The National Art Gallery of The Bahamas presents “Double Dutch: Of Skin and Sand” with Leasho Johnson (Jamaica) and Edrin Symonette (Bahamas), which opens on July 21, 7:00-8:30pm, and will be on view until September 24, 2017. The opening of the project includes an artists’ talk with both artists. The event is free and open to the public.
Description: Double Dutch brings together artists from the region and diaspora to produce provocative bodies of work through collaboration and exchange. The project works against ideas of nationalism and the insularity of our creative environs by creating an experimental hub to explore regional and diasporic culture, our creative acumen and sensibilities.
“Of Skin and Sand,” brings together Jamaican artist Leasho Johnson and Bahamian artist Edrin Symonette, who have developed individual projects that speak towards issues of gender constructs, masculinity and sexuality within a Black Caribbean context. Boundaries are reinforced and broken down through societal and practical experimentations as they work in the NAGB’s Ballroom to develop unique installations that dialogue with each other in confrontational and powerful ways.
Symonette will continue to develop and refine his body of work that our public has come to know very well with the recent community project “Residues of a Colonial Past”, which was hosted in the gallery’s Sculpture Garden and then exhumed for the Project Space Room earlier this year.
With “The Ballad of Deangelo Johnson for Quakoo Street,” Symonette extends and regenerates new interest in the questions of how normative roles and performativity of hyper-masculinity persists and thrives within the Bahamian landscape; the actions that allow certain behaviours to exist; like machismo and chauvinism, while denouncing the honesty and necessity of black male vulnerability and care within our society. This ballad personifying this “inner city” living will be expanded into a poem painted on the wall adjacent to the sculpture. Bahamian poets Deangelo Whyms and Tanicia Pratt are co-creators of this (ballad/poem) providing both male and female perspectives.
Johnson, who works in various public and private spaces across Jamaica and the wider African diaspora, will continue to develop his ongoing bodies of work started in Aruba at Caribbean Linked in 2014 with “Promised Land”, to the most recent installation of “Belisario & the Soundboy” at NLS, to the powerful “In-a-the-middle” installation at Devon House for the 2017 Jamaica Biennale.
Johnson, a prolific and engaged trickster, will produce “Playing the Fields”, a project that fuses his love for pop culture, dancehall and the complexities of black identity into an illustrative battlefield, calling to life an evocative landscape of vulnerable bodies and the emotional-scape of the dangers of coming into one’s understanding of self. Attacking the dark underbelly of misogyny and how the stronghold of patriarchy has altered male-female relations, the dancehall figure, which is ubiquitous in Johnson’s practice, collapses and is enveloped by the landscape allowing for freedom and for greater fluidity between the binaries that stiffen, reduce and homogenise our space. This project further explores the development of stereotypes through the lens of race: what does it mean to be a black male figure within the contemporary landscape? How is one viewed as one hides behind stereotypes, and what does freedom look like when we choose to confront the breaking down of these labels?
Johnson and Symonette’s work creates small moments for us to think about the ramifications of monolithic and single narratives. They give space to identities that are more complex than the colonial subjects that we often tout ourselves as being. Within this maze of refining our personal and social relations, we also look at the way in which intersectionality embraces the fluidity natural to our Caribbean lives.
See biographies and more information [and image above: detail from poster] at http://nagb.org.bs/events-and-exhibitions/2017/7/21/double-dutch-of-skin-and-sand-with-edrin-symonette-and-leasho-johnson