Historic Currents: Exhibit aims to overturn colonial bias with works from the Caribbean - Albuquerque Journal

Historic Currents: Exhibit aims to overturn colonial bias with works from the Caribbean

“Key Escape,” Ronald Cyrille (aka B. Bird), 2018, mixed-media, 32.5 x 8 x 14 inches. (Guadeloupe)

In 1964, French President Charles de Gaulle visited Martinique, Guadeloupe and French Guiana on official state business.

While he flew over the Caribbean, he described the islands as “dust specks on the sea.”

The quote illustrates both an otherwordly aerial view and a deep-seated hierarchical perspective of the region stemming from French colonization.

Open at 516 ARTS, “Dust Specks on the Sea: Contemporary Sculpture from the French Caribbean & Haiti” aims to overturn that colonial bias with 27 works from the Caribbean archipelago.

“Bananas Deluxe,” Jean-Marc Hunt, 2013/2018, bananas, metal frame, (Guadeloupe) (Courtesy of 516 Arts)

“It’s very under recognized, even in the world landscape,” curator Arden Sherman, director of the Hunter East Harlem Gallery at Hunter College, New York. “These are citizens of France, they use Euros there, everybody speaks French.”

This isn’t folk art. Many of the artists studied at French universities, she added.

The French Caribbean includes the of two islands – Guadeloupe and Martinique – and the state of French Guiana. Haiti shares the island of Hispaniola with the Dominican Republic. In 1804, after more than a decade of slave-driven rebellion, Haiti gained independence.

These historic currents ripple throughout the exhibit.

“There’s like this feeling of calm, of place-making in almost every work,” Sherman said, “whether it’s very apparent or abstract.

“Who’s The Fool? How To Patch A Leaky Roof, (Kay Koule Twonpe Soley, Men Li Pa Twonpe Lapli),” Michelle Lisa Polissaint & Najja Moon, 2018, Community Art Project

Guadeloupe’s Ronald Cyrille’s (aka B. Bird) “Key Escape” (2018) is a mixed-media piece featuring a boat with cartoonish waving hands sporting hot pink nails. Run aground on Guadeloupean sand, green moss-like material fills the craft’s interior, affirming its uselessness as a vessel. The work and its title recall the transatlantic slave trade.

Merchants kidnapped millions of Africans, forcing them to the Caribbean and elsewhere, where they were enslaved on British and French plantations.

Julie Bessard’s “The Wings” could represent a bird or an angel. The shadow on the wall behind it dances in a contrast between darkness and light.

“There’s definitely the feeling of flying away or leaving,” Sherman said. “Her work is very gestural and colorful.”

Made of industrial material, when lit by a spotlight, it reflects and redirects light, casting a shadowy presence. For Bessard, wings are a symbol of rebirth.

“The Wings,” Julie Bessard, 2008, straw, staples and copper, 59 x 28.75 x 11 inches. (Martinique)

Jean-Marc Hunt’s “Bananas Deluxe” (2013-2018) is a chandelier dangling bananas instead of crystals.

“The real bananas are meant to rot during the course of the show,” Sherman said.

The piece references the 1939 Billie Holiday anti-lynching yowl “Strange Fruit,” as well as the skirt Josephine Baker wore when she was a 1927 Paris sensation at the height of French colonialism.

Viewers may also read the bananas as symbols of lust, the wealth of imperialism, and the vanity that grew out of Caribbean exoticism in postcolonial conditions.

“Ogu Feraille,” Edouard Duval-Carrié, 2015, (Ogou scrap), tinted fiberglass, 50 x 20 inches.

Edouard Duval-Carrié’s tinted fiberglass “Ogu Feraille” (2015) speaks to the complexities of the Caribbean diaspora with a focus on Miami’s Haitian community.

“That is the head of one of the Haitian gods; the god of steel and war,” Sherman said. “The Haitian artists tend to give tribute to their culture. (The piece) is really big and it glows really bright.”

Colonialism is a common thread running throughout the exhibit.

“It’s undeniable,” Sherman said. “All of these artists are of color and they’re all descendants of a very complicated history.”

Home » Entertainment » Arts » Historic Currents: Exhibit aims to overturn colonial bias with works from the Caribbean

Insert Question Legislature form in Legis only stories

Albuquerque Journal and its reporters are committed to telling the stories of our community.

• Do you have a question you want someone to try to answer for you? Do you have a bright spot you want to share?
   We want to hear from you. Please email yourstory@abqjournal.com

taboola desktop

ABQjournal can get you answers in all pages


Questions about the Legislature?
Albuquerque Journal can get you answers
Email addresses are used solely for verification and to speed the verification process for repeat questioners.
‘The Misfits’ a collection of 15 short stories and ...
ABQnews Seeker
The first story, “Walk the Ice,” ... The first story, “Walk the Ice,” reveals the book’s narrator as a screenwriter in Los Angeles. After five years, he’s suffering from a disconnection ...
MasterWorks of New Mexico show hits 25 years of ...
ABQnews Seeker
The annual show runs through April ... The annual show runs through April 16, at Expo New Mexico's Hispanic Arts Gallery, 300 San Pedro Dr. NE.
There are several resources for finding the best tree ...
ABQnews Seeker
In "Down to Earth: A Gardener's ... In "Down to Earth: A Gardener's Guide to the Albuquerque Area" written by the Albuquerque Area Extension Master Gardeners, there is a very informative ...
The Gallery ABQ presents its April salon show "Perspectives" ...
Meyer Gallery, 225 Canyon Road, Santa ... Meyer Gallery, 225 Canyon Road, Santa Fe, is showing "Ken Daggett: Evolutions of the Day" from May 12-25.
New Mexico Gay Men's Chorus takes on the legacy ...
ABQnews Seeker
'The Show Must Go On' will ... 'The Show Must Go On' will open on Friday, March 31, at Santa Fe's Lensic Performing Arts Center, and on Saturday, April 1, and ...
Ragamala Dance Company to perform 'Sacred Earth' at the ...
ABQnews Seeker
The Ragamala Dance Company will perform ... The Ragamala Dance Company will perform "Sacred Earth" at 4 p.m. Sunday, April 2, in the Lensic Performing Arts Center, 211 W. San Francisco ...
New Mexico Museum of Art has new curatorial leader
ABQnews Seeker
The New Mexico Museum of Art ... The New Mexico Museum of Art has named Christian Waguespack as its new head of curatorial affairs.
Chatter to premiere new pieces
ABQnews Seeker
Composer Christopher Cerrone's work was co-commissioned ... Composer Christopher Cerrone's work was co-commissioned by four ensembles.
'With the Grain' explores the modern and contemporary works ...
ABQnews Seeker
These artists used the simplest of ... These artists used the simplest of tools - chisels, hammers and sandpaper - pairing them with local wood, including cedar, aspen, mesquite and cottonwood.