Over the past decade, Lavar Munroe has cultivated a unique visual language born of a collision between reality and fiction. The interdisciplinary artist has explored the spaces between the sculptural field and theatrical installation, opening up a world in which monsters, creatures, and hybrid beings are ignited in frissons of terror and joy. Born in Nassau, Bahamas, where he lived in the community of Grants Town until 2004, Munroe grew up in a deprived urban environment. The vicissitudes of his early experiences galvanized his artistic project. Munroe sought his formal education in America, earning his BFA degree at Savannah College of Art and Design in Atlanta (2007) and his MFA degree from Washington University Saint Louis (2013). Nevertheless, the Bahamian context became the bedrock for his wider investigation into the materials associated with poverty, and the symbolic and cultural significance of a world that seemed to mirror the myth and folklore of childhood fables and heroes’ stories.
While navigating the contentious spaces of gang violence, incarceration, and substance abuse as a youth, Munroe began to observe his environment more closely. The dark underbelly of Bahamian life—perpetuated by extreme poverty and social inequality—counterbalances his celebration of a proud community in which many thrived and fought for better lives in spite of their underprivileged economic status. This context became the very locus of Munroe’s continued investigation into the transcendent worlds of heroes and villains, exposing the contradictions and ironies of our contemporary reality. Grand narratives such as the Spanish removal of the indigenous Lucayans from the Bahamas, as reported in the diaries of Christopher Columbus, together with the horrors of slavery, corruption, and displacement in the recent past, culminate in Munroe’s abstract visual expressions.
For the 56th Biennale di Venezia, Munroe presents a series of three wall works that interweave personal narratives of his homeland with those of heroes and tricksters. It is within the tension between these two archetypes that Munroe’s narrative finds its dichotomy, as if slicing open the human condition—allowing its contents to spill into the surrounding atmosphere. Paintings perform as objects, or props, torn into diptychs peeling off the wall, or situated in dialogue with neighboring objects. Munroe’s material arrangements seek to question the idea of cultural value while critiquing the very social circumstances that brought such matter into being.