Fragments of Epic Memory

by Julie Crooks


September 1, 2021 – February 21, 2022

Fragments of Epic Memory will invite visitors to experience the multiple ways of encountering the Caribbean and its diaspora, from the period following emancipation through today.

The first exhibition organized by the AGO’s new Department of Arts of Global Africa and the Diaspora, it will blend historical and contemporary narratives, presenting more than 200 photographs from the AGO’s Montgomery Collection of Caribbean Photographs alongside paintings, sculpture, and video works by modern and contemporary Caribbean artists that show how the region’s histories are constantly revisited and reimagined through artistic production over time.

Bridging modernism and geography, the exhibition features artworks by Guyanese-born painters Sir Frank Bowling and Aubrey Williams. Bowling’s monumental painting Middle Passage (1970), on loan from the National Gallery of Canada, situates faint maps of Africa and the Americas atop an abstract sea of yellow and red paint, reminiscent of the Guyanese flag. Similarly, Williams combines abstraction and the iconography of the Carib (indigenous peoples of the Caribbean) in his painting Carib Form (1962). These works are accompanied by paintings by Cuban surrealist Wifredo Lam and Trinidadian Sybil Atteck. 

More than 30 artists are represented in the exhibition, which includes photographs by Vanley Burke and Robert Charlotte, paintings by Leasho Johnson and multi-media works by Suchitra Mattai and Andrea Chung. Combining digital animation and found photographs, Trinidadian artist Rodell Warner’s video prints bring into three dimensions historic scenes, challenging the supposed idyllic nature of their settings. Adjacent to these, Ebony Patterson’s multi-channel video installation three kings weep…. (2018), a recent AGO acquisition, unfolds its slow and monumental reflection on performances of black masculinities. 

In Paul Anthony Smith’s Untitled, 7 Women (2019) on loan from the Hott Collection, he employs a unique technique called ‘picotage’, obscuring his subjects with textural geometric patterns that mimic ornate Caribbean architectural elements. 

Charles Campbell’s sculpture Maroonscape 1: Cockpit Archipelago (2019), a futuristic topographic sculpture of Jamaica’s distinctive cockpit region and its accompanying soundscape Maroonscape 2: Yet Every Child (2020), are an ode to the region where the Maroon peoples sought refuge from enslavement. For Campbell, this region and its history are a model for a Caribbean city of the future—a place of resourcefulness, autonomy, and community. 

The exhibition concludes with a diptych by Dominican Republic artist Firelei Báez, entitled Adjusting the Moon (the right to non-imperative clarities): Waxing and Adjusting the Moon (the right to non-imperative clarities): Waning (both 2019). In Walker Court, the AGO’s atrium, a newly commissioned 18-foot-high mixed media sculpture by British-born artist Zak Ové entitled Moko Jumbie will be unveiled ahead of the exhibition’s opening. 

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