The NGJ’s next exhibition, New Roots: 10 Emerging Artists, will open on July 28 and features work by Deborah Anzinger, Varun Baker, Camille Chedda, Gisele Gardner, The Girl and the Magpie, Matthew McCarthy, Olivia McGilchrist, Astro Saulter, Nile Saulter and Ikem Smith. Some of these artists already have an exhibition history, in Jamaica or elsewhere, while others are fresh out of art school but all are relatively new to the local art world and all are under 40 years old.
The exhibition is designed to identify and encourage new directions in the Jamaican art world. It features are in conventional and new media – painting in various media and on various surfaces, digital photography, video and animation, and jewellery – and a variety of genres and styles, from the documentary to the fantastic. There are no deliberate common themes in the exhibition but the title New Roots was chosen, with a certain amount of ironic intent, to signal how the work reflects the current cultural moment, a moment of undeniable crisis, globally and locally, in which the older, postcolonial search for cultural affirmation – and “roots” – has been replaced by a new willingness to acknowledge and embrace uncertainty and instability, at the personal and the collective level. While the works in the exhibition ask at times uncomfortable and unsettling questions, there is however no overwhelming sense of dystopia and if anything, the exhibition reflects a new willingness on the part of the artists to intervene actively into the social environment, in a way that reflects genuine social responsibility, empathy and respect for others, and a notable sense of humour.
In keeping with its mandate to identify and support new and young artists, the NGJ in 1985 launched its Young Talent exhibition series, the last one of which was held in 2010. This 2010 exhibition, Young Talent V, featured artists such as Ebony G. Patterson, Marlon James, Marvin Bartley, Phillip Thomas and Leasho Johnson and reflected the confidence and energy of a new generation of artists in and from Jamaica and captured the public imagination in ways that represented a breakthrough for NGJ exhibitions. The work in New Roots is the product of the same cultural momentum, although there are obvious shifts, one of which may be a more ironic and explicit criticality. We therefore expect that there will also be shifts in the public response and hope that our audiences will be as excited as we are by the new developments reflected in the exhibition.
New Roots is team-curated by the NGJ’s curatorial department, led by Executive Director Dr Veerle Poupeye, Senior Curator Nicole Smythe-Johnson and Assistant Curator. In keeping with our efforts to create a platform for the development of Jamaican art, the exhibition will be accompanied by a series of professional development workshops for young artists. Dates and arrangements will be announced.