The Caribbean’s defining characteristic of fragmentation – geographical and historical – continues to obstruct cultural understanding and exchanges within the region. A forum such as the Caribbean Artists Movement was possible amongst writers and artists only while resident in Britain. Caribbean literature travels more easily than art, if dependent on translation. With no such language barriers Caribbean art, in reproduction at least, is potentially accessible region-wide. The internet ‘revolution’, especially, now enables wide access to reproduction of artworks and information about art and artists. Yet opportunities for a broad sense of the region’s art inheritance and details of contemporary practice are minimal. Our book aims to provide such opportunities, for students and for all with an interest in the region’s art.
ART IN THE CARIBBEAN: AN INTRODUCTION is centred on a virtual Gallery, a selection of forty artworks made in the region since the 1940s, reproduced full-page with accompanying text. Here, for example, are works which reflect both the deep-rooted cultural traditions of Haiti’s black majority (a painting based on vodoun practices, an oil-drum cut-out sculpture of a carnival figure) and another in which its contemporary artists’ embrace of international media is evident (an installation of television monitors showing street scenes and newspaper reports). Here, too, is a painting which reflects the Afro-Cuban cultural inheritance of Wifredo Lam, foremost Caribbean artist, made in Cuba after his enforced return home during WW2; a poster from the early days of the Cuban Revolution; an installation of small, flimsy boats from the 1990s. A sculptural work from Suriname incorporates Maroon art traditions of the Ndjuka; an installation from Martinique suggests the island’s continuing colonial, sugar-based status. Works from Anglophone countries – the majority, given the book’s main Caribbean readership – span cultures of the Maya and Garifuna (Black Carib) of Belize and the East Indians and Lokono (Arawak) Amerindians of Guyana, by way of portrait sculpture in Barbados, the festival arts of Carnival in Trinidad and Tobago, and much more.
Artworks in the Gallery are further contextualised in the book’s other main section, Historical Background. This serves as an outline of art-making in all parts of the Caribbean region, in all periods: Pre-Columbian, Colonial and Early Independence, divided into areas colonized by the Spanish, French, British and Dutch; Modern and Contemporary, divided by country or group of countries. This part, too, is fully illustrated, with smaller images. A Time Line sets out the main historical events and art developments, again by period and area. A Glossary of Art Terms, a Select Bibliography and a listing of Illustrations complete the book.
Anne Walmsley is a British-born researcher and writer, specializing in Caribbean arts, with experience of secondary school teaching and educational publishing in the region.
Stanley Greaves is a Guyanese-born artist and art teacher whose art educational posts have ranged from secondary school to art college and university, in Guyana and Barbados.
Publication 15 October 2010
192 pp, 21 x 21 cm, colour images throughout
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