This weekend, artist Ebony G. Patterson is in conversation with Infinite island curator Tumelo Mosaka. The event is taking place at Monique Meloche's Gallery in Chicago where Ebony's dance hall imagery will be featured on their 'experimental wall' until March 26. Ebony will be showing work from her Gully Godz series that she has been exploring and expanding for the past two or three years. Initially, the works were an exploration of feminized forms in dance hall fashion that questioned issues related to gender and Jamaican masculinity. Then, her portraits of dons and their 'disciplez' considered skin bleaching and how racialized (and even criminalized) identities were being blurred by the contemporary practice of skin mutation. More recently in exhibitions in Haiti and currently at the National Gallery of Jamaica's National Biennial 2010, she interrogates the identity of these dons by exploring the ways in which they are held up as 'godz' that absorb and transcend Christianity's spiritual forms and compete for celebrity status and worship.
The installation Christ and Co, Gonzales Christ Revised and Extended, 2010 (detail pictured here) takes the form of a shrine surrounded by the trappings of popular youth culture with all its affectations and labels. Her Christ is surrounded by two henchmen 'disciplez' who are embellished with seductive garb and glitter. The whole installation shimmers like a display from Elvis Presley's Graceland or Michael Jackson's Neverland as it draws on fantasy and whim to explore ghetto aspirations. In the background, the strains of a popular dance hall tune slowed to an adagio pace and repeated like an evensong cantata, transforms the space into a sepulcher that critiques our contemporary reverence for the facile and flawed. The installation is both exquisite and troubling prompting us to ask more about the artist and this genre.
This weekend's conversation with Ebony is organised by Monique Meloche and is part of the gallery's Winter Experiment a series of installation exhibitions and talks at Meloche's gallery that showcases the work of four new artists. Each artist is paired with another art world participant who leads an open discussion with visitors in the gallery. It's a great initiative that will help to introduce Ebony G. Patterson to US audiences, curious about dance hall and contemporary art in Jamaica.