Screaming popes

Submitted byadmin onFri, 11/27/2009 - 01:00

David Boxer, one of Jamaica's most renowned artists, has a history of in situ exhibitions, that are all the more successful because of the elegance of his personal space and his curator skills which ensure that his art is always displayed to advantage. These shows short-circuit Kingston's commercial galleries and allow Boxer to speak directly to his visitors in ways that are persuasive. Such intimacy also provides insulation from public critique but with his latest private show Bacon as Icon, one senses the artist's desire for engagement and feedback. In his choice of image for the exhibition's invitation that echoes Edvard Munch's The Scream (1893); the anxious nurse's panic in Sergei Eisenstein's film Battleship Potemkin (1925) and most importantly, Francis Bacon's gaping-mouth iconography, Boxer urgently expresses his own call for attention and recognition in a lineage of distinguished modern artists.

Homage: Bacon/Eisenstein (1974-c.1990) as a centre piece of Boxer's display is a key to much of the work in the rest of his oeuvre as well as the myriad pathways of this artist's mind with its exhausting outpourings of pain and parody. Its art-historical referencing, mixed media; montage and collage effects; combination of found-object and photocopied materials; abused surface; obsession with portraiture and terror ridden content, summarize themes and approaches obsessively repeated in other works. Missing perhaps are Boxer's predilection for wordplay, and his later middle-passage pre-occupations, but this image with its visual punning and beautiful goldfish and zoomorphic forms might still be viewed as a precursor to later themes. The image is also Boxer's little piece of the famed British-Irish artist Francis Bacon (1909 – 1992) who Boxer researched extensively for his doctoral thesis and whom he has referenced consistently throughout his career as an artist. Homage: Bacon/Eisenstein like so much of Boxer's work, reflects his compositional desire for what the musician Wagner called gesamtkunstwerk or a total art experience, and demonstrates how a single portrait can be both an homage to others, and a highly personal statement of the self: at once surreal, layered and multivalent.