“Dust Specks on the Sea: Sculpture from the French Caribbean and Haiti” at the Little Haiti Cultural Complex; 212-260 NE 59th Terr., Miami; littlehaiticulturalcenter.com. Through April 25.
Exhibiting artists: 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, Yoan Sorin
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.
The exhibition is curated by Arden Sherman
Assistant Curator is Katie Hood Morgan
Support for the exhibition is generously provided by the Cultural Services of the French Embassy in the United States and Hunter College. Additional support provided by the Directions of Cultural Affairs of Martinique and of Guadeloupe.
2020 EXHIBITION TOUR:
+ Little Haiti Cultural Center, Miami, FL: March 7 – April 25, 2020
+ 516 Arts, Albuquerque, NM: June 6 – August 29, 2020
+ Laband Art Gallery, Loyola Marymount University (LMU), Los Angeles, CA: September 26 – December 12, 2020