While many music genres have been celebrated for their intimate relation with art, dancehall and Jamaican soundsystem culture has for the most part been left out of the canon, despite its rich and vibrant artistic past and present, not to mention its undeniable influence on design and letterform in pop culture today. Art in the Dancehall, curated by Shimmy Shimmy and Al Fingers, and in association with the PUMA YARD and Jamaica50, aims to redress the balance, celebrating dancehall illustration and design from 1980 to the present day.
Early 1980s Jamaica was a changing place, politically and musically, with a new generation of deejays bringing in a brand new sound. Mirroring this change in the music were graphic designers and illustrators translating the energy, colour and playfulness of dancehall into images, painting a world of crazy characters in highly saturated colours. As an introduction to this foundation, Art in the Dancehall will feature cover art by seminal 1980s Jamaican artists Limonious and Jamaal Pete, alongside UK artist Tony McDermott and posters by Jamaica’s most celebrated poster designer, Sassafras. Exclusive to the show will be a previously unseen photograph of the prolific yet little-known artist Limonious, alongside preparatory artwork by Tony McDermott that has never before been exhibited in the UK.
This foundation will be complemented by the work of five young artists from four different countries (Jamaica, Israel, Germany and England) who are keeping the tradition alive: Robin Clare’s bright depictions of popular dances, Ellen G’s detailed illustrations and portraits of dancehall deities, Gabe’s bold black & white patterned take on reggae iconography, Peter Edwards’ zine covers and Daniel David Freeman’s hand-made recreation of part of the suit worn by Buju Banton on the cover of his Stamina Daddy LP. Launching on 27 June at the BASS Festival, Birmingham, the show will move with the Jamaican athletic team to London, where it will be exhibited at the PUMA YARD from 27 July to 12 August.
Birmingham (27 June–13 July): The Drum, 144 Potters Lane, Aston, Birmingham B6 4UU Launch night: 27 June, 6:30–8:30 PM.
London (27 July–12 August): PUMA YARD, Boiler House, 150–152 Brick Lane, London E1 6RU Launch night: 30 July, 6:30–9:30 PM.
Art in the Dancehall: PUMA YARD:
W www.artinthedancehall.co.uk W www.puma.com/yard
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