The vibrant paintings of preeminent Caribbean-British artist Denzil Forrester will be the subject of a major survey at the Institute of Contemporary Art, Miami (ICA Miami), beginning April 6. Recognized for his vivid figurative works and representations of contemporary Black culture in the United Kingdom, Forrester has influenced generations of younger artists. “Denzil Forrester: We Culture” merges paintings from the artist’s earliest years of production—providing a portrait of the Black experience in the United Kingdom of the 1970s and 1980s—and 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 and Research Center, and brings the influential artist’s practice to the American South for the first time.
Forrester’s work reflects the lived experiences of Caribbean immigrants in the United Kingdom as part of the wave of artists born out of the Windrush generation. These migrants, who arrived in Britain in 1948 from the Caribbean on the SS Empire Windrush, had an enduring impact on Black British culture.
The exhibition features 20 paintings and a dozen drawings from the artist’s earliest years of production, from 1978-1985. Among these are a number of large, dynamic paintings that explore the London club scene, reflecting Forrester’s upbringing alongside the growth of Rastafarian culture in England in the late 1960s and 1970s.
The exhibition also includes works that explore violence against the Black community, analyzing a darker reality of 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 that contrast his bright depiction of nightlife.
“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,” said Moreno. “His work exemplifies not only the migrant experience, but the ways in which he and his generation so significantly impacted Black culture in the U.K. and beyond.”
Denzil Forrester’s ICA Miami presentation coincides with surveys at the Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art and Stephen Friedman Gallery.