Jamaica Biennial 2017 – Bulletin 5: The Biennial @ Devon House

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Deborah Anzinger – A Piercing Cold Where We Meet (2017, digital study)

The 2014 edition of the National Gallery of Jamaica’s Jamaica Biennial was shown at multiple venues—a first for this exhibition in Jamaica—and this included Devon House, the original home of the National Gallery and one of Kingston’s main heritage sites. Devon House was included as part of the National Gallery’s fortieth anniversary celebrations, as a home-coming of sorts, but also in response to the Devon House Management’s invitation to organize regular joint exhibitions.

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Laura Facey – Bumpy Top Desk and Mirror (2016)

The Jamaica Biennial 2014 at Devon House featured work by Laura Facey, Ebony G. Patterson (who won the Biennial’s Aaron Matalon Award that year), Greg Bailey, Cosmo Whyte, James Cooper, and Oneika Russell, and was one of the most popular and critically acclaimed parts of the exhibition. The approach taken was for the works selected to be installed the Devon House mansion interior, alongside or in replacement the regular furniture and art works, and, in the case of Laura Facey, also in the formal gardens in front of the house. The result was a rich dialogue between the history and context of the house—which was built and owned by Jamaica’s first black millionaire, George Stiebel, in 1881—and the issues raised in the art works, such as the historical and contemporary dynamics of race and class, the politics of visibility and invisibility in the face of social violence, and our relationship to the natural environment.

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Sharon Norwood – Root of the Matter XI (2016)

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New Roots: Deborah Anzinger

Deborah Anzinger - detail of installation

Deborah Anzinger – detail of installation

This is the first in a series of posts on the artists in our upcoming New Roots exhibition, which opens on July 28.

Biography

Deborah Anzinger has exhibited her work at the District of Columbia Arts Center (DCAC), Arlington Art Center (AAC), George Mason University, Civilian Art Projects, Hillyer Art Space, Delicious Spectacle, Porch Projects, Corcoran Gallery of Art with Transformer Gallery, and National Gallery of Jamaica. She recently co-curated with Chajana DenHarder Intimate Encounters, a solo exhibition of work by Marlon James at New Local Space (NLS), Kingston; and Loose Ends, an exhibition of work by Chandi Kelley, Chajana DenHarder, Matt Smith, Joseph Hale and Dafna Steinberg at DCAC.  She has written for ARC Magazine and Caribbean Beat; and sat on panels for San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, DCAC and AAC. She is founding director of the non-profit visual art initiative NLS that creates a more connected global network where unconventional art, ideas and artists are accessed openly through artist residencies, exhibitions and conversation series. Deborah received her PhD in Immunology and Microbiology in 2005 from Rush Medical Center, Chicago.

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Natural Histories: Deborah M. Carroll Anzinger

A closer look at Deborah Anzinger’s work in the Natural Histories Exhibition:

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Instability is a major theme in much of Deborah Anzinger’s recent work. In both Gone and Lizard Anzinger uses images of nature as a means to reference anxieties around the instability of life- which she experiences as an“urgent sense of mortality”. This is paralleled with an anxiety around representation, which is always dual in so far as it is both the thing it represents and not. The word “tree” is a tree- in so far as it signifies one- and at the same time is not a tree in so far as it is only a four-letter word.

In Gone the thick, almost sculptural rendering of the words makes the text at once tactile and symbolic, their duality as signs is made visible through their excessive physicality. Similarly, the photograph floating in the corner is from a visit to her family’s rural farmland in Maroon Town, Jamaica; the figures in the image are Anzinger’s sister and two friends coming out of a cave. The image is completely un-moored, out of context, and like the words, made to bear both what it represents (the memory of “back” then/there) and its unstable status as image, capable of being made to mean many things and/or nothing. Taken together, the work stages an interrogation of representation at the level of form, and an interrogation of the concept of“belonging”at the level of content.

In Lizard (the video piece to be found in the next room), the ethereality of nature and looming mortality are again the focus. As in Gone, this is paralleled with an anxiety around the unstable sign. The video seems to perform the instability of the sign“lizard”. A feared creature for many Jamaicans including Anzinger, the lizard is here transformed by natural processes into a sad carcass of little interest to anyone, and further transmutated into art object by abrupt infusions of a distinctly synthetic yellow. In the artist’s own words, the work is“an oscillation between tactile physical experience and representative language”.

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