Denzil Forrester: We Culture
“Denzil Forrester: We Culture” brings together twenty paintings and a dozen drawings from the artist’s first seven years of production—1978-1985. One of the preeminent British and Caribbean painters of the last few decades, who has increasingly become an important influence on generations of younger artists, Forrester was born in the island of Grenada. Arriving in London at the age of 11, he came of age alongside the rooting and growing presence of Rastafarian culture in the England of the late 1960s and 1970s. “Denzil Forrester: We Culture” includes paintings that portray the dub and reggae clubs in which Forrester spent his nights making drawings that he would turn into the large, boldly-colored, dynamic figurative paintings. As he has explained: “I just wanted to draw movement, action, and expression. I was interested in the energy of the crowd, particular dance movements, and what the clubbers wore. In these clubs, city life is recreated in essence: sounds, lights, police sirens, bodies pushing and swaying in a smoke-filled room.”
Showcasing a number of large and vibrant paintings that explore the club scene, the exhibition also includes works that relate to the death of Winston Rose. In 1981, Rose, a friend and neighbor of Forrester’s in London’s East End, died in unexplained circumstances while in police custody. If reggae and dub dancehalls represented one side of Black British experience, social inequities and a fraught relationship with the police and other state institutions represented another side. Rose’s death and lack of accountability in its aftermath triggered a series of somber paintings. They depict Rose in both police custody and at his wake in a dub club; they also show the police invading spaces of joyful conviviality.
Rounding off the exhibition are a series of paintings and drawings that Forrester realized in Rome, where he spent two years in the mid-1980s, on a prestigious “Rome Scholarship” to attend the British School in Rome.
Forrester was born in Grenada in 1956. He moved to London in 1967 and attended the Central School of Art and the Royal College of Art. His work has been exhibited in numerous institutions, including the Hayward Gallery (London), Ashmolean Museum Oxford, Whitechapel Gallery (London), Barbican Art Gallery (London), Studio Museum of Harlem, Museum of Contemporary Art (Chicago), and Tate St. Ives. He participated in the 58th Carnegie International. He lives in Cornwall.
A comprehensive publication, produced in collaboration with the Kemper Museum, will accompany “Denzil Forrester: We Culture.” It will include essays by leading art historians and musicologists, alongside poems by Linton Kwesi Johnson.
“Denzil Forrester: We Culture” is Curated by Gean Moreno, Director of the Knight Art + Research Center at ICA, Miami.