A survey at the MCA Chicago uses the metaphor of weather and wields movement as a critical, mercurial strategy
A review by Alexandra Drexelius for Hyperallergic.
Forecast Form: Art in the Caribbean Diaspora, 1990s–Today begins with an exchange between a video and object. Zilia Sánchez’s video, “encuentrismo—ofrenda o retorno (encounter—offering or return)” (2000), records an object caught in the lash of ocean tides. The understated form’s rectangular base, culminating in a black-and-white peak, resembles an island. Gingerly fed into the water by the artist, it struggles to stay afloat as it advances and recedes. In front of the monitor, the video’s inanimate protagonist lays upon a plinth. Titled “Soy Isla (I Am an Island)” (c. 2000), the acrylic on canvas construction shows signs of wear, its collapsed summit sags to one side. The interplay of these works — one static, one dynamic — underscores how conditions are subject to change. An island at rest may stay at rest but has potential to be thrust into motion.
Exhibiting works made between 1963 to 2022 by 37 artists, the survey differentiates itself from past attempts to situate artists of the Caribbean diaspora. While summoning the temporal context of the 1990s and the metaphorical motif of weather as points of departure, the exhibition’s crux relies on a wide-ranging evaluation of movement. Rather than focus on a temporal, geographic, or formal area of reciprocity, the show wields movement as a critical, mercurial strategy to generate a graciously unfixed view of creative identities and practices. In turn, the survey disrupts a fraught lineage of exhibition-making, which has universalized, othered, and reenacted the conditions of exploitation, subjugation, and stereotyping pervasive in histories of the Caribbean.
In some scenarios, movement is conditional in the work’s installation and reception. Viewed from the exhibition entrance, Álvaro Barrios’s installation “El Mar de Cristóbal Colón” (1971/2022) comprises blue paper sheets suspended above the museum’s central atrium; weightless, they resemble a crisp, azure sky. Halfway through the exhibition, visitors encounter the work from the other side: a caustic red hue supplants the blue pigment on the reverse, embodying overlooked, violent legacies of colonialism. In the absence of a synchronous view of both sides, visitors must negotiate the opposing viewings through movement around the installation.
The curators make moves too. Rather than group Ana Mendieta’s Silueta Series (1973–1977) together, the prints are dispersed throughout the survey, mimicking the ghostly traces of the artist’s body impressed across various terrains.
In other instances, movement is a condition of the work’s mode of production. Three Donna Conlon and Jonathan Harker videos, produced between 2013 and 2017, document objects on distinct trajectories: a bottle floating down a shallow creek; a mango rolling over zinc sheets; and a sequence of bricks toppling one another. The works talk over one another, embracing the jagged rhythm of things not quite lining up. It’s a lively gesture that takes a cue from Felix Gonzalez-Torres’s installation instructions for “Untitled (North)” (1993) on view elsewhere in the exhibition: “Play with it, please. Have fun. Give yourself that freedom.” Forecast Form moves liberally, finding focus in its willingness to let things go another way.
Forecast Form: Art in the Caribbean Diaspora, 1990s–Today continues at the MCA Chicago (220 E Chicago Ave, Chicago) through April 23. The exhibiton was curated by Carla Acevedo-Yates, with Iris Colburn, Isabel Casso, and Nolan Jimbo.