The future in the present

by Nicholas Laughlin on August 3, 2010

Enthroned Madonna, by Marvin Bartley

Enthroned Madonna (2010), by Marvin Bartley; digital print on archival paper; 109.2 x 241.3 cm. Image courtesy the National Gallery of Jamaica

Regular Antilles readers may remember that nearly two months ago we posted a few images from and links to the Young Talent V exhibition at the National Gallery of Jamaica. The Young Talent exhibition series, surveying work by emerging Jamaican artists, was launched by the NGJ in 1985, and the fifth and most recent version ran earlier this year, from 16 May to 10 July. This week, the CRB publishes a review of Young Talent V by Annie Paul, who has observed and written about the Jamaican art scene for almost two decades. Alongside the review, we publish a portfolio of works by all fourteen Young Talent artists.

For more on the show, browse through the archives of the NGJ blog, where the exhibition is extensively documented, with biographical information on all the artists and short essays by the curators. (Also check out this short video of the exhibition opening by the Jamaican artist and filmmaker Storm Saulter.)

In her review, Paul singles out the artist Ebony G. Patterson, who she argues “captures some of the seismic shifts that have taken place in artistic and other languages in Jamaica.” If you’re curious, you can read a dialogue between Patterson and Oneika Russell (another Young Talent V artist) published a year ago in the Small Axe “Vocabularies” blog, and download a PDF catalogue of Patterson’s recent solo show Gangstas, Disciplez + the Doiley Boyz. And here’s a link to an article by Mel Cooke, published in the Jamaica Gleaner two days ago, reporting on a recent forum where several other Young Talent artists spoke about their work.

Also published today in the CRB: a review by Kelly Baker Josephs of You Don’t Play With Revolution: The Montreal Lectures of C.L.R. James, which collects several public and private talks given by James during an extended visit to Canada in 1966 and 1967, together with other documents of that period. This was a kind of turning-point for James, Josephs suggests:

these lectures, interviews, and letters also showcase a James who was increasingly disheartened by the way the Caribbean’s post-independence leaders were “taking part” in West Indian politics and society, and wished to spur challenges to their continued allegiance to foreign powers. This James was not quite as confident about the potential sovereignty of the West Indies as the man who wrote the appendix to the 1962 reissue of The Black Jacobins. Having tried, and failed, to take part via the political route in Trinidad, having witnessed the failure of Federation, having been exiled by his former protégé Eric Williams, the James who lectures in Montreal in 1966–67 was perhaps less sanguine, though still positive about the change that the young people in his audience might yet engender.

The young people in James’s audience in Montreal included some who would go on to play important roles in Caribbean politics in the 1970s and 80s. We don’t know what parts the Young Talent artists will play in coming decades in the Caribbean art world, but, on the evidence of this show, it should be exciting to watch.

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