Caribbean art seen anew at ICA Boston

On October 5, 2023, the Institute of Contemporary Art/Boston (ICA) opens Forecast Form: Art in the Caribbean Diaspora, 1990s–Today, a major group exhibition and innovative rethinking of “Caribbean art.” Focusing on art of the Caribbean diaspora and featuring an intergenerational group of 28 artists who live and work across the globe, the exhibition challenges conventional ideas about the region, 

Forecast Form reveals the Caribbean as a place defined not by geography, language, or ethnicity, but by constant exchange, displacement, and movement. The exhibition is organized by the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago. The ICA’s presentation of Forecast Form is coordinated by Jeffrey De Blois, Associate Curator and Publications Manager, and will be on view through February 25, 2024.

“The concept of diaspora—the movement or displacement of people through migration from one location to another—provides a powerful framework for understanding ‘Caribbean art’ in the context of Forecast Form and beyond,” De Blois said. “This concept allows for the artworks in the exhibition to be framed through ideas of movement and transformation, exceeding the limitations of geographic boundaries.” 

About the Exhibition

Forecast Form takes the 1990s, when debates around identity and difference featured front and center, as a cultural backdrop. This decade—a period of profound social, political, and economic transformation globally—also had a major effect on art from the Caribbean, and in the cultural sector gave rise to a Pan-Caribbean art exhibition model that attempted to represent the region’s complex colonial histories through art.

In contrast, Forecast Form focuses on the affinities shared between works made by artists who have ties to the region yet hold diverse personal identities, geographies, and histories. Using the weather’s constant movement as a metaphor for analyzing artistic practices, this expansive exhibition reveals new modes of thinking about identity and place.

Through a deeply innovative exploration of form, Forecast Form positions the region as a place where the past, the present, and the future meet.

The ICA’s presentation of Forecast Form debuts a new work by Teresita FernandezManigua (Mirror) (2023). The word manigua is often used to describe a dense forest or swamp; a chaotic entanglement or an impenetrable place. Inspired by this definition and Wilfredo Lam’s painting, The Jungle (1943), Fernandez’s manigua is a space of refuge. Through evocative materials such as charcoal and black sand, and wielding the symbolic power of the palm tree, Manigua(Mirror) conjures an image of a Caribbean landscape as a site of resistance. 

Other works in the exhibition include:

  • The Fir-Palm (1991/2019) by Boston-born artist Lorraine O’Grady. In this photograph, a slanting tree emerges from the base of a Black woman’s back. This tree is a composite of two types: a New England fir and a Caribbean palm. While each of these trees is strongly associated with different geographic regions, their merger alludes to O’Grady’s experience as the Boston-born child of immigrants from Jamaica.
  • Sugar/Bittersweet (2010) by Cuban-born artist María Magdalena Campos-Pons, who studied at Massachusetts College of Art and Design. The work consists of an installation of Yoruba spears that sit atop traditional African and Chinese stools. At the base of each spear, stacked panelas (or discs of sugar) appear in various states of production, from dark molasses to brown sugar to refined white, doubling as metaphors for imposed racial categories. The sculptures, which together resemble a field of sugarcane stalks, steer away from the bucolic landscape to focus on the violence of the sugar trade against enslaved Black people, and later, Chinese laborers who were brought by the colonial government to work on the plantations in Cuba.
  • the fecund, the lush and the salted land waits for a harvest . . . her people . . . ripe with promise, wait until the next blowing season (2022) by Saint Martin and New Jersey-based artist Deborah Jack. In this lyrical and immersive installation, shots of lush orange pomegranates mix with the ocean, sky, and shoreline. Filmed by the artist around her mother’s home on Saint Martin, these images appear alongside footage of salt mining from a 1948 Dutch documentary about the island. Pomegranates and salt, both emblems of death and rebirth, share a common legacy as commodities of the colonial economy in the region.
  • An Ocean Cradle (2022) by Los Angeles-based artist Suchitra Mattai. An oceanic landscape woven together from vintage, handmade saris, An Ocean Cradle alludes to movement in many ways. Collected from family and friends living throughout the South Asian diaspora, the saris not only represent travel and migration, but also gesture toward movement across lineage. Customarily passed down from generation to generation, saris carry the memories and scents from those who wore them before. From the 1830s to the early 1900s, waves of Indian migrants—Mattai’s family included— migrated across the ocean from India to British Guiana (now Guyana) to work as indentured servants on sugarcane plantations.

This comprehensive group exhibition features 28 artists from across the diaspora: Candida Alvarez, María Magdalena Campos-Pons, Donna Conlon and Jonathan Harker, Christopher Cozier, Julien Creuzet, Maksaens Denis, Peter Doig, Jeannette Ehlers, Alia Farid, Teresita Fernández, Rafael Ferrer, Denzil Forrester, Joscelyn Gardner, Felix Gonzalez-Torres, Deborah Jack, Engel Leonardo, Daniel Lind-Ramos, Suchitra Mattai, Ana Mendieta, Lorraine O’Grady, Ebony G. Patterson, Keith Piper, Freddy Rodríguez, Zilia Sánchez, Adán Vallecillo, Cosmo Whyte, and Didier William.

About the ICA

Since its founding in 1936, the ICA has shared the pleasures of reflection, inspiration, imagination, and provocation that contemporary art offers with its audiences. A museum at the intersection of contemporary art and civic life, the ICA has advanced a bold vision for amplifying the artist’s voice and expanding the museum’s role as educator, incubator, and convener.

Its exhibitions, performances, and educational programs provide access to the breadth and diversity of contemporary art, artists, and the creative process, inviting audiences of all ages and backgrounds to participate in the excitement of new art and ideas.

The ICA is located at 25 Harbor Shore Drive, Boston, MA, 02210. For more information, call 617-478-3100 or visit our website at icaboston.org

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