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UNTITLED: art on the conditions of our time


From Grand Theft Auto avatars; to Michael Jackson inspired balloon installations; to iconic funk, soul and dance album covers – New Art Exchange’s latest exhibition has it all.

New Art Exchange – an art gallery based in Hyson Green – launches 2017 with a new exhibition, UNTITLED: art on the conditions of our time, displaying the work of 12 artists and over 20 exciting artworks. Each of the exhibits considers the dynamic times we live in, with themes and ideas ranging from: popular culture, social networks, activism, history, conflict and racial and gendered identities. It includes painting, drawing, performance, film, printmaking, bookbinding, digital mapping and gaming technology.

Each artist in the show has ties to Africa and its diaspora, yet the exhibition does not attempt to define ‘Black Art’ and instead celebrates the diversity of contemporary art production. The curators, Paul Goodwin and Hansi Momodu-Gordon explain:

“To be a young artist today, black or otherwise, is to be part of a generation that has more access to information through the internet, taking interest in global issues. In an increasingly visual society where we are constantly looking at phone and computer screens, artists are now drawing inspiration from all kinds of imagery and are questioning who controls these images and what they mean.”

The exhibition features two brand new commissions created with participants from Nottingham. Larry Achiampong and David Blandy premiere a new instalment of Finding Fanon – an art series that uses a ‘hacked’ version of Grand Theft Auto. Larry and David collaborated with a women’s migrant support group, using the game platform to reflect a range of life experiences. The platform allowed the participants create digital identities and visual representations of themselves (avatars), and to move through a range of virtual environments without facing barriers. It considers themes of colonialism, migration, our relationship to virtual worlds.

Artist Barby Asante has developed a new work in collaboration with young people in Nottingham which maps unconventional, yet wholly important, forms of local knowledge about art and culture. It considers the many ways we understand the world: through where we grow up, skills passed on through relations, to films, books or magazines. Her work takes the form of an interactive digital infographic inspired map comprising of Youtube clips, photographs and web articles.

Melanie Kidd, Director of Programmes of New Art Exchange explains why this new exhibition is significant:

“UNTITLED has been a fantastic opportunity to reflect on our own work as an organisation dedicated to promoting racially and culturally diverse artists as we head towards our 10 year anniversary. Not only is it an important exhibition bringing together leading artists, but it is also great to be launching a major show in Nottingham with exhibits created by Nottingham residents. The deliberately ‘uncurated’ approach of the show has allowed the artwork on display to speak for itself. The result is a refreshing and contemporary exhibition, and we look forward to sharing the approach with other spaces in England as the show heads out on its national tour later in 2017.”

Through UNTITLED, a range of key themes arise. The role of popular culture is considered in Harold Offeh’s humorous re-enactments of iconic album covers – from Grace Jones to Betty Davis, NT’s edit of the popular film ‘The Imitation of Life’ which gives a new perspective on race, and through Appau Junior Boakye-Yiadom’s sculpture where balloons are playfully used to re-enact Michael Jackson’s dance stance.

Themes around the migrant crisis and globalisation prevail in Pheobe Boswell’s large-scale drawing of the comings and goings in public space.

Addressing the challenge in how collective memory is preserved, Kimathi Donkor’s paintings re-imagine the history painting genre to draw light on our contemporary times, and Barbara Walker’s charcoal drawings of Black servicemen show their contribution and sacrifices which are often overlooked.

Through combining a range of exciting contemporary art works, the exhibition reflects upon the complex times we live in and lets the gallery visitor draw connections between the works, creating their own meanings.

The exhibition runs 14 January – 19 March 2017

Posted on 10 January 2017

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