New exhibit for National GallerySunday, September 17, 2017
The National Gallery of Jamaica has partnered with the British Council to mount an exhibition entitled We Have Met Before featuring artists Graham Fagen, Joscelyn Gardner, Ingrid Pollard, and Leasho Johnson.
The exhibition, which will run from September 22 to November 4, revisits the challenging subject of trans atlantic slavery and its afterlives in the contemporary world, seen through the eyes of these four contemporary artists.
The Scottish artist Fagen is represented by a video and sound installation called The Slave's Lament, which was also shown at the 2015 Venice Biennale. The work is based on a 1792 song written by Scotland's national poet Robert Burns, in which an enslaved man in Virginia expresses his longing for his distant homeland of Senegal. In Fagen's interpretation, the song is performed by the reggae singer Ghetto Priest, a Rastafarian.
The youngest artist of the group is Jamaican Johnson. He presents a visually and conceptually explosive mix of history and contemporary popular culture with strong references to the musical genre dancehall and graffiti art. Johnson examines the politics of sexual objectification and the contradictions of gender and sexuality in contemporary Jamaican culture.
Born in Guyana, British artist Pollard works mainly in analogue photographic media. The Boy Who Watches Ships Go By (2002) is the oldest body of work in this exhibition and consists of images of land, sea, boats and historical documents that subtly evoke the histories, visible and invisible, of Sunderland Point in northern England, which was once a thriving seaport in the Triangular Trade.
Gardner, who is from Barbados and presently lives and works in Canada, is represented by two full series of lithographs — Plantation Poker (2004), Creole Portraits II (2007) — and a selection from the series of lithographs from the Creole Portraits III (2009- 2011). In these prints intricate African braided hairstyles morph into the instruments of torture that were used during slavery.
The British Council notes that We Have Met Before revisits this complex and territory, and invites the viewer into a conversation about Slavery and its legacy, which may be difficult, but are central to the histories that have shaped and continue to shape the contemporary Caribbean.
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