Relational Undercurrents: Contemporary Art of the Caribbean Archipelago, curated by Tatiana Flores, Museum of Latin American Art, a component of Pacific Standard Time: LA/LA, by James Scarborough
There’s a rhythm to the show, a vibe. It stays with you long after you leave the Museum. Makes sense, doesn’t it? The Caribbean – you think of West Side Story and reggae, merengue and bachata, mambo and calypso. Makes you want to dance through the galleries or at least lilt as you read aloud the wall panels and labels. This rhythm carries you through the tropical installation, through the thematic groupings - Conceptual Mappings. Perpetual Horizons; Landscape Ecologies; and Representational Acts – to some standout work.
WHAT'S IT ABOUT? This 80+ artist exhibition provides intellectual vigor and context to 21st century Caribbean painting, installation art, sculpture, photography, video, and performance. It includes work from or otherwise connected to Haiti, the Dominican Republic, Cuba, Puerto Rico, Curaçao, Aruba, St. Maarten, St. Martin, Martinique, Guadeloupe, Trinidad, Jamaica, the Bahamas, Barbados, and St. Vincent. It conceives of these Caribbean countries as an archipelago, mapping what their art has in common at the same time that it pays heed to indigenous traditions. The show culminates in four thematic climates - Conceptual Mappings. Perpetual Horizons; Landscape Ecologies; and Representational Acts.
WHY DOES IT MATTER? The exhibition shows to great effect the global nature of art (the relational undercurrents of the show's title). It reminds us that Latin American art does not just consist of mainland art. It confirms, one way or another, even if it’s not apparent, how artists reflect their heritage. Finally, the exhibition offers intellectual flexibility and substance, historical context and the chance for individual works to glisten by the light of day.
WHAT IF I JUST HAD 20 MINUTES? Once you understand how banyan trees grow from seeds that land on other trees and, over time, germinate and strangle their host, you'll better appreciate the incisive commentary of Lilian Garcia-Roig’s Fluid Perceptions: Banyan as Metaphor, 2016.
Kishan Munroe’s The Sinking of the HMBS Flamingo, 2014 recounts the 1980 story of a Bahamian patrol boat looking for poachers in the waters off its coast. After it captured two illegal Cuban fishing boats, the Cuban Air Force retaliated and killed 4 patrol boat crewmen. The piece's power comes from it's pink tone, reminiscent of both South American flamingos and blood blended with water, which reinforces the story’s brutality.
Fausto Ortiz’s photograph, The Door, 2013, shows a seascape bisected by a distant horizon line. The white frame of a door seems to provide access to whatever lies beyond the horizon line. A fractured white pier, though, denies access to whatever promise the door suggests.
In another piece about horizon lines, Janine Antoni’s video Touch, 2002, shows a woman as she tightrope walks across a wire that’s superimposed across a coastal horizon. Straddling different realities, she never has both feet on the ground.
WHO SHOULD SEE IT? Anyone who wants to marvel at a groundbreaking, ambitious, and well-conceived curatorial effort. Anyone with an interest in 21st century Caribbean art. Anyone who likes work that brims with character and pizazz, rhythm and curiosity.
THE VERDICT? Go! Dance your way through. Repeat.
HOW DO I VISIT? The exhibition runs until March 4th. Museum hours are Wednesday, Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, 11:00 a.m. - 5:00 p.m.; Thursday, 11:00 a.m. - 9:00 p.m. Admission is free on Thursday. The Museum is located at 628 Alamitos Avenue, Long Beach, CA. 90802. For more information, call (562) 437-1689 or visit here.
No. 25 Circa No Future, 2014.
Digital photograph, 22 1/2 x 30 in.
Courtesy of the artist
Mar invadido, 2015
Found objects from the Caribbean Sea, variable dimensions
Courtesy of the artist
Fausto Ortiz (Dominican Republic, b. 1970)
Fragments from the series Exodus, 2013
Digital photograph, 20 x 30 in.
Courtesy of the artist
Scherezade Garcia (Dominican Republic, b. 1966)
In My Floating World, Landscape of Paradise from the series
Theories on Freedom, 2011
Plastic tubes, prints, rubber and illustrations, variable dimensions
Courtesy of the artist and the Lyle O. Reitzel Gallery, New York
Janine Antoni (Bahamas, b. 1964)
Touch / Tacto, 2002
Video projection / proyección de vídeo, ed. 5 + 2 AP,
Courtesy of the artist and Luhring Augustine, New York / Cortesía del artista y Luhring Augustine, Nueva York