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In Conversation: April Bey and Gemma Rolls-Bentley

In Conversation: April Bey and Gemma Rolls-Bentley

April Bey’s first solo exhibition in Europe, I Believe in Why I’m Here, introduces us to the world of Atlantica, created by the artist over thirty years. The gallery is completely transformed into a magical environment exploding with vibrant life that welcomes and empowers anyone that visits. You’ll meet some of Atlantica’s inhabitants rendered as largescale portraits in opulent textiles; sherpa, metallic thread and faux Atlantican fur, adorned with glitter, sequins and hand stitching.

Main Image: April Bey, If I Wasn’t Me, I Can Be Sure I’d Want to Be, 2022. Jacquard woven textiles, sherpa, glitter, resin and metallic thread on panel, 121.9 x 91.4 cm (48 x 36 in.)

Across selfie-style closeups and editorial-esque portraits these individuals hold their space, unapologetically themselves. Each figure exudes confidence in their own Black skin as they model the planet’s fashion line ‘Colonial Swag’, one of the many brilliantly conceptualised speculative elements of Atlantica designed and executed by April with wit and precision. The figures are accompanied by anthropomorphic plant species collaged in the same richly textured fabrics that remind us of the intrinsic relationship between humans and nature, that all living forms are a product of the natural world. The Atlanticans engage in acts of radical relaxation, nourished by their abundant natural environment and live free from the earthbound limitations imposed on them due to their appearance, identity, or ability. Each of the figures in the show is a real person, selected by April as model Atlantican citizens for their ability to boldly go where no earthling has gone before by defying societal norms and pressures. Triple Minor, Astra Marie, Myjah Moon and Saucye West are all stars in their own right, pushing the boundaries of their own creative practices from genderless fashion to iconic nail art and body positivity, inspiring a generation of Instagram followers and role modelling self-love and Queer joy. – Excerpt from Exhibition Text by Gemma Rolls-Bentley

On the occasion of April Bey’s first exhibition in the UK, Simon Lee is proud to host a talk between the artist and Gemma Rolls-Bentley on Saturday 3rd September in the London gallery.

The event will begin at 10.30am with exhibition viewing time, the talk will begin at 11am and will be followed by a Q&A session before concluding at 12pm.

Notes on the speakers:

April Bey (b. 1987) grew up in The Bahamas (New Providence) and now lives and works in Los Angeles as a visual artist and art educator, currently a tenured professor at Glendale College. Bey is in the collections of The Fullerton College Art Gallery, The California African American Museum, The National Art Gallery of The Bahamas and The Centerfor Contemporary Printmaking. Bey has participated in biennials NE7, NE8, and NE9 in The Bahamas, and has exhibited internationally in Italy, Spain and Accra Ghana, West Africa. Recent solo exhibitions include I Believe in Why I’m Here, Simon Lee Gallery, London, UK (2022); Colonial Swag, TERN Gallery, Nassau, The Bahamas (2022); April Bey: When You’re on Another Planet and They Just Fly, GAVLAK Gallery, Los Angeles, CA (2022); April Bey: Atlantica, The Gilda Region, The California African American Museum, Los Angeles, CA (2021) and Welcome to Atlantica, Fullerton College Art Gallery, Fullerton, CA (2020). Selected recent group shows include Cantos of the Sibylline Sisterhood, Alyce de Roulet Williamson Gallery, ArtCenter, Pasadena, CA (2022); Floating Rib, The National Art Gallery of The Bahamas, Nassau, Bahamas (2021); TEXTURES: The History and Art of Black Hair, Kent State Museum, Kent, OH (2021); Show Me the Signs, Blum & Poe, Los Angeles, CA (2020); Nasty Women, Gavlak Gallery, Los Angeles, CA (2020); Sanctuary, California African American Museum, Los Angeles, CA (2020) and Welcome to the AfroFuture, New Orleans African American Museum, New Orleans, LA (2019).

See Also

Gemma Rolls-Bentley has been at the forefront of contemporary art for 15 years, most recently in leadership roles at the intersection of art and technology and as the curator of landmark projects that amplify the work of queer artists and provide a platform for art that explores LGBTQ+ identity. Gemma is Chief Curator at Avant Arte, a visiting lecturer at the Royal College of Art and an advisor to early stage startups, cultural projects and private art collectors. She co-chairs the board of trustees for Queercircle, a charity that supports art, culture, health and well-being in the LGBTQ+ community and she is a member of the Courtauld Association Committee.

Below: April Bey is fundraising for medical assistance for her collaborator Myjah (Jessica) Moon – please see link below for details

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