[Many thanks to AICA Caraïbe du Sud for bringing this item to our attention.] The exhibition “Dust Specks on the Sea: Contemporary Sculpture from the French Caribbean & Haiti”—curated by Arden Sherman with assistant curator Katie Hood Morgan—opened on November 7, 2018, and will remain on view until March 2, 2019, at the Hunter East Harlem Gallery. The gallery is located at the Silberman School of Social Work, Hunter College-CUNY (2180 3rd Avenue at 119th Street, New York).
The exhibiting artists are Mathieu Kleyebe Abonnenc, Julie Bessard, Hervé Beuze, Jean-François Boclé, Alex Burke, Vladimir Cybil Charlier, Gaëlle Choisne, Ronald Cyrille, Jean-Ulrick Désert, Kenny Dunkan, Edouard Duval-Carrié, Adler Guerrier, Jean-Marc Hunt, Fabiola Jean-Louis, Nathalie Leroy-Fiévée, Audry Liseron-Monfils, Louisa Marajo, Ricardo Ozier-Lafontaine, Jérémie Paul, Marielle Plaisir, Tabita Rezaire, and Yoan Sorin.
Description (Hunter East Harlem Gallery): In 1964, French President Charles de Gaulle visited Martinique, Guadeloupe, and French Guiana on official State business. Flying over the Caribbean Sea, de Gaulle described the islands as “dust specks on the sea.” His quote evokes an otherworldly aerial view of the Caribbean archipelago, while also revealing a deep-seated hierarchical perspective of the region, stemming from France’s history as a powerful colonizing force in the Caribbean. Challenging this colonial perception, Dust Specks on the Sea focuses on sculptural works by twenty-two artists from Guadeloupe, Martinique, French Guiana, & Haiti. It presents various approaches to subject matter, materials, and process that speak to contemporary practices by artists of this region, evincing their participation in a globalized artworld and putting pressure on notions of who is at its “center” and who is on its “periphery.”
The French Caribbean is made up of two islands—Guadeloupe and Martinique—and the state of French Guiana, which sits on the northeastern edge of South America. These Overseas Departments are officially governed by, and are politically, economically, and socially connected to, France. In the Greater Antilles, the nation of Haiti shares the island of Hispaniola with the Dominican Republic. In 1804, after over a decade of rebellion led by slaves, Haiti gained independence from France and forever changed the history of French sovereignty in the Caribbean.
In Dust Specks on the Sea, this history is undeniably present, but these artists are not bound to make artwork that didactically demonstrates the conditions of the region and its colonial trauma. Rather, they play all fields: expressing their personal relationships to heritage, navigating art-making in the globalized contemporary art world, and looking beyond their cultural background for inspiration and ideas. Their works are placed in close proximity and in direct conversation with one another, evoking a network of ideas amongst a mosaic of individual artistic approaches. The result is a space that is not completely Caribbean, not completely European, and not completely independent; the exhibition and its artworks live somewhere in the grey area between all three.
Our gallery is located in the New York City neighborhood of East Harlem, a place known for its Caribbean immigrants and its history as a home to displaced peoples, and yet the narrative of the French Caribbean is still little understood within this context. Additionally, HEHG is an institution dedicated to creating projects that build on the complicated circumstances of being a human in today’s world and bolstering the voices of creative people and thinkers. Through presenting a sculpture-based exhibition in a distinctive way, we hope to build a visual dialogue about how artwork can be one of the most powerful tools for personal and political expression.
For more information, see https://www.huntereastharlemgallery.org/dust-specks/