Art Critics

Towards the end of the 1980s, Caribbean visual art updated its linguistic/expressive points of reference and more effectively projected a renewing and avant-garde international image. While in earlier days, isolated names such as  Wifredo Lam (Cuba), Hervé Télémaque (Haiti-France), Peter Minshall (Trinidad & Tobago), popular Haitian art and Jamaican intuitive art were seen as paradigms of a reality apparently non-existent elsewhere, contemporary art has now achieved relative cross-border mobility. It is commonplace nowadays to find artists from the West Indies, Suriname, Guyana and French Guiana present on the New York, Miami, London, Amsterdam, Paris or Berlin circuits, benefiting from grants and artist‑residence programmes or being considered for personal exhibitions or collective showings. This emergence onto the world stage to some extent reflects the logic of global cultural dynamics and post-modernity's defence of fragments which, based on the "suspect" pluralism embraced by the main centres of production and circulation of art, to some degree favors inclusion of texts and other forms of expression of a secondary nature.   

Subsequently, much interest has been aroused by this neglected and peripheral region, a synonym for miscegenation and ethno-cultural interweaving. This has been reflected in events, based in America or Europe, such as 'Caribbean Vision' (United States, 1995); 'Caribe insular. Exclusión, fragmentación, paraíso' (Badajoz Museum, Spain, 1996); 'XXème Festival International de la Peinture' (Cagnes-sur-Mer,1998) which was dedicated completely to Caribbean contenders, marking the 150th anniversary of the abolition of slavery, and entertained 51 guests at the Grimaldi Château-Musée. More recently, under the direction of Regine Cuzin, 'Latitudes. Tierras del Mundo' (2002); 'Infinite Island' (2007) for the Brooklyn Museum; 'Rockstone and Bootheel: Contemporary West Indian Art', at Real Art Ways and 'Global Caribbean - A Caribbean Contemporary Art Exhibit' for the Art Basel festival, Miami, (both in 2009), or the Pontevedra (Spain) Biennial (2010) dedicated to the Caribbean and Central America, and 'Horizontes Insulares', staged by Orlando Britto Jinorio in 2010.
But this relative mobility also owes much to significant efforts from within the Caribbean itself. These have included 'Carib Art'(Curaçao, 1991) and the 'Bienal de Pintura del Caribe y Centroamérica' (Santo Domingo, 1992-2003), now re-launched as the 'Trienal Internacional del Caribe'. In addition, since 1984, the Havana Biennial has been a dependable exhibition platform for the artists of the region, who have been able to measure their experience against that of arti ts from elsewhere; in 1986 it dedicated a technical symposium at its second edition to 'La Plástica del Caribe'. In recent years, Martinique has become another Mecca for Caribbean art, by virtue of collective projects such as 'Atlántida Caribe' (2009) and 'Vous êtes ici' (2010).
There are many definitions of the Caribbean, which throughout its history has been an ever-changing region and destination of immigration, making it susceptible to various analytical perspectives with a variety of intentions, as confirmed by numerous authors. One of the now most widespread notions is that of the Greater Caribbean, while another is based on the idea of a basin and of one sea lapping the shores of the West Indies, Central America, the southern United States, Mexico and northern South America. Another, ethno-historical definition emphasizes the migrations that have produced the area's multi-ethnic community. For some scholars, the key migration process was the historical movement of millions of souls from Africa, Europe and Asia to the New World. The ethnic and spiritual radiance of Africa in the Caribbean receives much attention, has given rise to the concepts of 'Africa in America' and 'Africa in the Caribbean', and is associated with pushing back the area's presumed borders to north-eastern Brazil, the southern United States or equatorial Pacific communities. Now, by contrast, we are seeing an exodus from the area to Europe and North America; people of Caribbean origin are now to be found the world over. Another significant concept is that of the Caribe defined by Gabriel García Márquez, based on the experience in Aracataca on the Colombian coast.
By contrast, the Biennial of Contemporary Caribbean Art defines its sphere of reference in terms of a Caribbean dominated by socio-cultural factors. Beyond the objective geographical location, reflecting its relation with the Caribbean Sea, the name refers to what authors Margarita Mateo and Luis Álvarez regard as the epicentre and inner periphery of the geographical bounds of Caribbean culture: an entity that, beyond the physical area it occupies, is characterized by certain historical constants - including economic profiles based on systems ranging from the plantation "machine" to the tourism industry - and by cultural similarities. From a post-colonial perspective, this view takes in the entire Antilles group, Martí's "painful islands of the sea", plus the continental territories of Belize, French Guiana and Surinam e. It encompasses a multilingual area of extraordinary cultural diversity, moulded for centuries according to a colonial planning modeland, hence, to balkanization, and in some cases still has relations subordinate to former colonial powers, while having also acquired "outer fringe" connotations within the western hemisphere and as regards its communication with Central and South America.
The present project aims to reflect the dynamism of today's Caribbean, focussing diverse and pluralist points of view and modes of visual development on the region and its migrations, and its complexity - historical, economic, ethnic, social, and in terms of its identity and culture. Since the mid 1990s, an emerging avant-garde has been generating a new image that often daringly merges the dominant post-modern with aspects of the area's original cultures and societies. The dynamics of this scenario include novel ways, aided by the new languages, of representing the problems of context; ways that interpret and prompt questioning of both the historical roots of the countries (and the region) and their daily existence. They also evince a Caribbean openness to discourse on the multi-cultural nature of context, projecting its hybrid identities.

The Biennial of Contemporary Caribbean Art also sets out to build bridges within the region and establish channels for dialogue with other island territories and Central American countries with comparable circumstances and experience. The Caribbean and Central America have long acted as enclaves of communication and transit between North America and South America; they have similar problems and share a history of the systematic denial of their indigenous peoples' rights. Since the end of the 20th century, both have been power houses of contemporary art, associated with the use of new languages and media, and with leading-edge artistic initiatives that address global culture, peripheral cultural conditions, problems of identity, memory and history, the multicultural society, inter-territorial exchange, popularization initiatives, and the City (as a setting). 

Lic. José Manuel Noceda Fernández