Art Exhibition: Wrestling with the Image/Caribbean Interventions

Christopher Cozier and Tatiana Flores are co-curators of a show of contemporary Caribbean art, “Wrestling with the Image: Caribbean Interventions.” The exhibition will be on view January 21 until March 10, 2011, at the Art Museum of the Americas, located at 201 18th Street, NW Washington, DC.

On January 21 at 5:30pm, there will be a gallery talk and exhibition preview. The reception opening will take place on Friday, March 4. Related events will be a student symposium on Caribbean art in conjunction with George Mason University and Caribbean in Transit Journal and a Caribbean film series to be held March 1‐10.

“Wrestling with the Image: Caribbean Interventions” gathers contemporary art from twelve Caribbean countries, featuring work by artists from the Bahamas, Barbados, Belize, Dominica, Guyana, Haiti, Jamaica, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Suriname, and Trinidad and Tobago. It presents works in a variety of media, including photography, video, painting, graphic arts, sculpture, and installation.

Description: The scope of the objects demonstrates how the region’s contemporary artists are confronting stereotypes about the Caribbean without denying their own surroundings or rejecting the worlds in which they operate. Through investigations on history, tourism, globalization, popular culture, and gender, these artists urge us to reconsider our own expectations on how a Caribbean image should look. Characterized by scholars as “the laboratory of globalization,” the Caribbean is a multifaceted locale that transcends geographic boundaries. Its culture has European, African, Asian, Latin American, and Native American roots. It is not surprising, then, that several artists in the exhibition explore themes of migration, the spread of culture, and global citizenship. For co‐curator Christopher Cozier, “this is a conversation about movement in the Atlantic world—a dialogue about dispersal rather than displacement.” Many of the artists themselves no longer live in the Caribbean, residing in the United States, Canada, Europe, and Asia; nevertheless, their experiences are the result of complex historical, economic, and cultural processes that are part and parcel of what it means to be Caribbean. Past and present, local and universal, and self and other are among the dichotomies addressed in this exhibition.

Marlon James’ blunt and direct portraits depict young people who look like they could be from anywhere. Ebony Patterson’s provocative portrayals derived from Jamaican dancehall culture—with its ironic face bleaching and androgynous fashions—are equally global. By contrast, Joscelyn Gardner engages the historical archive. Her series of hand‐painted stone lithographs Creole Portraits III pays tribute to faceless women victims of slavery by depicting a typical African hairstyle juxtaposed to an iron collar. Among other images conjuring colonial history is Nikolai Noel’s drawing Toussaint et George, in which Haitian liberator Toussaint L’Ouverture and George Washington seem to stare each other down on equal footing.

In John Cox’ paintings of boxers, the notion of the prize fighter as confident and infallibly masculine is turned on its side. The works introduce unresolved tensions by depicting subjects fighting against their doppelgangers or striking their own faces. Heino Schmid challenges that status of the image as a conveyor of meaning. In the case of his Temporary Horizon video, two glass bottles momentarily keep one another standing, but then fall. A man’s arms and waist appear on screen, and he puts the bottles back into place. They fall again, and the anonymous man’s Sisyphean task continues.

As a group, the works in the exhibition demonstrate the dynamism and creativity of the current generation of Caribbean artists. According to co‐curator Tatiana Flores, they also “allow us to reflect on our own assumptions and preconceptions regarding the meaning of place, the articulation of difference, and the construction of past and present. Whether they challenge, delight, frustrate, or disgust, these images provoke a reaction.”

This exhibition includes work by John Cox, Blue Curry, Kishan Munroe, Heino Schmid, (The Bahamas); Ewan Atkinson, Joscelyn Gardner, Sheena Rose, Tonya Wiles (Barbados); Santiago Cal (Belize); Pauline Marcelle (Dominica); Roshini Kempadoo, Hew Locke (Guyana); Jean‐Ulrick Désert, Barbara Prézeau‐Stephenson (Haiti); Charles Campbell, Keisha Costello, Marlon James, Ebony Patterson, Oneika Russell, Phillip Thomas (Jamaica); Terry Boddie (Saint Kitts and Nevis); Nadia Huggins, (Saint Lucia); Holly Bynoe, (Saint Vincent and the Grenadindes); Sri Irodikromo, Patricia Kaersenhout, Marcel Pinas, Dhiradj Ramsamoedj, (Suriname); Nicole Awai, La Vaughn Belle, Marlon Griffith, Jaime Lee Loy, Richard Fung, Abigail Hadeed, Nikolai Noel, Rodell Warner, and Natalie Wood (Trinidad and Tobago).

For more information, see http://museum.oas.org/index1.html

Shown here Ebony Patterson’s “Entourage” (2010) and John Cox’s “Coming to Terms with the Inside World II” (2008.

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