Isaac Julien

Isaac Julien

Exhibition: Oct 30, 2003 – Jan 25, 2004

Isaac Julien’s 20-minute filmic triptych, Paradise Omeros (2002) explores the experience of creolization—the psychological and linguistic impact of colonization, immigration, and globalization. Based on Derek Walcott’s Nobel Prize-winning epic poem Omeros, Julien’s work follows a young protagonist from the rich tropics of St. Lucia to gritty urban England. In a key passage the main character is immersed and transported from the blue waters of the island to London’s inner city—suggesting his struggle for a sense of place and his feelings of fear, anxiety, love, and hate. Paradise Omeros reworks normative conceptions of identity, black (African Diaspora) experience, and sexuality through a shifting, dream-like structure that suggests the emblematic search for “new life” promised by the West.

With Baltimore (2003) Julien again uses compelling visual strategies to move forward a narrative that references high art, political history, and popular culture. Named for the city in which it was filmed, the work draws on the history of blaxploitation films of the 1970s. This 11-minute piece follows the legendary Melvin Van Peebles, one of the pioneers of the new black cinema that emerged during that decade, and a futuristic version of the foxy, gun-toting female that appeared in such films. Julien skillfully employs the three-screen format to manipulate time and perspective. The work seamlessly pivots between the characters walking through the city and into three of its museums—there encountering artifacts and objects that bring to life the past, present, and possible future of African-Americans.


Isaac Julien

London, England

Isaac Julien was born in London, England, where he continues to live and work. He came to prominence in the early 1980s as a founding member of the Sankofa Film/Video Collective, a seminal U.K. group that explored new ways of representing black identity. Isaac Julien’s connection to ArtPace began in 1999. In that year he was chosen as an ArtPace resident, and while in San Antonio produced The Long Road to Mazatlán (1999), a work that went on to earn him a Turner Prize nomination in 2000.
From his critically acclaimed documentaries Looking for Langston (1989) and BaadAsssss Cinema (2002), to his multi-channel installations Paradise Omeros (2002) and altimore(2003), Julien’s work combines dreamlike rhythms and lush imagery in stylized narratives. His films subvert the cinematic gaze to address issues of immigration, race, gender, desire, and the politics of representation.
Widely considered to be one of Britain’s foremost contemporary artists, Isaac Julien has exhibited extensively around the world. Paradise Omeros debuted at Documenta11 in Kassell, Germany. Julien has had solo exhibitions at such venues as the Tate Gallery, London, England; the Aspen Art Museum, CO; the Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago, IL; the BildMuseet, Umeå, Sweden; and the MIT List Visual Arts Center, Cambridge, MA. Julien has also served as a visiting lecturer at Harvard University, Cambridge, MA and is a 2001 recipient of both the Eugene McDermott Award in the Arts and the Frameline Lifetime Achievement Award (2002).

See More