Un | Fixed Homeland

July 3rd, 2016
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


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