Oct 07, 2012 News
By Dr Glenville Ashby
Caribbean art has come of age. A slew of exhibits and media coverage in the last month have redefined the region and its unique artists. The art exhibit at the Brooklyn-based Museum of Contemporary African Diaspora Arts (MoCADA) was designed and promoted by CariBBeing – a packager, marketer and distributor of Caribbean art – under the artistic direction of curator Shelley Worrell.
In just two years, Worrell has kept the Caribbean artist visible and relevant, partnering with an assemblage of film festivals, animation companies, artists and directors. In this ruggedly competitive field, excellence as deemed by New York connoisseurs is hard to realise. But for the hundreds of guests at this September exhibit, Caribbean art was touted for its form, structure, colour, and definition.
One could only marvel at the quintessential moments of Caribbean carnival, captured through the prism of photographers Radcliff
Roye of Jamaica, and Ray Llanos of the Virgin Islands. Theirs is a work of complementary symmetry and pattern. Llanos’ venture – with an expansive, discursive array of scenes and emotions is instructional, almost pedantic – forming the substance of still documentary. Roy, on the other hand is revelatory with solid, self-contained compositions -snapshots of time and space. Here, colour – stark, acrylic, unbleached – so endemic to the soul of Carnival, is controlled but wildly compelling.
Roye, like his counterpart Llanos, sidesteps abstraction. Carnival, after all is pure realism, and both men are masterful in their portrayal. The exhibit – shredding any vestige of parochialism – visibly carried attendees through the evolution of the art form. Vintage portrayals are always emotive, nostalgic – the genesis of brilliance. Indeed, Carnival and the Caribbean artists are locked stepped with every other global expression – evolutionary, and never monolithic. Yes, a people, unified by shared historical and cultural experiences – but an artistic mosaic as diverse, imaginative and complex as the people. Political and social commentaries were ever present – zeroed in by the photographer. So too were tales and anthologies. This proved the awe-inspiring element of each artist on display that night.
A week later, CariBBeing’s joint venture with Queen Museum of Art, Studio Museum, and El Museo del Barrio, yielded, “Caribbean: Crossroads of the World,” which again captured the history of the Caribbean experience in a non-didactic style, albeit pedagogical in scope. Employing interactive technology, the Caribbean virtually came alive – featuring every nuance and subtlety of art – from Carnival characters to music.
New York Times recently opined that New York City is the most important Caribbean city in the world. The spate of art exhibits in the last month may just prove that.
Dr Glenville Ashby, literary critic – Caribbean Book Review
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