The vibrant paintings of preeminent Caribbean British artist Denzil Forrester are the subject of a major survey this April at the Institute of Contemporary Art, Miami (ICAMiami). Recognized for his vivid figurative works and representations of contemporary Black culture in the UK, Forrester has influenced generations of younger artists. Denzil Forrester: We Culture brings together paintings from the artist’s earliest years of production, providing a vivid portrait of the Black experience in the UK of the 1970s and ‘80s, from the dub and reggae clubs in which Forrester spent his nights, to the ongoing violence against the Black community. On view through September 24, the exhibition is curated by Gean Moreno, ICA Miami’s Director of the Knight Foundation Art + Research Center, and brings the influential artist’s practice to the American South for the first time.
Forrester’s work reflects the life and experiences of Caribbean immigrants in the UK as part of the wave of artists born out of the Windrush generation. These migrants, who arrived in Britain after 1948 from the Caribbean on the SS Empire Windrush, had a significant and enduring impact on Black British culture.
The ICA Miami exhibition brings together twenty paintings and a dozen drawings from the artist’s earliest years of production from 1978-1985. Among these are a number of large and dynamic paintings that explore the London club scene, reflecting Forrester’s upbringing alongside the growing presence of Rastafarian culture in England of the late 1960s and 1970s.
The exhibition also includes works of Forrester’s that explore violence against the Black community, analyzing a darker truth about the Black experience. One such painting relates to the death of his childhood friend Winston Rose, who, in 1981, died in unexplained circumstances while in police custody. Rose’s death and the lack of accountability from authorities in its aftermath triggered a series of somber paintings by Forrester in contrast to his bright, nightlife scenes.
“As one of the most important artists of his generation, Denzil’s practice not only offers a lens on the history of Black culture in the UK and Caribbean immigration, but a perspective that resonates with the Miamicommunity. We are proud to provide one of the artist’s first U.S. museum platforms and his first in the American South,” said Alex Gartenfeld, ICA Miami Artistic Director.
“With vibrant, visceral color, Denzil documents and exposes the joys and injustices he and other Caribbean immigrants were experiencing and that characterized this era in London. His work exemplifies not only the migrant experience, but the ways in which he and his generation so significantly impacted Black culture in the UK and beyond,” said Moreno.
Denzil Forrester’s ICA Miami presentation coincides with surveys at the Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art and Stephen Friedman Gallery.