Caribbean: Crossroads of the World
November 2012 Culture Spot
by Annie Bergen, 10/31/2012
The Caribbean is a region rich in diversity and cross-cultural exchange, composed of countries like Cuba, Haiti, Puerto Rico, Jamaica and the Bahamas. It has been a crucible of political shifts—colonial powers sought out the area's natural resources beginning in the 16th century, ruling the countries there until they gained independence by the 1900s. The countries also have a long tradition of influential art, which is demonstrated in an exhibition that examines the history and global impact of the region through its visual arts. The first-ever show of its kind, the extensive Caribbean: Crossroads of the World was 10 years in the making and organized by El Museo del Barrio with the Queens Museum of Art and The Studio Museum in Harlem. (The presentation at The Studio Museum in Harlem finished its run on October 21; the showcases at El Museo del Barrio and the Queens Museum of Art will be open through January 6, 2013.) In celebration of the exhibition, NYC & Company has named El Museo del Barrio and the Queens Museum of Art as its Culture Spots for November. All month long, visitors can receive up to four free passes to Caribbean: Crossroads of the World when they say, "Take me to the Caribbean" or present the discount coupon at the admission desk of El Museo del Barrio or the Queens Museum of Art.
At El Museo del Barrio, the show examines themes relating to commerce and identity, explaining how sugar plantations, the oil industry, tourism and dreams of nationhood shaped the region and its artists. Early drawings crafted by visiting Europeans documenting native islanders are included in the exhibition, as are colorful folk-art landscapes created by local artists. The development of a unique artistic language takes form in the riveting painting by Arnaldo Roche-Rabell We Have to Dream in Blue, from 1986, depicting the artist's vision of a blue-eyed Maroon slave, who stares at the viewer, his face covered with a mat of grass and thorns. Juxtaposed with these are Impressionist works by Camille Pissarro and Paul Gauguin, a painting by the late Brooklyn-born artist Jean-Michel Basquiat (whose roots are Haitian and Puerto Rican) and a recent car-tire sculpture by Curaçao's Yubi Kirindongo.
The Caribbean's cultural complexity and the area's relationship to its surrounding waters are themes explored at the Queens Museum of Art. Images of fishermen and mermaids reveal a region dependent on the sea for sustenance, wealth and mythology. Other works illustrate the effects of political upheaval, hurricanes and the cultural transformation that occurred when populations, natural resources and ideologies were in constant flux. The show makes clear how the resulting multiculturalism took expressive form in the religion, music and dance of the area and especially in the festive carnival celebration. Highlights of this part of the collection include Spirit of the Carnival, a work by Dominica-based artist Tam Joseph, showing a provocative image of a masquerader surrounded by police, and a hanging sculpture by Charles Juhasz-Alvarado. The piece, titled Vanishing Point: Multiple for Assembly, is a 12-foot-long wooden airplane with carved termites as engines—the insects serving to symbolize both power and destruction.
The savings on admission to Caribbean: Crossroads of the World is valid November 1–30, 2012. To take advantage of this limited-time offer, say, "Take me to the Caribbean" or present the discount coupon at the admission desk of El Museo del Barrio or the Queens Museum of Art. Download the coupon via the link above; the coupon will also be available through November at the Official NYC Information Centers in Midtown, Harlem and the Times Square Alliance and at the Official NYC Information Kiosks in Chinatown and at City Hall. The savings is subject to availability and may not be combined with any other offer, discount or promotion. Other restrictions may apply.
For even more highlights from the exhibition, listen to the Culture Spot podcast below, or download the MP3 here (by right-clicking the link and selecting "Save Link As…").