The internet has become a key battleground for the ways in which art, made by the current generation of black and brown artists, is experienced. It's no surprise, then, that The Lonely Londoners, an art house named for Trinidadian beat writer Samuel Selvon’s 1956 novel of the same name, which counts in its ranks young, international black creatives based in New York and London, formed online. The collective seeks to change the future trajectory of art history by giving artists of color a space to be seen. Like the loosely organized social commentary in Selvon’s book, the collective aims to shed some of the invisibility that people of color face by having artists of color exhibit their work IRL.
One of the most telling rituals in Selvon’s book is when “the boys” come together to tell stories night after night about their days. The stories may seem insignificant in the long narrative that is life, yet the mundane moments of these men are authoritative because they are told in their own, creolized voices. Rianna Jade Parker and Pelin Keskin, who founded The Lonely Londoners in 2013, are gathering artists of color together to tell the stories of this generation of PoC artists, whose efforts are many but often cloaked in insignificance. The Lonely Londoners is part of a chorus of voices, like Kimberly Drew of Black Contemporary Art and Jessica Lynn and Taylor Aldridge of Arts.Black, working to bring awareness to black artists in ways that the mainstream museum and gallery systems have failed.
“We were friends online first, sharing our thoughts and feelings through the retweets and reposts of this vast body of knowledge not available anywhere else in our lives, at least not to that level of criticality, and from the range of perspectives that you find in certain communities on Tumblr and Twitter,” says Parker of how the collective started. “We knew we wanted to do something tangible for the all the people online who clung to their profiles and pages as tightly as we did because they didn't have a space like it in IRL."
"Our conversations kept leading to how annoyed we were at seeing the art world dominated by a certain type of person, and gushing over how PoC have the richest and deepest history with art and being frustrated that they keep being overlooked,” adds Keskin.
The collective has curated four exhibitions over the last two years, in both London and New York, edited a digital zine entitled Queenies, Fades, and Blunts—a PoC meditation on hair, sexuality and coming of age—and co-produced a short documentary. Their most recent exhibition, Crossing The Black Atlantic, including artists Juliana Huxtable, Derica Shields, and Mohammed Fayaz created a transnational dialog between artists of color. The space that Parker and Keskin have carved out has created fresh conversations between the few artists of color who have been realized by the traditional art world, artists who are making work that details their own experiences.
“We began with the simple intention of highlighting the artistic talent of young people of color who were overlooked and further marginalized by larger platforms,” Parker tells The Creators Project. “It is now and will always be our purpose to remain fluid and adaptable to the culture and politics of our time.” By leading the independent research-led curatorial collective and listening to the art, Keskin says, “the core mission stays constant; destroy the imposter syndrome that artists of color feel in the art world, and give them confidence by knowing that there are plenty people in their corner.”
For more information on The Lonely Londoners, click here.