ivan forde

ivan forde is an active reader. He renders Blackness as multitudinous and expansive, using photomontage to insert his body into landscapes culled from epic poetry and imaginary worlds. Inspired by literature and the gaps between what is spoken, written, and what can be visualized, forde’s newest project, entitled local edge margin, explores the poetics of homeland, migration and identity.

One foundational text for forde is British-Guyanese writer Sir Wilson Harris’ 1954 collection of poems, “Eternity to Season,” in which characters from The Odysseyare transplanted to villages on the Guyana coastland. forde considers the legacy of Caribbean writers’ deconstruction of the classics, and this particular tradition of mapping ancient stories onto current and ongoing anti-colonial struggles.

The room-sized installation contains new works on paper that mix watercolor, frottage and cyanotype (forde has been experimenting with the light-sensitive photographic process used to make blueprints over the last five years). Portraits of bee-eaters, small brightly-colored migratory birds that travel from South America to Africa and Southern Europe, and who the artist encountered during a recent residency in Umbria, appear throughout the space in indigo frames hand dyed by iris yirei hu. On opening night, forde’s sound performance will sample improvised organ the artist recorded in a 15th century chapel dedicated to St. Christopher, the patron saint of travelers. 

A roll of Fabriano cold-press paper, 55-inches tall and 10 yards wide, has become a scroll in forde’s hands, layered with drawings, rubbings, photograms, and countless figures in the midst of their own odyssey. The scroll itself has traveled across the Atlantic Ocean twice, and from the eastern edge of North America west. It holds sunlight from Italy, New York City and Los Angeles, each location the artist worked on the piece.

The title of forde’s project conveys a sense of one’s position within the local, which is always shifting, situated around moving bodies. The edge has aspirational or fantasy appeal, but to be marginalized is precarious and has none of the exciting aspects of going to the edge. Rather, it speaks to a presumed lack of individual or communal agency in relation to power. The margin in another sense is the place you keep notes, capture thoughts, make corrections, add to a given text or amend a draft of earlier work. It is where we practice making change. forde's work asks viewers to shift their spatial and bodily relationship to the piece, move around to get a better view of the details, and keep our readership active. Perhaps, forde is saying, it is the margin we should be calling our attention towards.


—Sonia Louise Davis, Harlem, New York City


ivan forde (b.1990, Georgetown, Guyana; based in Harlem, New York City) works across printmaking, sound, and installation. His training in English literature and epic poetry guides the themes he explores in his visual art practice. Fellowships and residencies include the Paul & Daisy Soros Fellowship for New Americans, Civitella Ranieri Fellowship, ACRE Projects, Vermont Studio Center, Pioneer Works, and the Lower East Side Printshop. Group exhibitions and performances include MCA Chicago, Steven Kasher Gallery, The Jewish Museum, The Whitney Museum, Studio Museum Harlem Postcards, the International Print Center, Lagos Photo Festival 17, and a 2018 solo exhibition at The Baxter Street Camera Club of New York. ivan graduated with an MFA in Printmaking from Columbia University.


This exhibition is made possible through the Foundation of Contemporary Arts Emergency Grant and the Paul & Daisy Soros Fellows Association.

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