Magazine article Artforum International

Denzil Forrester: White Columns

Magazine article Artforum International

Denzil Forrester: White Columns

Article excerpt

I have an enduring memory of an early-1990s set by legendary dub reggae DJ Jah Shaka at the North London club the Rocket that garnered the performer all the more respect for his stubborn reliance on a single turntable: no hyperactive cutting and scratching here. Shaka's simple, unhurried approach signaled absolute confidence in a perfect selection of tracks, the effect of which was immediate and immersive. The aural space that dub establishes through the use of echo, reverb, and other effects--Claude Debussy's oft-quoted line about music residing in the space between the notes is nowhere more applicable--is reflected too in Grenada-born artist Denzil Forrester's paintings and drawings of performances by Shaka and others.

This belated first American airing of Forrester's work from the early '80s--cocurated by White Columns director Matthew Higgs with Scottish painter Peter Doig--provided an atmospheric look back at an era marked by not only the reigns of two different subcultures in the forms of dub and punk rock (scenes and sounds that intersected only occasionally), but also a rise in conservatism (Thatcher and Reagan) and more extreme ethno-nationalism (the National Front). It is significant then that the "blues" clubs Forrester depicts were not only places to dance, but also gathering spots for the London Afro-Caribbean community; Higgs emphasizes the renewed resonance of such images of gathering in our own moment of division and intolerance. It's notable too that these crowds have a certain internal democracy; the DJs are not raised above the dancers but occupy the same floor space, and the venues themselves are intimate.

Forrester's paintings are characterized by a rich, earthy palette, energetically scrubbed brushwork, and compositions that aim at a rhythmic fusion of figures with their environments, suggesting something of the aural world that their subjects inhabit. …

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