NEW YORK, June 24, CMC – Three New York City museums have unveiled what has been described as a “massive wave” of Caribbean art, in Harlem and Queens.
El Museo del Barrio in Harlem, The Studio Museum in Harlem, and the Queens Museum of Art have collaborated in staging “Caribbean: Crossroads of the World” – set to be the major art event this summer in New York.
About 500 paintings, sculptures, drawings, photographs, and multimedia projects by over 350 artists have been included in a survey of the art of the Caribbean and its Diaspora from the dawn of the Haitian Revolution in 1791 to present day.
“Embracing it all was a huge challenge,” said Tom Finkelpearl, the Executive Director of the Queens Museum of Art, adding that the “eclectic nature” of the exhibition reflects the nature of where these works come from.
Elvis Fuentes, the curator of special projects at El Museo and a Cuban native, said making people aware of that diversity is one of this exhibit’s central goals.
“I think it is important that we look to the Caribbean in a more complex way, not just you know ‘palm trees and rum and coconuts,’ things like that,” he said.
“So many of the political, economic and historical events throughout Europe, the Americas, even Asia, somehow impacted the region,” he said.
The exhibit is split into six themes, with each museum hosting two of them.
El Museo hosts the themes “Counterpoints” and “Patriot Acts,” which deal with economics and the cultural identity, respectively.
At the Queens Museum of Art, “Fluid Motions” explores water and its impact on the region, and “Kingdoms of This World” takes on the many subdivisions of race and religion in the Caribbean.
The Studio Museum hosts “Shades of History,” an examination of race, and “Land of the Outlaw” deals with the Caribbean’s reputation as a haven for illicit activity.
At Harlem’s El Museo, the famous portrait of Nevis’ native son, Alexander Hamilton, by John Trumbull, which served as the basis of Hamilton’s image on the ten-dollar bill, hangs one room away from a swirling abstract oil painting by Aruban artist Toton Quandt.
“We didn’t want to have, you know, all the historical things, then the more modern and contemporary things, like that,” said Fuentes. ”So, we really decided to focus on themes that somehow were also responsive to the mission of each institution.”
He said the Caribbean is an example of the triumph of multiculturalism, hoping that, with the wave of anti-immigrant fervour running through the United States and much of Europe, the exhibits would remind New Yorkers that Caribbean people and Americans share a common endeavour, “the quest to form a diverse yet cohesive society from disparate elements.
“We are all on this side of the world,” Fuentes said. “We are trying a new world, because, obviously, what was done there, it was not totally successful. And we are trying to do things better.”
The El Museo and Queens Museum exhibits are open until January 6, 2013, while the Studio Museum of Harlem exhibit closes October 21.