Art Exhibition: Alberta Whittle’s BadmanaBadman

Barbadian-born artist Alberta Whittle’s new art exhibition, “BadmanaBadman,” and its examination of masculinity has been garnering interest in Barbados and abroad. The exhibit opened on March 22 at the Bridgetown Gallery and will run until April 3, 2010.

Whittle has previously looked at female sexuality and identity, as well as aspects of performance, ritual, and race. Khalil Goodman (Barbados Advocate) writes that “With her new show, she turns her gaze to images of bodybuilders, minstrelsy, religious iconography, hip-hop legends, historical figures and popular culture, to produce assemblages which attempt to subvert gender and racial stereotypes.”

The artists says, “I started looking at body-builders, how they sculpted their bodies and created these almost impossible silhouettes and it resonated with all I had done before with female sexuality. When I started I wanted to create an image that had some humour, but also in a subversive way so they were vulnerable because these men in a way are on [pedestals] but you also have the idea of possible collapse.”  Finnish art critic and art historian Taava Koskinen adds that the artist also examines male sub-cultures. Whittle agrees,  saying that she was drawn to the fact that body-builders are allowed to “show off” and demonstrate a type of “idealized” physical presence that is perhaps frowned upon in mainstream ideas of masculinity.

Looking at how the concept of masculinity of young men is formed based on hip-hop and dancehall culture, Whittle’s show is timely given the discourse in the Caribbean about the effect of dancehall on the country’s youth and the violence stemming from dancehall. Similarly, her work, examining the idea of the ‘performativity’ of gender, offers another perspective.

Alberta Whittle grew up in Barbados and moved to Scotland, where she is completing her MFA at Glasgow School of Art. Whittle has undertaken residencies at Czech Republic & Scotland. She choreographs interactive installations, interventions and performances as site-specific artworks in public and private spaces, including at the Royal Scottish Academy and has exhibited in various solo and group shows in Europe. She lives and works in both Barbados and Scotland.

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