At the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago, a Moving Investigation of Art from the Caribbean Diaspora

[Many thanks to Michael O’Neal (Society for Caribbean Studies) for bringing this item to our attention.] Cassandra Pintro (Vogue) writes about “Forecast Form: Art in the Caribbean Diaspora, 1990s–Today,” curated by Carla Acevedo-Yates, the Marilyn and Larry Fields curator at the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago. The exhibition is on view until April 13, 2023.

How do we represent the Caribbean? According to Carla Acevedo-Yates, the Marilyn and Larry Fields curator at the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago, you can’t. This month, Acevedo-Yates—who is of Puerto Rican descent—welcomed guests to a highly anticipated first look at her new exhibition, “Forecast Form: Art in the Caribbean Diaspora, 1990s–Today.” Its curation follows the idea of weather, in all its iterations, as a driving mechanism for Caribbean storytelling. 

For Acevedo-Yates, the 1990s represented a time of significant social expansion and political impact that would give Caribbean voices a more global reach than ever before. Many exhibitions at the time attempted to showcase the islands in all of their glory and strife, but that seemed an impossible task to Acevedo-Yates, who describes her own show as “totally subjective.” “I was thinking a lot about the weather after Hurricane Maria; all the histories of pillage and colonialism came to light so much more because of the environmental destruction that happened there,” she explains. “So this show comes from a history of seeing exhibitions, a lot of conversations with artists over the past 10 years, but also the histories of ecological and environmental destruction.”

The exhibition gathers the works of 37 artists and features five new commissions. One sign that meets visitors upon entry is the work of Bahamian artist Tavares Strachan, a 10-foot neon structure that reads “In Broad Daylight,” a poignant nod to everyday violence that all too often takes place right under our noses. Meanwhile, a vast number of silk screen prints by Álvaro Barrios—red on one side and blue on the other (a visual that only becomes clear by trekking to the opposite side of the space)—hang above the room, where the walls divide, representing the complicated history of territory and ideas of colonial ownership. 

Spanning sculptures, paintings, poems, and sounds, “Forecast Form” makes a convincing case for the difficulty of attempting to represent the Caribbean in its entirety. While some artworks require you to lean in for a closer look, others could only be fully surveyed from afar. Among the large-scale works was La Coronación de La Negrita, a 60-part digital print commission by Marton Robinson. Here, Robinson considers Blackness and racism within the Caribbean—specifically Costa Rica, where the artist is from. As the devastating deportations of Haitians living in the Dominican Republic rise, the thoughtful provocation of artists like Robinson becomes more imperative. 

As a means of interrogating themes of identity and belonging, many of the artists reflected stories of self. Deborah Jack, Joscelyn Gardner, Maria Magdalena Campos-Pons, and Alia Farid are all women whose works can be described as both deeply personal and extraordinarily communal: Campos-Pons’s Sugar/Bittersweet sculpture of Yoruba spears and varying sugar structures dissects the violence of labor forced on enslaved Black bodies and later Chinese plantation workers in Cuba, the artist’s birthplace, while Farid, a Puerto Rican-Kuwaiti artist living between San Juan and Kuwait, examines the connections between the Middle East and the Caribbean through her tapestry work and research.  [. . .]

As a means of interrogating themes of identity and belonging, many of the artists reflected stories of self. Deborah Jack, Joscelyn Gardner, Maria Magdalena Campos-Pons, and Alia Farid are all women whose works can be described as both deeply personal and extraordinarily communal: Campos-Pons’s Sugar/Bittersweet sculpture of Yoruba spears and varying sugar structures dissects the violence of labor forced on enslaved Black bodies and later Chinese plantation workers in Cuba, the artist’s birthplace, while Farid, a Puerto Rican-Kuwaiti artist living between San Juan and Kuwait, examines the connections between the Middle East and the Caribbean through her tapestry work and research.  

“The Caribbean is a very transcultural place,” Acevedo-Yates notes. “Let’s acknowledge all of these thinkers coming from a particular historical experience that is this very complex and that you can’t put a border on.” What the exhibition does well is invite an open dialogue: Acevedo-Yates and the 37 artists cast light on the intricacies of the Caribbean in a way that is both imaginative and literal. [. . .]

Read full article at https://www.vogue.com/article/museum-of-contemporary-art-chicago-art-from-the-caribbean-diaspora

[Photo above by Michael David Rose: Deborah Jack, the fecund, the lush and the salted land waits for a harvest . . . her people . . . ripe with promise, wait until the next blowing season, 2022. Seven-channel HD video projection with sound and vinyl; display dimensions variable.]

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