The blog of the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation

May 31, 2011

Grounded art of the uprooted

Posted by Anne Tschida

There could be no better name for an exhibit taking place in Miami than "Uprooted/Transmigrations," which just went up at Pan American Art Projects. There also might not be a better opportunity to see some of the most important current artists from the Caribbean under one roof at one time outside of a museum this summer.

Of course, great migrations are not unique to Miami or the Americas. And yet, there is a poignancy and power to certain movements and habitat upheavals that resonates here on our end of the peninsula. The numerous works in this show will have some relevance or relationship to almost everyone who sees them. There are, for instance, numerous references to boats; two of Miami's largest communities know this path of migration well — that treacherous journey across hostile waters from the islands of Haiti and Cuba brought so many of us here. Cuban artist KCHO crafted a kayak, "Objetos Peligrosos," with spikes sprouting out from the seat; he also painted a somber-toned life-preserver ring with oars. Cuban-American artist Luis Cruz Azaceta painted a tub with people rowing boats in it and sharks fins hovering called "Basin: Hell Act II." Other pieces are not so obvious, such as the one from Cuban collective Los Carpinteros, who built a model of Havana's city grid on a pair of flip-flops — another form of transmigrations, walking — called "Mapa de la Habana." The sometimes-controversial performance artist Tania Bruguera's flag of Cuba is made from human hair.

Those are just the Cubans. There is a beautiful, sad painting from Haitian Miami resident Edouard Duval-Carrié, a ribbon-wrapped tree with low-hanging "fruit" (they are hearts), its roots visible and unable to cling on. It's called "Autel De L'\Arbre Deracine," (The Rootless Tree). Jamaica's David Boxer, who often references the English colonial roots of his island, has a piece called "Queen Victoria se we free," and another dark oil on canvas simply called "Passage." The second is a not unsubtle allusion to one of the most terrible of all migrations in history, the Atlantic slave trade.

Not all the works carry as much weight, but there is enough here to warrant a second visit for sure. It's curated by Abelardo Mena, curator of international art at the Museo de Bellas Artes in Havana — adding yet another fascinating layer to this exhibit.

"Uprooted/Transmigrations" runs through July 30 at Pan American Projects, 2450 N.W. Second Ave., Wynwood;


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