A new, interactive, and multimedia exhibition titled “Relational Undercurrents: Contemporary Art of the Caribbean Archipelago” opens Saturday at the Delaware Art Museum. It is the last stop on a tour that has taken it from Los Angeles to New York and from Miami to Portland, Maine.
The exhibition runs through September 8. It presents 21st century art by more than 50 artists with roots in Haiti, the Dominican Republic, Cuba, Puerto Rico, Curacao, Aruba, St. Maarten, St. Martin, Martinique, Guadeloupe, Trinidad, Jamaica, The Bahamas, Barbados and St. Vincent.
The work features varying types of media, including painting, sculpture, photography, video, performance and installation. The exhibition was organized by the Museum of Latin American Art in Long Beach, California for the Getty Foundation’s PST: LA/LA Initiative. The curator, Tatiana Flores, is an associate professor of Art History and Latino and Caribbean Studies at Rutgers University.
“Relational Undercurrents” is an attempt by Flores and collaborator Michelle A. Stephens to highlight the connections among the different experiences in the Caribbean. By bringing together artists from various backgrounds, the exhibition seeks to show the Caribbean as a shared experience, while acknowledging the diversity of the region.
“The curator wanted to take the opportunity to identify some thematic consistencies that are found in this region of great diversity and how they are seen in the visual arts,” said Margaret Winslow, the museum’s curator of contemporary art.
“Relational Undercurrents” is built around four thematic concepts. The first, “Conceptual Mappings”, re-imagines the region’s established boundaries through works like Karlo Andrei Ibarra’s “Memoria colectiva II/”Collective Memory II” which provides globe chalk boards on which visitors can challenge accepted geographical organizations of the regions with subjective arrangements of their choosing.
Similarly, the works in the section “Landscape Ecologies” challenges the view of the Caribbean as an idyllic paradise in favor of a fragile ecosystem that finds itself threatened in the age of climate change.
“Perpetual Horizons” demonstrates the limitations and potential of the horizon as a metaphor in Caribbean art. Drawing on the experience of Cuba, Fermin Ceballos illustrates the restricting aspect of the horizon in “Aislamiento/Isolation,” a photographic documentation of his August 2007 performance in which he walled himself inside a structure on a rock formation off the cost of Santo Domingo,then hammered to the outside at daybreak swimming back to the coast.
“Representation Acts,” the final section, gives Caribbean artists the opportunity to represent themselves and comment on their place in the world. In “Presente, presente, presente”/”Present, Present, Present,” a four-channel video by artist Sofia Gallisa Muriente documents the practice of “exotic funerals” in Puerto Rico where the deceased are posed according to favorite hobbies or interests, making statements as to how these individuals are to be remembered.
Winslow notes that the texts explaining the themes and art will be available in Haitian/Creole on the recommendation of the museum’s advisory board, in addition to the English and Spanish versions provided by the organizing venue.
The museum will host an African & Caribbean Festival in the Copeland Sculpture Garden on Saturday, August 3. The free event will feature music, food and a tour of the exhibition.
The exhibition will also be accompanied by a series of artist lectures and multidisciplinary performances. “We’ve chosen three contrasting examples of what contemporary artists of Caribbean heritage are creating today,” said Jonathan Whitney, manager of performance programs & community engagement. “A Puerto Rican plena and bomba ensemble, a Haitian flutist and composer presenting folk songs arranged for a string quartet and a contemporary dance choreographer from Trinidad.”
“Relational Undercurrents: Contemporary Art of the Caribbean Archipelago” is on display at the Delaware Art Museum, 2301 Kentmere Parkway, Wilmington, Del., 19806; June 22 through September 8, 2019. For more information about the exhibition and related events, visit www.delart.org or call 302-571-9590 or 866-232-3714.