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Ashley Swagers
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Advisor - Focal Countries
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a.swagers@dutchculture.nl

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Geke Dijkstra
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Communications Officer
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g.dijkstra@dutchculture.nl

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Josine Backus
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Advisor - Focal Countries | Brazil
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j.backus@dutchculture.nl
 

Remy Jungerman in New York: "The system kills her own children"

Remy Jungerman in New York: "The system kills her own children"

An interview with Remy Jungerman on his first major solo exhibition in the U.S., the effects of COVID-19 on his practice, and the killing of George Floyd.
By Geke Dijkstra

Even though international cultural exchange is strained due to COVID-19 travel bans, New York is gradually reopening its doors. Fridman Gallery in Lower Manhattan is presenting a major solo exhibition by Suriname born Dutch visual artist Remy Jungerman called Brilliant Corners. Remy Jungerman co-represented (with Iris Kensmil) the Netherlands in the 58th Venice Biennale. The exhibition will be on view from 7 April until 15 May 2021.

George Floyd

One of the artworks in the exhibition bears a direct link to the events of 2020: a horizontal wall sculpture called Horizontal Obeah MAAU (LA LLORONA). La Llorona is a Latin American folk tale about a mother who kills her own sons and the next day, she walks around the street crying and looking for them. "I have used this title because it is strongly linked to the tragic killing of George Floyd," says Jungerman, "it indicates how confused and inhumane the system is. Like the crying mother of La Llorona, the system kills her own children and is left with feelings of confusion and grief." In the aftermath of George Floyd’s death, Black Lives Matter demonstrations surged in the United States and many other places around the world, including Amsterdam. Jungerman: "Of all the pieces in this exhibition, I think La Llorona has the most direct link with that first period of lockdown, because in that energy, in that shock, the artwork was created.”

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Image
Caption
Detail ‘Pimba AGIDA VIII' (2020) cotton textile, kaolin (pimba), on wood panel, 75h x 75w in. Photography Aatjan Renders
The rhythm of Winti and Thelonius Monk

Brilliant Corners includes Jungerman’s new body of work, Pimba AGIDA series, which he created in the year of lockdown. Covering colorful patterned fabrics worn by Surinamese Maroons with white kaolin clay used in Winti (an afro Surinamese religion), Jungerman carves grid lines into the clay, at once obscuring and revealing the underlying patterns of the textile. The resulting surfaces reveal a rhythm reminiscent of the Agida, a long narrow drum used in Winti practice, as well as music by American jazz pianist and composer Thelonius Monk. Brilliant Corners is a reference to Thelonius Monk's musical album that was released in 1957.

Travel restrictions

When asked how the pandemic influenced the process leading up to his new work, Jungerman responds that it allowed him to spend more time in his studio and concentrate on making new work. He was used to travelling back and forth between New York and Amsterdam, making great efforts to return to his studio and regain his focus. Jungerman admits that visual artists miss a certain economy to present and sell their work: ”Less work is being exhibited which means that less work is being sold.” His biggest hope is to physically attend the opening of Brilliant Corners, but it is not yet clear if he can because travelling is restricted between the Netherlands and the United States.

As a visual artist I create something that will communicate with the rest of the world
Upcoming show

Remy Jungerman has another major solo exhibition scheduled at the Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam in November 2021, for which he is currently producing new work. It appears that even though the world is in the grip of COVID-19, Jungerman continues to be active on the international stage, exploring the intersection of pattern and symbol in Surinamese-Maroon culture, the larger African diaspora, jazz, and 20th century modernism. "Everything leads to the image,” says Jungerman, "all thoughts lead to the image. As a visual artist I create something – whether it is a painting or an image – that will communicate with the rest of the world. It is up to the audience to interpret it and to delve deeper into it.”

Alongside the New York exhibition, in the downstairs media room, the gallery will present a film, Visiting Deities (1962), by Dutch anthropologist Bonno Thoden van Velzen. The film features the Ndjuka, a Maroon tribe from the area where Remy Jungerman was born. He is a descendant, on his mother’s side, of the Maroons who escaped enslavement on Dutch plantations to establish self-governed communities in the Surinamese rainforest.

Where and when to see

The public can attend the opening of Jungerman's Brilliant Corners on 7 April 2021 at Fridman Gallery in New York. It is not confirmed yet if there will be online programming. 

Do you want to know more about Dutch cultural activities in the United States? Check out the complete overview of Dutch cultural activities in the United States in our database. If you are a cultural professional who wants to go to the United States, feel free to contact our focal countries advisors Ashley Swagers and Josine Backus.