Released December 21, 2004
Salem, Mass.—The Peabody Essex Museum presents Island Thresholds, Contemporary Art from the Caribbean, an exhibition that brings together four internationally-known artists from the Caribbean: David Boxer (Jamaica), Tony Capellá® (Dominican Republic), Kcho (Cuba), and Marc Latamie (Martinique/USA). These artists are as distinct and varied in their approach to their art and use of media as the nations they represent, yet their work is linked by a common theme in the exhibition: the sea as a site of power and its complex role in shaping individual and cultural identity. Island Thresholds is composed of 13 artworks, including large-scale installations using an array of materials-from wood, glass, paper, seawater, and salvaged shoes, to coffee, cocoa, and vanilla-as well as paintings and drawings. The works were made between 1992 and 2004 and include installations made specifically for this exhibition. Island Thresholds opens Feb. 19 and runs through June 5, 2005.
For more information, visit http://www.pem.org/island, a trilingual (English/Spanish/French) exhibition microsite.
Since 1980, David Boxer's art has addressed the theme of slavery. The diagram of a slave ship is used frequently in his work in various forms, including a series he began in 1992 entitled The Black Books (bound digital scans on paper). His Passage triptychs (polyurethane and acrylic on canvas) of charged colors, layered brushwork of abstract shapes and forms placed below the horizon, evoke the violent cultural disruption of the slave trade. "Essentially these are paintings of the sea, the Atlantic/Caribbean which churns up memories of the atrocities of slavery and the consequences of colonization," says Boxer. He has also created more subtle symbols of colonial connections. In Queen Victoria Set We Free, the artist juxtaposes a field of Penny Red English postage stamps and an African Fang sculpture in an allusion to the horrific journeys made by slave trading ships from West Africa to the Caribbean.
Marc Latamie's multi-sensory pieces work against the presumption of intellectual isolation in a tropical Caribbean and instead locate the region within an Atlantic network of contact and connections. Originally from Martinique and currently working in New York City, Latamie explores the commodification of tropical regions that has typified globalization, and the powerful connection between memory and sense of smell. For the Peabody Essex Museum, the artist will create three installations: Ajoupa, a lightly built wood structure, typical to Martinique, containing coffee, coconut, and vanilla; Casatlantic, the frame of a simple domestic structure enclosing "islands" of sea water; and Transatlantique, a series of watercolors painted on 50 atlas pages.
Tony Capellá® also has three works in the exhibition, including Mar Caribe (Caribbean Sea) an installation that features discarded flip-flops in shades of blue and turquoise. From a distance, the image suggests the familiar touristic representation of idyllic tropical waters. Closer scrutiny reveals the rubber thongs of the sandals have been replaced with barbed wire. The effect combines the appeal of the whimsical with undertones of violence and injury. His two other works incorporate sand, wood, seawater, discarded shoes, and palm leaves among other non- traditional materials, to create an image of a Dominican flag (Bandera de los Ahogados/The Flag of the Drowned), and a structure reminiscent of a shrine (Isla en Transito/Island in Transition).
Living in Cuba, Kcho deploys symbols of island life to convey deeply psychological statements about isolation and memory. His installations incorporate found objects that reference daily life in seaside Cuba. In Para Olvidar (In Order to Forget), a dilapidated wharf-like structure sits quietly over a "sea" of liquor bottles, creating a powerful contrast between the idyllic aspects of coastal living and the harsh realities of rural poverty. Originally created in 2000, the piece has been adapted for the Island Thresholds exhibition and is accompanied by a charcoal sketch of the installation.
An accompanying catalogue features essays by Island Thresholds curator Sam Scott, PEM’s assistant curator of Maritime Art; René orales of the Contemporary Art Department, RISD Museum, Providence, Rhode Island; and poetry by Nobel Prize-winning author Derek Walcott. Walcott will give a talk at the museum on April 28, 2005. Artists Tony Capellá® and Marc Latamie will host a discussion on Artists from the Caribbean on Saturday, Feb. 19, 2005.