Jazz, cartoons and hair weaves
John Akomfrah: Ballasts of Memory
John Akomfrah has been shaking up the world of the moving image, with particular regard to reflections on the culture of the black diaspora, since the early 1980s. This latest show brings together three works including ‘Precarity’ (2017), which will receive its European premiere. This piece expands upon a number of thematic concerns that reappear across his entire body of work: the legacies of slavery and forced human migration, the diasporic experience, colonialism, and climate change. With ‘Precarity’ his signature cinematic style is used to convey the tragic story of Charles ‘Buddy’ Bolden, a turn-of-the-century cornet player credited as being at the origins of jazz music in New Orleans. Celebrated for his raucously loud, innovative cornet improvisation ‘King Bolden’ was one of the most popular musicians in New Orleans at the time. He was an almost mythical figure – there are no known recordings of Bolden and only a couple of grainy photographs – whose life was explored by Michael Ondaatje in his novel ‘Coming Through Slaughter’. ‘Precarity’ is a ghost story more than anything else, a sonic and visual history of Bolden and his legend, tracing a single life disrupted by the violent forces of racism, state power and the consequences of displacement within the African-American context. The exhibition also includes two of Akomfrah’s earlier works, ‘The Unfinished Conversation’ (2012) and ‘Psyche’ (2012).
6 July-27 October
Mick Peter: To Me, To You
There is an immediacy in the work of Mick Peter which, nevertheless, is loaded with a myriad of subtle readings. He uses fictional imagery influenced by cartoon aesthetics to create playful installations. ‘To Me, To You’ is a new commission for BALTIC’s Level 4 gallery based on a story that presents the processes of commissioning, making and exhibiting an artwork. The installation begins with an office-space before moving into consecutive studios where an artist creates a new abstract sculpture. Two art handlers arrive to collect it and so begins a farcical journey to move it to its final destination – an unfamiliar version of BALTIC in a semi derelict high street. Peter references how abstract modern sculpture has sometimes been used to represent the incomprehensibility of art in editorial illustrations in newspapers and magazines. The invented sculpture he uses in this exhibition is an affectionate nod to this tradition. By showing the last-minute decisions being taken in a studio, Peter wittily undermines the significance and authorship of the finished sculpture. Peter’s work can also be found outside the gallery on Level 4 and in an image on the lightbox at the ground floor entrance. Here, Peter’s characters peer from behind a smashed window with shards of glass spilling onto the floor apparently breaking the two-dimensional plane.22 June-27 October
Ifeoma U. Anyaeji: Ezuhu ezu – In(complete)
Ifeoma U. Anyaeji explores the idea of value and addresses environmental issues such as mass consumption and waste through sculptures, reliefs and installations made out of discarded bottles, plastic bags and found objects. For her first solo exhibition in the UK, the artist brings together a selection of recent sculptural works, some of which have been adapted for presentation at BALTIC. Interested in craft processes and the use of non-conventional materials, Anyaeji’s work draws on traditions of West African culture, in particular Nigerian folklore, fashion, music and poetry, and the country’s colonial history. Her sculptures combine non-biodegradable plastic, wood, wire, mesh and twine with objects such as shoes, plastic containers and cans, most of which she has sourced locally in Nigeria and wherever she finds herself. Using a method which she describes as ‘Plasto-art’, Anyaeji binds the plastic with thread into intricately woven braids using a traditional Nigerian hair-styling technique known as Ikpa Owu or Ikpa Isi Owu in Igbo. Igbo is the native language of the Igbo people, an ethnic group of South Eastern Nigeria – it has approximately forty-four million speakers. Ikpa Owu (or threading) is an increasingly obsolete hair-craft passed down through the generations, from mother to daughter. The practice has almost disappeared because of the country’s colonised history and the pressures for a global identity, which underlines more of a Western outlook.
24 May-22 September
Survey: Jerwood Arts Touring
A major new survey exhibition presenting new works by 15 early-career artists from across the UK. Survey is the largest review of contemporary art practice in Jerwood Arts’ history and spans a breadth of disciplines including painting, ceramics, film, performance, podcast, sculpture, drawing and collage.Survey takes a non-institutional approach to selection by inviting over 50 established artists from across the UK – including Ryan Gander, Andy Holden and Rachel Maclean – to nominate the most outstanding and dynamic early-career artists making work today. The final selection has been made by Sarah Williams, Head of Visual Arts, Jerwood Arts. The exhibition explores a wide range of subjects from family relationships, domestic and gendered roles, climate change and alternative economies, community filmmaking and the political and social climate in the UK, personal narratives of heritage, the effects of digital connectivity and the economies of the art world. Exhibiting artists: Chris Alton, Simeon Barclay, Hazel Brill, Flo Brooks, Emma Cousin, Joe Fletcher Orr, Tom Goddard, Ashley Holmes, Lindsey Mendick, Nicole Morris, Milly Peck, Anna Raczynski, Will Sheridan Jr, Rae-Yen Song and Frank Wasser. Newly established in 2018, Survey builds on Jerwood Arts’ specialist knowledge and experience of working with early-career artists acquired through its running of its visual arts programme. It responds to a need for artists who are no longer the most recent graduates but still early in their careers, to benefit from a supported opportunity to make and show new work in a group exhibition format, including a diverse range of current practice.
6 July-29 September
BALTIC Centre for Contemporary Art, South Shore Road, Gateshead. baltic.art/