Daniell Cornell reviews “Relational Undercurrents”

Diaz_Deja_vu_2008

The exhibition “Relational Undercurrents: Contemporary Art of the Caribbean Archipelago” is opening in New York as I write, with a reception this evening, from 6:00 to 8:00pm, at the Wallach Art Gallery of Columbia University. The exhibition will run through September 23. It debuted at the Museum of Latin American Art in Long Beach, California, as part of “Pacific Standard Time: LA/LA,” a region-wide, multi-institution cultural initiative organized by the Getty.

Here are excerpts from a review of the show (January 2018) by Daniell Cornell, former director of art at the Palm Springs Art Museum. In this review, Cornell spotlights Cuban artists:

Relational Undercurrents: Contemporary Art of the Caribbean Archipelago, opening tonight at the Wallach Art Gallery in Manhattan, offers a compellingly revisionist understanding of art from the region. Curators Tatiana Flores and Michelle A. Stephens have resisted the usual interpretations that focus on the diverse cultural heritages of the Caribbean. Instead, they have deployed the geological topography of archipelago as a metaphor to suggest how art reveals continuities and shared experiences among the various island nations and places them at the center of their own identifying narratives.

The curators have devised four organizing categories to demonstrate these affinities: Perceptual Horizons, Conceptual Mappings, Landscape Ecologies, and Representational Acts. Cuban artists are well served by this critical lens. Significantly, this curatorial rubric allows for a wide range of artistic practices, media, and visual languages from pictorial to abstract.

Of the 85 artists in the exhibition, 20 are identified as Cuban—among them, Quisqueya Henríquez, Carlos Martiel, Samir Bernardez, María Magdalena Campos-Pons, Glenda León, María Martínez-Cañas (with Kim Brown), Lilian Garcia-Roig, Guerra de la Paz, and Guillermo Calzadilla (in partnership with Jennifer Allora).

Representing curatorial concerns in “Perceptual Horizons,” Yoan Capote’s Isla (la noche), 2011–12, references the ominous night sea, expansive horizon, and ecological dependence on the ocean. The ostensible painting combines, oil, nails, and fishhooks on jute in a tour-de-force of assemblage. It is simultaneously an illusionistic rendering and an emotional expression of what it feels like to be caught and bound by the vastness of the ocean.

In several works rendered through more traditional media, the horizon figures as a perceptual concept, suggesting a visual boundary or limit. In Jorge Luis Bradshaw’s series Horizonte, 2010, the usual experience of the horizon as a sharp, distinct line becomes blurred, literally. Rather than describing the seemingly endless vista where water and sky merge into infinity, the color-field inspired bluish-green hues and feathery washes in Bradshaw’s blurry acrylic on canvas invoke the claustrophobic feeling of being underwater.

There is an abundance of photography and video in the exhibition, which also often oscillates between the pictorial and abstraction. In Naufragios / The Sound of No Shore, 2015, Manuel Piña begins with a simple monochromatic video of the sea and sky, divided equally by the horizon line. He then manipulates the horizon, digitally folding and dividing the image into increasingly complex geometric patterns of air, water, and horizon as he transforms this natural boundary into a mesmerizing meditation. [. . .]

[Image above : Humberto Díaz, Déja Vu, 2008. Courtesy MOLAA.]

For full article, see http://www.cubanartnews.org/news/relational-undercurrents-comes-to-new-york/6885

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