The Repeating Island / Contemporary Art of the Caribbean curated by Roxana M. Bermejo
as part of MIAMI ART WEEK
OPENING: Friday, Nov 29, 2019
Kendall Art Center in collaboration with Presencia Projects, The Mestre Family Collection and The Rodríguez Collection presents, “The Repeating Island: Contemporary Art of the Caribbean”. Curated by Roxana M. Bermejo, the exhibition examines particular artistic practices in Cuba, Dominican Republic and Puerto Rico. For this edition of Miami Art Week 2019, Presencia arrives at Kendall Art Center with more comprehensive projects that explore contemporary Insular Caribbean Hispanic art, either produced on the islands, or in diaspora. “The Repeating Island” demonstrates the rich and diverse cultures of the Hispanic Caribbean Islands with works by, Henry Ballate, José Bedia, Toni Capellán, Miguel Conesa-Osuna, Antonio Cortés, Bladimir Díaz, Pedro Ávila, José Tomás Ares Germán, Antonio Guadalupe, Ivonne Ferrer, Moises Fragela, Clara Ledesma, Edwin Maurás, Edwin Maurás Jr, Abdías Méndez, Manuel Mendive, Hiram Montalvo, José Félix Moya, Ramón Oviedo, José Perdomo, Aimee Perez, Ciro Quintana, Naimar Ramírez, Lisyanet Rodriguez, Annie Y. Saldana, Irene Sierra, Reynerio Tamayo, Rosa Tavarez, José Torres and Rubén Torres-Llorca.
Special Presentation: Aimée Joaristi “MANIFIESTO PÚBICO MP” Introduced by Andrés Isaac Santana, MP is presented as a collective act executed by women who intervene in the city marking a static territory, structural axis of society.
Live Music: NEGRONI’S TRIO
Three-time Grammy nominees and Sony Music Latin artists…The Negroni’s Trio is an intimate ensemble that performs on stages throughout the world including many U.S. and international Jazz festivals as well as numerous key Jazz venues throughout the United States, Japan, Spain, Italy, South America, the Caribbean, Latin America.
Friday, Nov 29, 2019 6:00PM-11PM
The exhibition will continue until Jan 31, 2020
Allegories from a Bombay Suburb
It is with great enthusiasm that today Kendall Art Center opens its doors to the Caribbean; a Caribbean that has not been entirely absent in our halls, since the fragmentation as a reflection of itself, has already been presented through the exposure of Cuba and some masters from the area. However, up to date, those approaches have been nothing more than tangential gestures in which each figure acted from its individuality. Then, it happens to be the first time that those boundaries have been drawn back and been trying to delve into the artistic production of three of its most important islands: Cuba, Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic, the pearls of the Hispanic Caribbean.
”Caribe” is a concept carried and brought, questioned at the end of the road without clear delimitations: “Caribe” by the conflicting aborigines which has given its name, “Caribe” by the islands of the Great Kan, “Caribe” by the sea that so many centuries of glimpse has embraced, “Caribe” as Imperial Frontier, “Caribe” as Uteral Basin, “Caribe”... that only exist for economists, politicians and academics. So much to look at, so much where to toss, but in essence: What “Caribe” do we glimpse today in the show? Well, as its name “The Repeating Island” indicates, we will be reflecting a Caribbean behind the eyes of Antonio Benítez Rojo. This is a fragmented, chaotic Caribbean, exfoliated by the machinery of Columbus, titanic: A Caribbean united within the chaos that represents the lack of an identity with long branches, the absence of the subject who migrated in a canoe with the rush of arriving on a new land, more fertile, unburned, carrying with him only the necessary, a subject that produces not a monumental art in size, but in its content. That is the Caribbean that we look at today: a diasporic Caribbean, that after five centuries of swells, still on the edge of the boat, stripped of all fanfare and turning its head from the seaboard with nostalgia, sequestered – How not? for that sentiment of acute offing described by Lezama.
It is our idea, as we mentioned earlier, to present in Kendall Art Center artists from three Caribbean islands: The Primada Island, The Island of the Charm and The Biggest of the Antilles; three islands with a common past of colonization by population, with a common language and a common crossbreeding, to analyze if this confluence is also evident in the contemporary artistic speeches, in the same way that has been able to verify in the relatively short art history we are telling. Great names have been born in this framework of representation, such as Francisco Oller, Ramón Frade, Luis Desangles, Celeste Woss y Gil, Armando Menocal and Wifredo Lam, just to name a few specific examples. All of them, trying to talk about their own problems, their own piece of land, ended up connected in that image of an island that is repeated over and over again.
During my years as an Art History student at the University of Havana, I always manifested great interest in the subject of Caribbean Art, not only because the artistic product that I observed showed me a direct affiliation with its political, economic and social environment, but also because this was, in principle, the art that could be felt by the hand, the one that surrounded me, the one that I could understand and explain by my own life experience. Let’s say that the self-recognition helped me realize that the Caribbean Art was presented to me as a systematized set of efforts. This difficult task, headed by Dr. Yolanda Wood, to embrace in the cutting course of three semesters the very varied projection of something, that for not being a compact and firm block of land or border, but a bunch of islands floating on a warm sea, almost intentionally blurring the possible resonances of a common past, the possible delineating taxonomies to understand where, when and how we looked at what we are today, if we are, as a collective.
Facing this scenario, it is perhaps dichotomous to draw an analysis of the Caribbean that represents our matrix, from the outside and mostly from the United States, a country so mixed out of affection or antipathy to each of the islands in question. Nevertheless, at this point, we know that certain distance is sometimes necessary, relevant, and above all, a magnificent tool to capture the whole concept of island. That notion of infinitude that loses our gaze and that becomes akin to all of us, those who were born with our feet in the sea and the salty air in our cheeks. The island represents a fence and an exit as well, a possibility and a boundary. Not taking into consideration this binary relationship results in, at the very least, an aberration. Not knowing that the water is there to flow with it, means to give up to the memory of our first settlers, climbing the islands, and the blunt fact of Columbus’ three skulls ships and the slave ships, merging into our DNAs. The Caribbean is, summarized, an influx zone, where water represents the main channel of entry and exit for our identity. It does not demerit the distance taken, when the analysis is carried out from referential perspectives, perspectives of self-recognition, fundamental links in the process of territorializing of our collective imaginary. The Caribbean is a space of overlapping, even when in reality we do not know if it is an area, a concept or a feeling, because in each of its attempts to comprehend, it goes with the experience of each entity that conforms it, from the same fragmentation that each one of us represent within its whole. Every man, as our Virgilio would say, “goes eating fragments of the island”. And the island, as Benítez Rojo would say, repeats over and over again as well in Miami, Santo Domingo, Havana, San Juan or in a Bombay Suburb.
This of taking distance in order to understand us better, reminds me an exercise that I practiced with my students during the Caribbean Art course, at the Faculty of Arts and Letters of the UH. In that occasion, I asked the guys (as to date professionals), to try to explain what the Caribbean meant to them, through an image, a song, a poem. That class was their first encounter with the subject, so I was trying to take advantage of their virgin minds to see how deep the Caribbean concept permeates their day to day life. From all of the answers received, the one I keep with most affection in my memory turned out to be from a student that had taken a picture of her glasses. She, like me, needed to wear her glasses permanently so she could perform the activities of her daily life. I liked that metaphor, that 19-year-old adolescent taught me that the Caribbean goes in us as an addition, only through which we can understand what surrounds us and recognize who we are, with all the impurities and defects that we carry. At the same time, the photograph of separate, isolated glasses, from a distance, called into question the love-hate relationship that makes us want to walk away and at the same time need to forcefully miss what we, without wanting it, is an inalienable part of who we are, describes us and, after all, defines us.
It is, then, for this momentum of self-reference, that each room of our exhibition navigates undifferentiated by referents of the Hispanic Caribbean, without making distinction for countries or trends, so that each of us is portrayed by the hands of an artist who may or may not be from our land, without the prejudices that a small homeland can implant us. This is, without a doubt, a sample for the spectator, where the art work is used as a reference resource, that each piece is worth as a pretext to read within ourselves, in order to understand the confluences, tributaries and the coastlines that each work encloses and transmits as a small island in itself. Titles such as “Cemí”, “Mitos del Caribe”, “Emigrantes Caribeños”, “Ilusión Tropical”, “Isla de los Muertos”, “La Historia del Tabaco”, “Hijos del Agua”, “El Mundo Mágico” and “Chango”, are present in this tour of contemporary production of the Hispanic Caribbean where we were born. Signings that inundate, such as José Bedia, Tony Capellán, Miguel Conesa-Osuna, Clara Ledesma, Edwin Maurás and Manuel Mendive mix in their art works frizzy and smooth sounds, “Aruacas”, Spanish, and African phonetics in order to reach a common language, neither forgotten nor dead, capable to call us by our name, when the table is served and Mom expects us to come home.
Roxana M. Bermejo