Meet a painter whose work captures a pivotal period in London’s trend-setting music scene. He highlights issues about cultural assimilation faced by many Caribbean immigrants. Some of his works explode with joy, while others are dark and dissonant. Find out why.

Photo Courtesy of Denzil Forrester and Stephen Friedman Gallery, London.

Born in Grenada in 1956, Cornwall, UK–based artist Denzil Forrester, MBE landed in London in the late 1960s, just as the “dub” reggae culture was taking off in Jamaica. Denzil’s exhibition, “Duppy Conqueror,” was inspired by London’s dub reggae culture and clubs of the 1980s, and takes its name from duppy, an African word that refers to spirits and ancestors. The word is related to “dub,” a term referring to the process of replacing existing music or soundtrack sounds with “dubbed” or non-original ones.

Come explore Denzil’s work at a free panel discussion/exhibition on Jan. 25 from 6-7 p.m. at Kemper Art Museum in Kansas City. The panel will include curators Erin Dziedzic and Gean Moreno and will offer an optional cash bar/cocktail reception from 5-6 p.m. The exhibition opens the next day and will remain up through May 7/2023.

This thought-provoking exhibition spans 30 years of introspective paintings and drawings by Denzil. His “Duppy Conqueror” exhibition, presented for the first time on a national tour, mines 4 consistent themes throughout his life: Heritage, family, the reggae club and music scene, and the violence Blacks in London communities frequently endured. The death of his friend Winston Rose while in police custody would scar Denzil for life. His pieces about this subject are a frank commentary on not only what his friend endured but on the often violent and unjust experience of Blacks that still persists.

Of his work, Denzil says “I just wanted to draw movement, action, and expression. I was interested in the energy of the crowd, particular dance movements, and what the clubbers wore. In these clubs, city life is recreated in essence: sounds, lights, police sirens, bodies pushing and swaying in a smoke-filled room.”

Erin Dziedzic, curator of the exhibition and director of curatorial affairs for Kemper Museum says, “We are thrilled to present Denzil Forrester’s first major exhibition in the U.S. Created across three decades of the artist’s practice, the works on view intertwine both personal and political subjects in vibrant expressions that channel the transformative energy of music and community.”

Denzil Forrester (Grenadian-British, born 1956), Dub Dance, 1993, oil on board, 48½ x 72⅛ inches, Courtesy the artist and Stephen Friedman Gallery, London. © Denzil Forrester. Photo: Mark Blower


Denzil Forrester (Grenadian-British, born 1956), Reading with Ma Pets, 2018, oil on canvas, 72⅛ x 48⅛ inches,© Denzil Forrester. Image courtesy the artist and Stephen Friedman Gallery, London. Photo: Mark Blower.
Denzil Forrester (Grenadian-British, born 1956), Brixton Blue, 2018, oil on canvas, 80½ x 107⅝ inches, Private Collection, London; courtesy of Stephen Friedman Gallery. © Denzil Forrester. Photo: Stephen White & Co.


Denzil Forrester (Grenadian-British, born 1956), Stitch Up, 2017, oil on canvas, 79½ x 96⅝ inches, Private Collection of Timothy C. Headington. © Denzil Forrester. Photo: Stephen White & Co.