Sizzla ADD

Review: Art In The Dancehall Exhibition in London, UK

08/02/2012 by David Katz

Review: Art In The Dancehall Exhibition in London, UK

Art in the Dancehall @ Puma Yard
150-152 Brick Lane in London, UK

27th July – 12th August 2012

Reggaeville readers will probably recall the dramatic Jamaican campaign that the Puma shoe company launched a number of years back, taking much design inspiration from the Jamaican flag and other aspects of regular Jamaican culture, as well as its athletes and music figures. It makes sense that Puma would put something together to mark the 50th Anniversary of Jamaican independence, as well as Jamaica’s presence at the 2012 Olympics in London, and they have done so in the form of the Puma Yard, a temporary social space that will be open during the course of the Olympics, located in a massive cube at the trendy Shoreditch end of London’s Brick Lane. The Puma Yard is a really conducive space for hanging out with friends, having lots of screens with which one can take in the Olympic action, as well as some dominoes tables and a well-stocked bar. A space in the back has a lawn for lounging and a small shop selling Puma goods. It has a relaxed feel and the entire place was packed with patrons for the official opening of the art exhibition, which took place on Monday, 30 July—in fact, plenty of young people were there for the vibe in the front of the yard, and were unaware that the art exhibition event was even happening.

Most of the art is housed in an upstairs space above the shop, where there are large-scale items of framed artwork that really look fantastic on the wall. From the old school, the art of Wilfred Limonious is simply outstanding; his hilarious drawings, as seen on the cover of Yellowman’s Walking Jewellery Store and Michael Palmer’s Lick Shot, have never really been bettered in dancehall artistry. There are also some highly stylised flyers from Denzil ‘Sassafras’ Naar (and a nice photo of Sassa himself), plus the psychedelic artwork of Jamaal Pete, who designed covers for Brad’s Records and Studio One in New York. We are also treated to a full wall of album covers by Tony McDermott, whose detailed cartoons graced plenty of Greensleeves and Ariwa releases over the years.

Downstairs showcases the new school, with artwork that is just as impressive. Ellen G of Tel Aviv’s My Lord Crew has done some brilliant oil-paint portraits of Sizzla, Beenie Man, Elephant Man, Buju Banton, Capleton, Mavado and Vybz Kartel, and was on hand with her selector beau to answer questions about the work. Local artist Peter Edwards supplied some fantastically spaced-out artwork, much of which has graced the fanzine No Icecream Sound. Gabe, Daniel David Freeman and Robin Clare also had striking graphic artworks displayed, each relating to the dancehall idiom.

Of the noteworthy celebrities to catch the event, Johnny Osbourne was present and Curtis Lynch Junior of Necessary Mayhem, as well as reliable selector, Mr Brown of the Tighten Up Crew. The event was curated by Al ‘Fingers’ Newman, who put together the Greensleeves album cover art book, along with his partner in crime, Suze Webb, of the Shimmy Shimmy weblog. If you’re in London at all during the Olympics, you owe it to yourself to check out this art, and to soak up the vibes at the Puma Yard.