NORFOLK, Va. – The Chrysler Museum of Art will present multimedia work of international acclaim in Hew Locke: The Ghostly Tourists, on view January 28, 2022 to June 26, 2022. The show marks Locke’s first solo exhibition in the southeastern region and will showcase Ghost (2015), a sculpture the Chrysler acquired in 2020, and The Tourists (2015), a film that invites viewers to join a crew on their final voyage to the Caribbean. Together, the works use satire to confront colonization and the violence of war.
“Hew Locke’s works, though related to Britain’s naval history, also connect to Norfolk’s legacy as a major naval port. The exhibition will remind visitors of a time when boats and ships were the main vehicle of exploring the world,” said Kimberli Gant, Ph.D., the Chrysler’s McKinnon curator of modern and contemporary art.
Locke’s practice delves into the legacy of British imperialism in relation to its former Caribbean colonies and the present and future impact of that history on those geographies and communities. Although the artist grew up in Guyana, he was born in the United Kingdom. As an adult, he returned to London, where he lives today. Living in two distinct, though interrelated, countries gave Locke insight into the sociopolitical and economic impact of the United Kingdom’s influence on Guyana.
“From Locke’s perspective, the countries are tied together through a messy and complicated history of power and exploitation that he tries to unpack using his art. The artist uses bright, shiny materials found in Mardi Gras festivals yet references Britain through images of the Queen or the British military. Coincidentally, Locke traveled to Guyana and the United Kingdom by boat, so themes based on that mode of transportation are prevalent in his work,” said Gant.
Ghost, a replica of the King George V class warships made by the British navy during World War II, is part of Locke’s ongoing sculptural series of miniature boats and ships found in different countries. The boats are often painted and elaborately designed with flowers, ribbons, beads or drawings to connect with the masquerade tradition found in numerous Caribbean countries but also highlight the many ways boats have been used throughout history — pleasure, survival, power and war.
The Tourists was commissioned by The Imperial War Museum, where Locke created and recorded a series of interventions aboard the HMS Belfast, a battleship museum moored in the center of the Thames River in London. The film escorts viewers on a tour of this British vessel and introduces them to the crew members as they enjoy some free time during the ship’s final voyage. The Belfast was active during the Korean War as well as in World War II and visited the Caribbean in 1962, stopping in Trinidad on its final voyage.
Together, Ghost and The Tourists show the range of Locke’s practice and his ongoing creation of boats and ships, which represent the artist’s British and Guyanese identities.