Swivel Gallery is thrilled to present “Native Diver”, Simon Benjamin’s solo exhibition. The exhibition presents a new collection of paintings, sculptures, and collages that expand on the artist's ongoing exploration of the impact of both visible and invisible histories on current realities. By using the sea and coastal space as a framework, the artist investigates the complex relationship between the Caribbean and trade, ocean travel, import-dominant consumerism, tourism, and other neo-colonial relationships imposed by the United States and the West.

The exhibition takes its name, "Native Diver," from a caption of a postcard from the turn of the century featuring a photograph of a coin diver. Coin divers were young Black boys who swam to the depth of port harbors across the Caribbean to recover coins thrown to them from white North American and European tourists from incoming leisure line steamships. These young men bore witness to the transition from exploitative plantation economies to the emerging mass tourism industry, which continues to be the dominant source of revenue for Caribbean nation-states. Within the gallery's walls, paintings and collages of the coin divers, in different approaches, implicate the viewer and challenge the colonial gaze.

The exhibition also features new sculptures in cornmeal, sand, and beach detritus that take the form of shipping barrels, as part of an ongoing suite of sculptures in the artist’s CORE series. The sculptures' materiality evokes layered and interconnected themes related to deep time, the prevalence of import-dominant consumerism, ecological degradation, and climate change in the Caribbean. Additionally, the smaller tin sculpture, Black Star Line, is a poetic homage to Pan-Africanist Marcus Garvey and the possibility of his ill-fated Black Star shipping line.

Benjamin's practice is rooted in research, oral histories, and critical fabulation that work to lyrically complicate the notion of the Caribbean as a tropical paradise for consumption and extraction. He has a multi-layered approach that considers the past, present, and future, along with poetic symbolism of the sea. Benjamin leaves space for the viewer to form their perspectives and invites thoughtful discussions on how images, objects, and places hold meaning throughout time.

Simon Benjamin (b. 1979, St. Andrew, Jamaica) is a Jamaican multi-disciplinary artist and filmmaker based in New York, whose practice considers how the past ripples into the present in unexpected ways. Using the sea and coastal space as frameworks, his current body of work explores how lesser-known histories and colonial legacies impact our present and contribute to an interconnected future. Benjamin is a 2023 New York City Artadia Awardee, and a 2023-4 Sharpe-Walentas Studio Program Awardee, New York, NY.

His work has been included in exhibitions and screening internationally, including Documenta 15, Kassel, Germany (2022); Kingston Biennial, National Gallery of Jamaica, Kingston, Jamaica (2022); Lower Manhattan Cultural Council, Governor’s Island, NY; Third Horizon film Festival, Miami, FL (2022); trinidad+tobago film festival, Trinidad and Tobago (2021); NYU Gallatin at Governors Island, New York, NY (2021); The 92nd St. Y, New York, NY (2020); Hunter East Harlem Gallery, New York, NY (2019); the Ghetto Biennial, Port Au Prince, Haiti (2018); Jamaica Biennial, National Gallery of Jamaica, Kingston, Jamaica (2017); New Local Space, (NLS) Kingston (2016); and Columbia University, New York, NY (2016). Benjamin earned his MFA from Hunter College in New York in 2021.