Ivan Forde

B. 1990 Georgetown, Guyana; based in New York City

Using a wide variety of photo-based and print-making processes (and more recently sound and performance), Ivan Forde retells stories from epic poetry casting himself as every character. His non-linear interpretations of time-worn tales open the possibility of new archetypes and alternative endings. By crafting his own unique mythology and inserting himself in historical narratives, he connects the personal to the universal and offers a new view of prevailing narratives in the broader culture.

Ivan’s latest series of experimental cyanotype-based works, Invocation (2018-2019), centers on the collective narratives passed down from the people of his Grandmother's village, Buxton — one of the first Afro-Guyanese settlements post-emancipation with a significant activist history that still endures today. Riffing on themes drawn from personal interviews with a network of villagers including his 94-year old great aunt, Forde performs an array of recounted experiences, occupying various roles to create grand tableaus. Illumination (2016-2018), based on the Epic of Gilgamesh, explores multiplicity and diversity using the body, specifically black bodies, as both material and subject navigating poetic terrain. Through various iterations — painterly cyanotypes, body prints, and halftone silkscreens — he recreates the hero’s journey with a modern sociopolitical subtext. For Fight (2015-2016), he depicts a similar hero/villain archetype in yet an another epic struggle this time borrowing from the conventions of video games like Mortal Kombat. Experimenting with various media here too — digital collage, animations, and photogravures — his subject battles competing versions of himself in ritualistic encounters, touching on questions about the wider perception of black bodies in virtual space. Other short-run, spin-off series expand on recurring personae and tangential subplots like the Pearl King (2015-2016) about a jewel-obsessed, sci-fi demigod and Axis Mundi (2014) that imagines the initiation rites of young pledges into fictional societies. Earlier bodies of work like De I Section (2013-2014), whose title is a play on the word “dissection,” and Transformation (2012) about the 17th century allegory, Paradise Lost, edge closer to surrealist self-portraits showing the artist in various states of metamorphosis. 

Ivan has been included in recent group exhibitions and performances at The Studio Museum in Harlem and the Whitney Museum of Art. He is the recipient of prestigious awards including the Paul and Daisy Soros Fellowship for New Americans and was a shortlisted finalist for the Smithsonian Artist Research Fellowship. He has also been has granted residencies at notable cultural centers like the Lower East Side Printshop and Dustin Yellin’s Pioneer Works. He received his MFA from Columbia University and has a BA in Classic Literature from SUNY Purchase College.