an easy watch, but an important one.

The first episode feels like an adventure film as four Britons leave their everyday lives to join Isis. One man hopes to follow in his brother’s footsteps and persuades his best friend to accompany him along the journey.

God's Own Country

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This debut from Francis Lee is a love story between Romanian farmhand Gheorghe and farm owner’s son Johnny. It is filmed on location in Keighley, south of the Yorkshire Dales.

There is certainly nothing subtle about this film. From the opening shot Lee sets out to describe in an uncompromising way some of the poverty, hardships and brutality of farm life. Lee almost starves his characters of dialogue. The method highlights well the little world of repression in the family (Nan, Dad and son) as they battle the father’s illness and try to make the farm work.

Soul of a Nation: Art in the Age of Black Power

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This is a celebration of the work of Black American artists in the 1960s and 1970s. While the art on display is inspired by the mass Civil Rights Movement in the US during that time it is incredibly poignant that the issues raised remain so relevant today.

Norman Lewis’s America the Beautiful, for example, is an almost abstract painting depicting the KKK and burning crosses that could be a representation of Donald Trump’s America.

Five things to see or do this month

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Soul of a Nation: Art in the Age of Black Power
Tate Modern, London, 12 July-29 October

The US Civil Rights and Black Power movements inspired artists to celebrate African American pride and explore politics. This landmark exhibition promises to be “an electrifying visual journey”. With 150 artworks — including paintings, murals, photography, fashion and activist posters — from more than 50 artists, this is a rare opportunity to see era-defining artworks that changed the face of art in America.

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