Critical Mass - Art Gallery of Guelph, Guelph, Ontario, Canada




September 13, 2018: January 6, 2019
Opening Reception: Thursday, September 13, 2018 at 7 pm

Artists: Shellicka Anglin, Black Artists Union, Noah Brown, Sean George, Charmaine Lurch, Jamilah Malika, Kosisochukwu Nnebe, Camille Turner, Jan Wade, and Syrus Marcus Ware

Commentators: Alyssa Fearon, Reighen Grineage, Felicia Mings, and Charmaine A. Nelson

Emerging from the research that has informed the podcast series Black Lives Rooted initiated by the Art Gallery of Guelph in early 2018, Critical Mass features the work of established and emerging Black artists from across Canada. Reflecting the complexity and diversity of Blackness in a transnational context, the exhibition speaks to the geography of politics and identity at national and civic levels, addressing the historic invisibility and erasure of the experience of Black history in Canada as well as our own region.

Featured are such established artists as Camille Turner and Jan Wade who continue their compelling Afro-futurist explorations, while Syrus Marcus Ware, Sean George and emerging artists Shellicka Anglin, Noah Brown, and Kosisochukwu Nnebe delve into the relationship of Black identity, activism and representation. Charmaine Lurch continues her environmentally-focused work on bees and matriarchy, Jamilah Malika offers a new sound work grounded in the cadence of Black women's voices, and the 11-member Black Artists Union brings a rich collaborative and multidisciplinary installation that challenges colonial models of the museum. The works of these artists are complemented by the curatorial and research work of Dr. Charmaine Nelson, Felicia Mings, and Alyssa Fearon.

Critical Mass builds on the AGG's collaborative relationship with the Guelph Black Heritage Society that has included such programming as the 2018 Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial program, The Crossings Project (with Silence), Emancipation Day and the upcoming Afronautic Research Lab (Camille Turner in conjunction with the University of Guelph Library and Archives, Office of Diversity and Human Rights, and Guelph Black Student Association). These programs acknowledge that depth of Black history in the region dating back to the early 19th century as well as the legacy of slavery and segregation in Canada.

Critical Mass is organized by the Art Gallery of Guelph and curated by Andrew Hunter, Senior Curator, with Kerry Ann Cornwall, Director of Programming, Guelph Black Heritage Society. Presented with the support of the Ontario Arts Council and Canada Council for the Arts.

Image: Shellicka Anglin