Things Arrive Together as Suffused and Inseparable: Donald Rodney, Mousse # 85—Fall 2023, Jareh Das, Carolyn Lazard and Robert Leckie (in-conversation)


Donald Rodney (1961–1998) was a pivotal figure in the BLK Art Group, a collective of black artists that emerged in the United Kingdom in the 1980s. He developed a diverse practice that eschewed the mainstream art-world norms of the period by addressing issues related to race, representation, and identity politics through an engagement with Caribbean diasporic experiences in Thatcher’s Britain, cultural histories, as well as physicality and subjectivity. Throughout his life, Rodney grappled with challenges posed by sickle-cell anemia, a genetic disorder that mainly affects people of African, Mediterranean, Middle Eastern, and Indian descent. This condition significantly impacted his work and became a recurring theme in his art, which engaged with the intricate relationship between the body, medical science, and the societal and racial implications of illness. In the following discussion, Jareh Das, Carolyn Lazard, and Robert Leckie consider Rodney’s artistic explorations against broader conversations about the politics of sickness and racialized individuals; complex interconnections between care and constraint; Rodney’s ability to merge personal stories with wider sociopolitical themes, which resulted in work both deeply intimate and universally relevant; and how Rodney’s contributions and legacy may reverberate among younger generations of artists.