Portland Museum of Art exhibition explores Caribbean culture

Nadia Huggins (Trinidad and Tobago, b. 1984-), No. 25 Circa No Future (detail), from the series Circa No Future, 2014. Digital photograph, 22½ x 30 inches. Courtesy of the artist.

PORTLAND, Maine – Opening February 1, 2019, the Portland Museum of Art invites you to discover a holistic and multifaceted exhibition that repositions the cultures, voices, and artists of the Caribbean islands, providing critical entry points into the ideas and issues that are shaping this vibrant and rapidly changing region.

Stylistically diverse and broadly representative, Relational Undercurrents: Contemporary Art of the Caribbean Archipelago introduces new and insightful ways to understand one of the most culturally diverse areas in the world.

Relational Undercurrents calls attention to a section of the Americas that is difficult to categorize and often overlooked. The exhibition proposes an “archipelagic model”—defining the Caribbean from the perspective of islands, as distinct from the continental experience—to study issues around race, history, the legacy of colonialism, and the environment. Featuring more than 80 artworks by over 50 artists from the Hispanophone, Anglophone, Francophone, and Dutch Caribbean, the exhibition emphasizes thematic continuities of art made throughout the archipelago and its diasporas, challenging conventional geographic and conceptual boundaries of Latin America. This approach often draws particular attention to topics arising from the colonial legacies that shaped Latin America as a whole, and highlights unifying characteristics that may have previously been lesser known. These shared experiences, circumstances, and concerns emerge as central to the work of many 21st-century Caribbean artists, including Juana Valdes (Cuba), Tony Capellán (Dominican Republic), Camille Chedda (Jamaica), and Allora & Calzadilla (United States and Cuba). Additionally, this is also the most expansive exhibition the PMA has hosted in years, encompassing multiple gallery spaces on the museum’s first floor, including the Selma Wolf Black Great Hall, the Unum Gallery, the Palladian Gallery, and even the elevator.

“These artists present thoughtful, heartfelt, and timely statements about past and present realities affecting all the islands,” shared Jaime DeSimone, Associate Curator of Contemporary Art. “Seen through their eyes, the exhibition provides an incredible opportunity to expand our understanding of the Caribbean.”

Guest curated by Tatiana Flores and organized by the Museum of Latin American Art (MOLAA), Long Beach, California, as a project of the Getty Foundation’s PST: LA/LA initiative, Relational Undercurrents has previously been on view at the MOLAA, the Frost Art Museum in Miami, and the Wallach Art Gallery in New York City. In coming to Portland, Maine, the exhibition has the potential for an outsized impact in a region of the United States that does not have readily apparent cultural ties to Carribbean culture, and the PMA is the only New England venue for the show. For many of the artists in the exhibition, making introductions with new audiences in the American Northeast is appealing and unique. “This is one of those opportunities that you have to learn about culture that maybe you know nothing about,” says Cuban-born artist María Martínez-Cañas, whose collaborative work with artist Kim Brown is in the show, “but it can open your eyes to some extraordinary ways of looking—not only at your own life—but at other people’s lives.”

Click to visit the Portland Museum of Art online.

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