Isaac Julien: Lessons of the Hour – Frederick Douglass – Book Review

Isaac Julien: Lessons of the Hour – Frederick Douglass - Book Review

Isaac Julien: Lessons of the Hour – Frederick Douglass – A visual and literary meditation juxtaposing Isaac Julien’s artworks with archival images of Frederick Douglass and essays that consider his enduring legacy.

Edited by Isaac Julien and Cora Gilroy-Ware with Vladimir Seput. Introduction by Cora Gilroy-Ware. Preface by Kenneth B. Morris, Jr. Text by John G. Hanhardt, Jonathan P. Binstock, Isaac Julien, Celeste-Marie Bernier, Deborah Willis, Henry Louis Gates, Jr., Paul Gilroy, Vron Ware, Susan Solt, Kass Banning and Warren Crichlow. Interview by Jennifer A. González
Designed by Content ObjectIsaac Julien has won the 2023 Kraszna-Krausz Moving Image Book Award for Lessons of the Hour – Frederick Douglass (DelMonico Books). A visual and literary meditation that connects Julien’s artworks with archival images of Frederick Douglass, the visionary African American orator, philosopher, intellectual, and self-liberated freedom-fighter, alongside essays that consider Douglass’ enduring legacy.

This sumptuously illustrated artist’s book and reader documents Lessons of the Hour (2019), the ten-screen film installation and series of related photographic artworks by the internationally acclaimed artist Isaac Julien CBE RA (born 1960), which honor the public and private life of one the most important figures in US history: Frederick Douglass. The visionary African American orator, philosopher, intellectual and self-liberated freedom fighter was born into slavery in Maryland and went on to develop a remarkable aesthetic theory through his thinking and writing on abolitionism and Black self-representation through the apparatus of photography. Isaac Julien: Lessons of the Hour – Frederick Douglass takes the reader on a journey through Douglass’ life and thinking, and is a vital consideration of his political and aesthetic legacy.

Isaac Julien is a British filmmaker, installation artist, and educator, widely acclaimed for his innovative and visually striking works that explore complex social, political, and cultural issues. Born on February 21, 1960, in London, England, Julien grew up in a multicultural environment, which significantly influenced his artistic perspective.

Education and Early Career: Julien attended St. Martin’s School of Art (now Central Saint Martins) in London, where he studied painting and fine art film. His early exposure to experimental film and art provided the foundation for his unique approach to storytelling and visual aesthetics.

Artistic Style and Themes: Isaac Julien’s work often blurs the lines between film, photography, and installation art. He is known for creating lush, poetic narratives that combine various visual and aural elements, addressing issues of race, identity, sexuality, and representation. Julien’s narratives are marked by a rich layering of historical, cultural, and political references, which invite viewers to engage deeply with the complex themes explored in his work.

Major Works: One of Julien’s most influential early works is “Looking for Langston” (1989), a film exploring the life and legacy of poet Langston Hughes and the Harlem Renaissance. The film fuses archival footage, staged reenactments, and dreamlike sequences, creating a poetic meditation on desire, race, and identity.

In 2002, Julien gained international recognition for his multi-screen film installation “The Long Road to Mazatlán,” which navigates issues of migration and border crossings between the United States and Mexico.

Other notable works include “True North” (2004), “Fantôme Afrique” (2005), and “Western Union: Small Boats” (2007), each of which further solidified Julien’s reputation as a master storyteller and visual artist.

Honors and Achievements: Throughout his career, Isaac Julien has received numerous awards and accolades. He was nominated for the Turner Prize in 2001 and was awarded the prestigious Golden Lion for Lifetime Achievement at the 2017 Venice Biennale. Sir Isaac Julien CBE RA was knighted by the Queen in 2022.

In addition to his artistic practice, Julien is committed to education and has taught at institutions like Harvard University and the Whitney Museum of American Art. He has also advocated for greater representation of Black and LGBTQ+ artists in the art world and has been involved in initiatives supporting emerging artists.

Isaac Julien’s art continues to captivate and challenge audiences worldwide, pushing the boundaries of film and installation while provoking critical conversations about identity, history, and society. His contributions to contemporary art have earned him a prominent place among the most influential and respected artists of our time.

Isaac Julien: Lessons of the Hour – Frederick Douglass – 2021 AIGA 50 Books|50 Covers, winner – 2023 Kraszna-Krausz Book Award winner – Published 2022 | ISBN: 9781636810393

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