Caribbean Crossroads

caribbean crossroadsLatino and Caribbean art is largely ignored in most mainstream museums. El Museo del Barrio in East Harlem was founded in order to provide a venue that highlights these under-represented art forms. The curators of El Museo work to “collect, preserve, exhibit and interpret the art and artifacts of Caribbean and Latin American cultures for posterity.” They also provide educational opportunities for the community, expand knowledge of Latino and Caribbean art forms, and foster interest and passion in young community members.

El Museo del Barrio, along with Queens Museum of Art and The Studio Museum in Harlem, is featuring an exhibit entitled Caribbean: Crossroads of the World.  Displaying 500 pieces of art from over 400 years, the exhibit takes the viewer on a three-museum exploration of “…the diverse and impactful cultural history of the Caribbean basin and its diaspora.” The exhibit touches on topics ranging from cultural hybridity to politics to pop culture. It is broken up into five sections based on theme, such as Shades of History – which discusses the history of race in the Caribbean – or Patriot Acts – which discusses creole culture and identity.

The exhibit ponders many questions about Caribbean identity. As art reviewer Holland Cotter characterizes it,

The story is woven as much from questions as from answers, from intangibles as from facts. Is the Caribbean a place? If so, what are its boundaries? Are Florida and Colombia as much part of it as Cuba? Is there a Caribbean culture, and how do you define it, given the mix of African, Asian, European and indigenous elements that blend, in quite different proportions, on some three dozen islands in the region?

Taking into consideration the legacy of slavery, colonialism and racial diversity, exhibition-goers enter with questions. Viewers leave with a whole new set of quandaries, but perhaps also a new understanding of what is so special, so unique, about this region.

The exhibition curators facilitated an accompanying publication, Caribbean: Art of the Crossroads of the World. The book can be purchased at any of three museum’s gift shops. The exhibition will continue to be on display until January 6, 2013.

by Lauren Silver

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1 Comment

  1. Julia Bates

     /  December 15, 2012

    This is a great post, Lauren. That exhibit sounds really fascinating. I do wonder though about trying to group the entirety of the “Caribbean” into one entity. As you point out, it is a diverse area and although it’s been shaped by the same social forces over the past few hundred years, I don’t know that the cultures represented are uniform. But then again, I could be very wrong. The exhibit sounds like it explores this topic and a lot of other interesting ones. Thanks for telling us about it!

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