Cross into PAMM’s Caribbean

Arts / Article

Installation shot of Shades of History.

Like the Caribbean region itself, PAMM’s latest exhibit, “Caribbean: Crossroads of the World,” is diverse and densely populated, with artworks spanning hundreds of years and multiple styles. There is 19th-century painting, and 21st-century video; representational canvases and more abstract sculpture. Like some other vast survey shows, it really is too much to take in on one visit, it requires a return.

That’s good, but with a drawback. There are so many pieces, some of them so different set right next to each other, that you may miss the significance of each. And that would be a shame. While there are famous names, there are many artists that will be unfamiliar, along with their particular views of the Caribbean world, from countries that have rarely been represented in major museum shows.

This one in fact began in New York, at three venues in a collaborative effort, a result of years of research into the region and its art. Here, the exhibit is in one place, divided into four sections: Fluid Motions, Counterpoints, Shades of History and Kingdoms of This World.

Not coincidentally, the oldest artworks date from right after the Haitian Revolution of 1791, which marked one of the first independence movements in the Western Hemisphere, and made Haiti the first free black country. So much of the art reflects this event in various iterations: a history of Colonialism, a mixture of cultural influences, a fight and struggle to be free, economies based on unsustainable systems.

For instance, there is a great contemporary sculpture made from sacks of sugar, and older photographs and paintings of those plantations from which that sugar was extracted, making Europe rich and the Caribbean depleted. Art from Cuba, Dominican Republic and Haiti, for example, also reflect the traumatic upheavals and authoritarian regimes that those countries have lived through.

Dramatic stylistic diversity also shows up. There’s famed Venezuelan geometric abstraction, and contemporary portraiture from the likes of Jamaican Renée Cox. And not all the artists actually hailed from the Caribbean: there are examples of landscape paintings from Europe, revealing a Colonial view of the tropical islands. Miami artists are represented too, such as Glexis Novoa and Edouard Duval-Carrié. The latter has his own exhibit in an accompanying gallery, “Imagined Landscapes.” After the intensity of all the work in the main show, sit down in the dreamy, sultry “Imagined” room and soak up the absolute beauty of Duval-Carrié’s latest works. All together, the Caribbean is alive in PAMM.

“Caribbean: Crossroads of the World” runs through Aug. 17, 1103 Biscayne Blvd., Miami; pamm.org.