Caribbean: Together Apart

Imago Mundi

Contemporary Artists from (part of) the Caribbean

The Caribbean: from childhood we associate this term with stories of sailors and pirates, slaves and warriors. And here, on the island of San Salvador, Christopher Columbus landed on October 12, 1492. He believed he had arrived in India but it was instead the start of the conquest of the New World. In the great ethnic and cultural melting pot of the lands bordering the sea of the Antilles, Imago Mundi has landed a successful catch: nearly 200 artists contributed as many paintings to the collection in the small 10x12 cm format.  

José Francisco Pelletier de León - Portrait (2013)

“Over the centuries – Luciano Benetton, the creator of Imago Mundi, reminds us - the Caribbean islands have welcomed all cultures, Asian, Mediterranean, European, African – through the slave trade, forced labour in the tobacco and sugar plantations, the treasures of the pirates, the quintessence of heroism and cruelty – achieving a complexity that cannot be trivialized by those who frequent this part of the Americas only as a place of beachside relaxation.”

Omar Velásquez - Untitled (2013)

Carl Ariza - Timid, Like a Curious Deer (2013)

Carlos Blaaker - Little Man (2013)

The Spanish called these islands Caribe, inspired by the native word ‘karipo’, which means ‘man’. Lands of men. Precisely. Luciano Benetton goes on to note: “Derek Walcott, born in the small island of Saint Lucia, wrote in his lecture for the Nobel Prize in Literature (which he was awarded in 1992) that ‘Antillean art is this restoration of our shattered histories, our shards of vocabulary, our archipelago becoming a synonym for pieces broken off from the original continent.’ Imago Mundi went in search of these fragments in the sea of the Antilles, giving all these different voices and inspirations the formal unity of the small 10x12 cm canvas. It collected the works of almost 200 artists from four countries (Puerto Rico, the Dominican Republic, the Bahamas and Curacao) including, for an even richer and more complex mix, a number of Caribbean artists living in New York.”

Susan (Sue) Katz - Untitled (2013)

Tirzo Martha - Dilemma (2013)

Nelson Martin Vásquez Reyes - Untitled (2013)

The works in the collection – observes Rocio Aranda-Alvarado, curator at El Museo del Barrio – “represent global contemporary artistic perspectives but also external perceptions of the region as seen through a wide range of subjects and artistic practices. The selections provide a visual inventory of the contemporary Caribbean as a pivotal crossroads that exists between Africa, Europe, Asia and the Americas. The artists often combine techniques and follow models developed within the region or academic traditions learned from historic European capitals. Through their works, they explore this complex influence of the movement of people, objects, images and ideas through the many waterways that join and separate the expanded conceptual and geographical boundaries of the Caribbean.”

Herman van Bergen - Charcoal Man (2013)

Analía Segal - Wall on Wall (2013)

Jan Elliott - Untitled (2013)

In the Imago Mundi collection – continues Rocio Aranda-Alvarado – “we find names of important well-known artists as well as others who are in the early stages of their careers. From the lyrical to the conceptual, the sculptures of Patricia Castillo (Dominican Republic) and the installations of Karlo Andrei Ibarra Delgado (Puerto Rico) explore the nature of nostalgia, the meanings ascribed to objects, longing, memory, and the dynamics of power structures. Artists who have had long careers in their homelands, such as Ariadne Faries and Tony Monsanto (both Curacao), are balanced by younger faces such as Heino Schmid and John Cox (both Bahamas).”

Cynthia Morales Gómez - 26-Aug-10 (2013)

Ellis O. Williams García - The Palm of Ones Hands (2013)

Rene Juan de la Cruz - Which Way Should I Follow (2013)

“The Caribbean – adds Tony Bechara, artist and president of El Museo del Barrio - is a cauldron of cultures, a crossroad of ethnicities that comprises all races, religions, and nationalities. The ebb and flow of every major historical event in the last 500 years is reflected and played out in this beautiful geographic scenario. Native Arawaks and Tainos, as well as Mayans, Africans, Spanish, Dutch, French, English, Danes, Swedes, Hindus, Arabs, Chinese, and many other North and South American players have had a role and a part in the cultural fabric and history of this region. And the Imago Mundi collection shines a spotlight on this amalgam of histories, languages, beliefs, political currents and nationalities. It also becomes a valuable instrument for observation and a case study for the sake of art and science about the potential revelations regarding commonality or particularity in an area so rich in diversity.”

Roberto Gualtieri (COCO) - Untitled (2013)

Rogelio Báez-Vega - Untitled (2013)

Sonia Isaacs - The Island (2013)

With regard to the ‘Caribbean Diaspora’, the artists who work far from their homeland, the collection – highlights Sasha Dees, international cultural producer and curator – “includes works from Tirzo Martha (Curacao) and New York based artist Lina Puerta. These works come to us in different languages, from all possible contexts, with ever-changing and evolving frames of reference.”

Richardo Barrett - Untitled (2013)

Julianny Ariza - Untitled (2013)

Sean Paul Gallegos - Talking Loud, Saying Nothing (2013)

All this, in conclusion, contributes to creating what Luciano Benetton describes as “a collective narrative of contemporary Caribbean art that integrates the spirit of a strong identity with different local nuances; sometimes it looks to the West, sometimes it rejects it. It shatters the myth of the happy islands and takes us on a long, surprising and at times edgy journey through the visual evolution of these islands bathed in the currents of modernity.”

Frits Adriaans - Untitled (2013)

Credits: Story

Project management
Sofia Reeser del Rio - El Museo del Barrio

Valentina Granzotto

Editorial coordination
Enrico Bossan

Luciano Benetton
Rocío Aranda-Alvarado
Tony Bechara
Sasha Dees

Editing and translation
Carlo Antonio Biscotto
Emma Cole
Pietro Valdatta

Art direction
Marcello Piccinini

Marco Zanin

Marco Pavan

Special thanks to
National Art Gallery of the Bahamas (NAGB)
Gabriele Riva

Joel (Yoyo) Rodríguez - Untitled

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
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