Denzil Forrester British, born Grenada

On view at The Met Fifth Avenue in Gallery 915

A central figure in the Black Arts Movement, Forrester uses bold expressionism and an almost electric palette to give visual substance to the social life of London’s West Indian diaspora. Dub was inspired by the vibrant "dub nights" organized by DJs such as Jah Shaka and held in clubs and converted cinemas in East and West London in the 1980s. (Dub music is a sub-genre of reggae that involves the remixing or "dubbing" of existing recordings). Forrester attended these dub sessions, but he mostly spent them sketching, channeling their propulsive energy into forms and colors. Afterwards, he extracted and translated pieces of his drawings into paintings. Dub represents a group of eight figures –dancing and socializing, one of them a blur of kinetic energy. At left, a DJ presides over a sound system. Decidedly non-naturalistic and schematic, the setting is shallow, like a stage, with the figures arranged across the canvas in the manner of a frieze. Instead of depicting a specific locale, Forrester recreates the visual, physical, and sonic impression of a place, using faceted planes of bright color reminiscent of early twentieth century modernism. Because so little photographic documentation of dub sessions survives, paintings such as Dub bear witness to an important aspect of Afro-Caribbean culture in 1980s London.

Dub, Denzil Forrester (British, born Grenada, 1956), Oil on canvas

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Copyright Denzil Forrester. Courtesy the artist and Stephen Friedman Gallery. Photo: Mark Blower.