Un | Fixed Homeland

July 17—September 17, 2016*
Opening Reception: Sunday, July 17, 2016, 2–5pm
Guest Curator: Grace Aneiza Ali, Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts Curatorial Fellow
*Extended thru September 23!

Artists (working in):
Canada: Erika DeFreitas, Sandra Brewster
Guyana: Khadija Benn, Michael Lam, Karran Sahadeo
United Kingdom: Frank Bowling, Roshini Kempadoo, Hew Locke
United States: Kwesi Abbensetts, Marlon Forrester, Donald Locke (1930 – 2010), Maya Mackrandilal, Keisha Scarville.Un | Fixed Homeland brings together an inter-generational roster of thirteen emerging and established Guyanese artists who, via photography and photography-based art, examine the complex relationship to “homeland.” These artists explore how a “homeland” can be both fixed and unfixed, a constantly shifting idea and memory, and a physical place and a psychic space. The exhibition’s title reflects the emergence of the Caribbean diaspora in metropolitan cities around the world and speaks to what has become the defining global movement of the 21st century – migration.

Guyana, the only English-speaking South American country and former British colony, celebrates its 50th anniversary of independence this year. The past five decades have been marked by an incredible exodus of its citizens – the country has a population of approximately 750,000 living within its borders and over one million living in the diaspora. In other words, more Guyanese citizens live outside the nation than within it. To reflect this reality, featured in the exhibition are artists living and working in Guyana as well as in major diasporic cities throughout Canada, the United Kingdom, and the United States. In New York, in particular, Guyanese are the city’s fifth largest immigrant population.

Among the works included is Amalivaca, a self-portraiture piece by Khadija Benn who lives and works in Guyana. She exploits the exotic by inserting her body in a painterly landscape as acts of agency and ownership of place. Hew Locke, who was raised in Guyana and now lives and works in London, has painted photographs of houses, titled Rose Hall and Mt. Sinai, which are reminiscent of the ones familiar to his childhood. In his rendition, they are falling apart and symbolically flooded. Keisha Scarville, a New York City-based artist born to Guyanese immigrants, reinterprets her father’s passport photo as a young boy in British Guiana in the mixed-media Passport series. The Toronto-based artist Erika DeFreitas elicits her Guyana-born mother in a series of documented performative actions where the two hand-fashion face masks out of green, yellow, and purple icing in the portraiture piece, The Impossible Speech Act. Frank Bowling, who was born in British Guiana in 1934 and now lives and works in London and New York City, screen printed an archival 1953 photograph of his mother’s house onto his canvas Mother’s House with Beware of the Dog – an artistic gesture charged with the memory of homeland.

While specifically focused on the visual culture and new modes of viewing Guyana, the exhibition also frames Guyana, “fixed or unfixed homeland,” as symbolic of larger pressing global concerns of our 21st century — the tensions between place and placeless-ness, nationality and belonging, immigrant and citizen.

About the Curator
“This project is deeply personal,” says curator Grace Aneiza Ali, who is Guyanese-born and currently lives in New York City. As an Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts Curatorial Fellow, Ali has spent her fellowship researching the canon of contemporary Guyanese artists, which still remains largely unknown on the world stage. Instead, what the global public often sees of the visual culture of Guyana centers on the exotic, the tropical, the colonial, and the touristic. “In Un|Fixed Homeland we’ve brought together artists who share a collective agenda to counter this historic malpractice by challenging, disrupting, manipulating, and, at times intentionally exploiting, the ‘picturing paradise’ motif often associated with the region,” says Ali.

Grace Aneiza Ali is a faculty member in the Department of Art & Public Policy, Tisch School of the Arts, New York University and the Editorial Director of OF NOTE —an award-winning online magazine on art and activism. Her essays on contemporary art and photography have been published in Nueva Luz Journal, Small Axe Journal, among others. Highlights of her curatorial work include Guest Curator for the 2014 Addis Foto Fest; Guest Curator of the Fall 2013 Nueva Luz Photographic Journal; and Host of the ‘Visually Speaking’ photojournalism series at the New York Public Library’s Schomburg Center. Ali is a World Economic Forum ‘Global Shaper’ and Fulbright Scholar. She holds an M.A. in Africana Studies from New York University and a B.A. in English Literature from the University of Maryland, College Park.

Images at right, from top to bottom:

Khadija Benn
Amalivaca, 2012
Archival pigment print on canvas
48 x 32 in.
Courtesy of the Artist

Frank Bowling
Mother’s House with Beware of the Dog, 1966
Acrylic on canvas
57 x 47 1/2 in.
Courtesy of the Artist and Hales London New York

Hew Locke
Rose Hall, 2014
Acrylic on c-type photograph
32 1/8 x 48 1/8 in.
Courtesy of the Artist and Hales London New York
Copyright of the Artist
Photograph by Charlie Littlewood

Keisha Scarville
Untitled, from the Passport series, 2012 – 2016
Mixed media
2 1/4 x 2 1/4 in.
Courtesy of the Artist

Erika DeFreitas
The Impossible Speech Act, 2007
Digital photography
40 x 40 in.
On loan from The Canada Council for the Arts, Art Bank

Kwesi Abbensetts
My Dreams Talk About A Place (left) and You Booked Your Passage (right) from the series Pieces of Land, From Where I Have Come From, 2016
Mixed media, painting, and photography on canvas
8 x 10 in.
Courtesy of the artist




Viewpoints 2016

The 19th Annual Open Juried Exhibition by Studio Montclair
June 2 – June 30, 2016
Reception: Saturday, June 11, 2016, 6-9pm

Aljira, a Center for Contemporary Art is pleased to present Viewpoints 2016, a juried exhibition by Studio Montclair. The exhibit will featured the work of 100 American and international artists.

The opening reception and award ceremony on Saturday, June 11th from 6 to 9pm, is expected to welcome hundreds of art lovers, collectors, curators, and participating artists.

Exhibition juror Mary Birmingham, curator at the Visual Arts Center of New Jersey, finds “ViewPoints” the perfect word to define this show, since artists offer “their unique perspectives on the world and on the art making process” and let us see through their eyes. “By switching up viewpoints, exploring different mediums and adopting distinctive styles, artists continually seek fresh ways of looking and seeing.”

Viewers will discern within similar themes a rich diversity of treatments. To illuminate that perspective, Birmingham cites the contrast in the presentation of tree bark between Linda Brooks Hirschman’s wool felt “bark” in Tree Skins: Chopped, Strangled, Burnt, the textured close-up abstract tree bark patterns of Jane Soodalter’s photographs, and Jennifer Weigel’s worm’s-eye view photograph, gazing up the tree in Reaching for the Sky.

During the reception a number of awards will be given out to selected artists. Studio Montclair would like to express gratitude to our lead sponsor, Investors Bank for its generous donation, and our award sponsors Jerry’s Artist Outlet, Montclair Art Museum, Red Lion Framing, and Viridian Environmental Inc. Special thanks to Bartlett Greenhouses and Florist for its always beautiful floral art.

Featured Artists:
Cary Africk, Emily Allison, ShinYoung An, Peter Arakawa, A. Bascove, Constance Bassett, Donna Bassin, Amy Becker, William Beckett, David Bogus, Barbara Brill, Zel Brook, Aleksandra Bury, Sarah Bush, David Cann, Serban Chelariu, Pauline Chernichaw, Thea Clark, Dorothy Cochran, Sara Conklin, Pam Cooper, Marcie Cooperman, Galina Dargery, Dawn DiCicco, Kurt Dyrhaug, Carla Falb, Bin Feng, Jack Ferriday, Dana Flynt, Leslie Ford, Lynne Friedman, Bennett Gewirtz, Michael Giles, Jack Girard, Alison Golder, Allan Gorman, Inguna Gremzde, Kate Hamilton, Beth Heit, Charity Henderson, Tom Herbert, Linda Brooks Hirschman, Paul Hitchen, Linda Jacobs, Susan Jacobs, Paul Jervis, Anne Kerr, Martha Kerr, Ann Kim, Richard Koch, Sassoon Kosian, Scott Leahing, Dorine Lerner, Eric Levin, Colleen Lineberry, Yvette Lucas, Dave Magyar, Ellen Martin, David Mazure, Lucretia Mcguff-Silverman, Florence Moonan, Dennis Murray, Ray Ogar, Daniel Pailes-Friedman, Lisa Redburn, Stephanie Regen, Szilvia Revesz, William Dean Reynolds, Bob Ricciotti, Brooke Rogers, David Rogers, Kathleen Rogers, Lisa Sanders, Theda Sandiford, Toni-Lee Sangastiano, Michael Scherfen, Kate Shannon, Pamela Shipley, Elaine Shor, Barbara Simcoe, Jenny Singleton, Jane Soodalter, Lizzy Storm, Abie Sussman, Carol Tanenbaum, Nathan Taves, Nicholas Teetelli, Amy Tingle, Marianne Trent, Eric Valosin, Ira Wagner, Jenny Walker, Ginger Ware, Jennifer Weigel, Kenneth Weiner, Lisa G Westheimer, Sandra Wolf, Susan Yankoski

About Studio Montclair:
Studio Montclair Inc. is a nonprofit organization of exhibiting professional artists and others interested in the visual arts. Its mission is to promote culture and education in the visual arts and encourage emerging artists. Founded in 1997, the organization includes over 300 members, including artists from around the United States. www.studiomontclair.org

This program is made possible in part by funds from Investor Savings and the New Jersey State Council on the Arts/Department of State, a Partner Agency of the National Endowment for the Arts and administered by the Essex County Division of Cultural and Historic Affairs.

About Mary Birmingham:
Mary Birmingham is Curator at the Visual Arts Center of New Jersey, where she directs an ambitious program of contemporary art exhibitions. Since 2010 she has organized more than thirty-five group and solo exhibitions for the Art Center, which is the largest public institution in NJ devoted exclusively to contemporary art. She began her career at the Whitney Museum and worked at the Montclair Art Museum from 1994-2003; she was Director of Exhibitions at the Hunterdon Art Museum from 2007-2010. Birmingham has an MA in Art History from Hunter College, with a concentration in American Modernism. She is the author of Dynamic Impulse: The Drawings of Stuart Davis and co-author of Montclair Art Museum: Selected Works. She has organized numerous exhibitions, and has written and lectured on a variety of topics in American and contemporary art.

For more information about Viewpoints 2016 visit www.studiomontclair.org




Leonardo Benzant: Afrosupernatural

Organized by Visiting Curator Dexter Wimberly
April 2 – May 21, 2016
Reception: Saturday, April 2, 2016, 5-8pm
Artist Talk: April 23, 2016. 2-4pm
Aljira, a Center for Contemporary Art is pleased to present Leonardo Benzant: Afrosupernatural organized by Visiting Curator, Dexter Wimberly. Recognizing both his ties and disjunction from an ancestral past, Leonardo Benzant’s practice is driven by his connection to the trans African-Atlantic diaspora.


Saturday, April 23, 2016, 2–4pm:
Leonardo Benzant in Conversation with Dexter Wimberly

Visiting Curator Dexter Wimberly will discuss Leonardo Benzant’s artistic practice and visual references in his work inspired by power-objects and his connection to the trans African-Atlantic diaspora.

“Volleying between the sacred and the secular, Leonardo Benzant mines a deep well of personal experiences and international artistic vocabularies. His tactile sculptural works are masterfully constructed and vibrate with sensual energy, while his paintings and drawings are fluid and intuitive with an indiscernible quality that begs the question of their origin. Is this African, South American, Caribbean, or Native American? – it is simultaneously none, yet influenced by all,” states Visiting Curator, Dexter Wimberly.


Considering the possibilities of genetic imprints, cultural identification, innate and intuitive beliefs and a conscious seeking of links that reveal continuities that are hidden or largely unsuspected by the mainstream, Benzant imagines himself as an Urban Shaman. His sculptures from the series Paraphernalia of the Urban Shaman M:5, are inspired by African power-objects, such as the minkisi and makutos of the Bakongo tribe, while also visually referencing the banding patterns of chromosomes, thus fusing the spiritual with the scientific.

Benzant’s recent work also includes Afrospanglish, a cycle of paintings that emerged from his series titled Signatures. According to Benzant, “Afrospanglish explores and develops many of the original, ideographic, visual strategies of the Signatures series but also incorporates the idea of conflating personal cosmology and abstract-figuration that generate compositions characterized by large heads which function as conduits or metaphors for cultural/personal memory, inner-worlds, ancestors, spirits or universes akin to the cosmology of Bakongo-derived ritual charms known as nkisi. An nkisi, is an object said to be a miniatured world; a central ritual object that partakes of oral traditions, natural forces, ancestral spirits, divination and the ritual complex of the Bakongo.”

Developed concurrently is a mixed-media body of work titled Kalunga Inbetween Worlds (K7) that explores themes, materials and colors related to Kalunga, an ocean deity associated with the Bakongo people of Central Africa who were brought into the New World in significant numbers.

Born in New York City to Dominican parents, Benzant is an emerging artist on the rise. His work includes painting, performance, sculpture, sound, and installation as he investigates deeply personal experiences of identity, ancestry, family, community and spirituality. Information is drawn from the uniquely shared history of code switching, double-consciousness and multiple narratives that people of African descent have inherited and are compelled to adopt as a survival strategy for daily life. Like this common experience his work straddles two worlds, embodying the dynamics of being both sacred and secular. Observing western art historical constructions, modalities of thought and contemporary discourse informs Benzant’s practice while centering his work in community practices and rituals, drawing personal inspiration from the spirit and the oral traditions of the African ancestors that came across the Atlantic Ocean during the middle passage slave trade.

Benzant attended Pratt Institute from 2007 – 2010. In addition to being in several important private collections, his work was recently acquired by The Harvey B. Gantt Center for African-American Arts+Culture in Charlotte, North Carolina for their permanent art collection. He was also one of the artists included in the Gantt Center’s February 2015 exhibition, Venturing Out of the Heart of Darkness. His work was recently exhibited at the N’Namdi Center in Detroit, Michigan and will be included in an upcoming exhibition, Koi No Yokan III, at 101/EXHIBIT gallery in Los Angeles, California opening in July 2016.

Photo caption (top right): Memoria Kongo: Bambula, 2013, 96 x 72 inches, medium: mixed-media, assemblage-painting on canvas.

Photo caption (center right): POTUS M:5 sculptures, (installation view of works created between 2012-2014) Clothes/textiles, cardboard tubes, leather, caucasian baby doll, chicken bone, brown barbie doll, horse hair, glitter, coins, powdered-charcoal, earth, cigar-ash, coffee-grinds, vija/ashiote, powdered-egg-shell, string, wire, monofilament, various plant-bundles, matte-medium, acrylic-ink, rabbit-skin-glue, rice glue, glass seed beads, rum, and miscellaneous.

Photo caption (bottom right): Mayombe Magik In The Urban Jungle, 2011, 85 x 60 inches, medium: mixed-media, assemblage-painting on canvas.



Bending the Grid: Pat Lay:
Myth, Memory and Android Dreams

January 21–March 19, 2016
Reception: January 28, 2016, 6–9pm

Guest Curator: Lilly Wei

Aljira, a Center for Contemporary Art is pleased to present Bending the Grid: Pat Lay: Myth, Memory and Android Dreams.This major survey exhibition presents for the first time a broadened view of Lay’s expansive vocabulary, in two and three dimensions, in a range of various media and styles, influenced by her extensive travels and informed by her overlapping art and non-art interests.

Tracing the trajectory of her development from 1969 to the present, with the emphasis on more recent work, Lay’s commitment to the experimental, the multidisciplinary and the hybridized is highlighted in this show, along with her interest in working with a wide range of materials. The earliest works are abstract, at times brightly colored, three dimensional wall pieces made from glazed fired clay, when clay was still generally discounted as a craft medium in this country; it would become one of her signature mediums.

In the last decade Pat Lay’s artwork has focused on technological metaphors of the human experience. In Lay’s collage works digital images scanned from computer circuit boards are transformed into a new matrix– a place, created in response to our world of technological advancement and digital progress.

Aljira’s commitment to Lay is two-fold: first, to make the full range of this artist’s oeuvre more widely known; second, to acknowledge the generous contribution she has made to educating and promoting the work of young artists as a founder of the Master of Fine Arts program at Montclair State University.

“From the beginning, it seems, Pat Lay has been fascinated by the unfamiliar, by cultures other than her own, especially from distant regions of the world. She was never dismissive of art that was free from European and American formulations, but was intrigued, instead, by its rich, often curious imagery and venerable histories, by its differences,” notes guest curator Lilly Wei.

A graduate of Pratt Institute and Rochester Institute of Technology, Lay is a retired Professor of Art at Montclair State University. Lay has received two grants in sculpture from the New Jersey State Council on the Arts and a grant from the American Scandinavian Foundation. She has been awarded three public art commissions including the installation of a large-scale site-specific sculpture in the sculpture park at the Henie-Onstad Kunstsenter in Oslo, Norway. She has had solo exhibitions at the Jersey City Museum; New Jersey State Museum; and Douglass College, Rutgers University. Her work has been included in group exhibitions in Japan, Austria, Korea, China, Norway, Wales and Slovakia and at the Jersey City Museum, Newark Museum, New Jersey State Museum, The Jane Voorhees Zimmerli Art Museum, Montclair Art Museum, The Aldrich Museum of Contemporary Art, Everson Museum, and the 1975 Biennial Exhibition at the Whitney Museum of American Art. Lay’s work is featured in a number of books including Lives and Works, Talks With Women Artists, Volume II by J. Arbeiter, B. Smith, S. Swenson.

Inaugurated in 2003, Bending the Grid is a series which celebrates the successful careers of outstanding yet under-recognized national and international artists over the age of 65. Although the work of the featured artists often is grounded in formal concerns, the series focuses on the way each individual artist subverts or adapts these traditions to his or her own purpose. Artists included in the Bending the Grid series to date are Luis Cruz Azaceta, Frank Bowling, Judith K. Brodsky, Donald Locke, Miriam Beerman and Helen M. Stummer.

Bending the Grid: Pat Lay: Myth, Memory and Android Dreams is documented by an illustrated catalog, including an essay by the guest curator Lilly Wei and an interview with independent art curator, writer and chairman of the board of Independent Curators International, Patterson Sims. The exhibition will be on view at Aljira through March 19, 2016. A special series of limited edition prints by Lay will be available for purchase to benefit Aljira’s exhibitions and programs. On sale at shopAljira beginning January 21.

Supported by a generous grant from the Joan Mitchell Foundation.




Michael Paul Britto: Something in the Way of Things

Organized by Visiting Curator: Dexter Wimberly

September 24–December 19, 2015
Opening Reception Thursday, September 24, 6–9pm

Aljira is pleased to present Something In The Way Of Things, a provocative and timely solo exhibition of work by artist Michael Paul Britto.

Consisting of collage, sculpture, and video, as well as a site-specific installation, the exhibition addresses political and cultural awareness, as well as the misconceptions and assumptions communicated by mass media in The United States. Britto’s practice challenges and encourages the viewer to think about socially nurtured assumptions of Blackness, poverty, youth, as well as the characteristics of acceptable behavior to create a perspective that is more responsive than reactionary. By reclaiming that which has been appropriated, Britto presents messages that reflect the global influence of American culture.

“The significant experiences of my life, both past and present, have served as material for these creative explorations, while enhancing my role as a youth educator, which I consider an important part of my artistic practice. I understand intimately how an environment of instability and confusion can devastate, but also how these personal histories can be inspirational and serve as a touchstone for thoughtful exchange,” Britto says.

“There is a perennial need for artists who create work that generates dialogue and inspires meaningful action around issues of equality and human rights. Britto has mined his personal experiences and channeled them into a body of work that is artistically sincere and socially powerful,” states visiting curator, Dexter Wimberly.

The exhibition’s title is an ode to African-American poet, activist and scholar, Amiri Baraka’s (1934 – 2014), “Something in the way of Things (In Town)”, a poem that underscores the quest for social justice and explores interrelated issues of race, national oppression, self-determination and national liberation for Black people.

About Michael Paul Britto
Michael Paul Britto graduated with a BA from the City College of New York. Michael’s works range from videos to digital photography, sculpture, collage, and performance. Britto has had residencies at the New Museum in New York as well as Smack Mellon, The Marie Walsh Sharpe Foundation and LMCC. Michael has been featured in shows at El Museo del Barrio, The Studio Museum in Harlem, The Kitchen in New York, The Zacheta National Gallery in Warsaw, and the Victoria and Albert Museum in England. Britto’s work has been reviewed in The New York Times, Art in America and the Brooklyn Rail. www.brittofied.com

Photo captions:
Michael Paul Britto Control © 2015, Arches, cut magazine paper, 12×16 in. Courtesy of the artist.

Michael Paul Britto Pressure© 2015, Arches, cut magazine paper, 12×16 in. Courtesy of the artist.