Be it the lush tropical foliage of Trinidad, the sight of a container for a Jamaican patty or the hum of Birmingham’s living room barbershops, the subjects in British artist Hurvin Anderson’s large-scale paintings, sculptures, drawings and photographs are bursting with colour and life, but they remain ever so slightly out of reach—seen behind fences, masked by decorative grills or graphic packaging. The Art Gallery of Ontario offers a glimpse into these scenes in Anderson’s first Canadian solo exhibition, opening on May 19, 2016. Hurvin Anderson: Backdrop is the artist’s most comprehensive exhibition to date, featuring recent paintings alongside previously unseen sculpture, drawings and photography. Filling the entire fourth floor of the AGO’s Contemporary Tower, the exhibition runs until August 21, 2016.
Anderson was born in Birmingham, United Kingdom, to Jamaican parents. His source material often stems from formative experiences in Birmingham’s local black community as well as in Trinidad, where he became intimately familiar with the island’s landscape and its motifs. Known for his distinct figurative painting style, he layers brights colours under hints of restraint, placing vague barriers between the viewer and the subject—such as the grill in 2005’s Welcome: Carib or the angular confines of the living room barbershop as portrayed in Peter’s: Sitter III (2009).
Less well-known than his paintings, Anderson’s sculptures explore the ties between familiar consumer brands and our sense of self. Juici and Mother’s Chicken (both 2006) reference restaurant chains in Jamaica that serve patties, a mainstay of traditional Caribbean cuisine and an important symbol of the artist’s youth. Anderson replicates disposable food containers by hand-painting wooden boxes, creating an optical illusion that challenges notions of mass production and the construction of racial stereotypes.
To celebrate the opening of the exhibition, Anderson and Jeffrey Uslip will offer a free public talk on May 18, 2016 in Baillie Court. Tickets for the talk, which begins at 5:30pm in the AGO’s Baillie Court, are free and can be reserved online. Following the talk, there will be a public reception from 6 to 8:30pm in Walker Court.
The exhibition is accompanied by a soft cover 76-page illustrated book, featuring an introduction by Jeffrey Uslip and text by Duro Olowu. The book arrives at shopAGO in May. Visitors to the exhibition are encouraged to pick up a free exhibition pamphlet featuring an interprative essay by Uslip.
Hurvin Anderson: Backdrop is included with the price of general admission and is free to AGO members. More information on the benefits of AGO membership can be found at www.ago.net/general-membership
About Hurvin Anderson
Born in Birmingham, UK in 1965, Hurvin Anderson lives and works in London. Recent solo exhibitions include Art Now: Hurvin Anderson, Tate Modern, London (2009), which traveled to the Studio Museum, Harlem, New York (2009). Recent exhibitions include New Works, Thomas Dane Gallery, London (2013); Reporting Back, IKON Gallery, Birmingham, UK (2013); Subtitles, Michael Werner Gallery, New York (2011). Anderson has been included in group exhibitions at notable institutions including Chicago’s Museum of Contemporary Art (2013) and the Leicester Museum and Art Gallery in England (2000).
Hurvin Anderson: Backdrop was organized by the Contemporary Art Museum St. Louis and curated by Deputy Director for Exhibitions and Programs/Chief Curator Jeffrey Uslip. The installation at the AGO is coordinated by Adelina Vlas, the Associate Curator, Contemporary Art.
Generously supported by
Maxine Granovsky Gluskin and Ira Gluskin
Liza Mauer and Andrew Sheiner
Canada Council for the Arts
Support for the exhibition and its tour has been provided by Iris and Adam Singer, Phoenix; Anonymous; Bridgitt and Bruce Evans, Boston; Alexandra and Guy Halamish, London; Christen Sveaas, Oslo; Jimmy Jamieson, St. Louis; Lisa Schiff, New York; Larry Mathews and Brian Saliman, San Francisco; Thomas Dane Gallery, London; Michael Werner Gallery, New York; and the British Council.