Chatting to artist Blue Curry in New York. (Photo the author)

If his name doesn’t make you smile the materials in his artwork and his sense of irony certainly will. That’s if you actually get to meet the artist. During his opening he tries to be inconspicuous not wanting to intervene in any way between the audience and their experience of his work — in this case they will be sculptural objects as part of his first US solo exhibition at Toomer Labzda Gallery this month.

Blue Curry is a Bahamian artist living and working in London. He attended the University of Westminster for his undergraduate studying photography and multimedia, and then attended the prestigious Goldsmiths College in London to do his MFA. It is here he met Chris the co-owner of Toomer Labzda who, with his wife Helen, recently opened a gallery space in Lower East Side that is focused on showing work that is “sculptural.” Helen explains, “We have always been excited about Blue’s work.”

In lead up to his solo exhibition (I will write a review next week) I wanted to uncover what motivates Blue Curry to make work that is fixated with inhabiting a nebulous middle ground — his work is reminiscent of a place but not indicative of it, reminds us of a material but refusing to represent it. In so doing I hope to shed light on Curry’s life and work.

I meet the artist at the gallery. He had just arrived and his work was still in suitcases. This feels apt in light of the conversation that was to follow. I begin by asking him standard questions about his origin. His eyes glaze over a little and I can tell this is a subject that has weighed on him.

It seems coming from the Bahamas and making work that is based more in the conceptual is often viewed as a paradox. The art climate in the Bahamas has for many years been catered toward a tourist and service-based economy, where art becomes steered toward producing an image of the place, as opposed to entering in to a self-reflexive dialogue. Blue’s work seems to be completely at odds with this. Instead, he uses found objects to create incongruous juxtapositions that question our ordinary association to objects and their sense of place in an attempt to invert what is expected of “art from the periphery.” His “sculptures” instead offer an ambiguous relationship for us to decode on our own.

Blue Curry, untitled, 2011, approx 12″ x 14″ x 14″, lampshade, decorative platter, polystyrene & shells. (Photo courtesy toomerlabzda and the artist))

Blue Curry sees himself as a “third world artist,” but not in a conventional sense. Finding materials from markets, charity shops, stores and the street, Blue is also interested in the Duchampian notion of bringing together art and everyday life — but in a way that also considers the objects aesthetic and potential for humor and play.

Although his work defies stereotype, it is celebrated in the Bahamas and he is often described as a “Bahamian conceptual artist” which runs the risk of being misinterpreted and associated with the Conceptual Art movement of the 1960s.

With this in mind, we also commiserate about the failings of Caribbean surveys exhibitions and the tough task of collectively exhibiting a region that is too diverse to categorize. I decide to change the subject to talk about his ideas and I see his eyes begin to smile.

Curry arrived in London in 1997 just as the Sensation exhibition had opened, launching the careers of many of the YBAs (Young British Artists). Although he had lived in Miami before moving to London this exposure to British contemporary art left a big impression. I ask him who inspires him and he names artist from the UK and elsewhere. His answers reflect an eclectic thinking that affords him the ability to combine modes of craft traditions, intuitive art and the conceptual within his art-making practice. In this way his work is able to poke fun at what its supposed to be, what we are supposed to think it is and in some ways who we think the artist should be as well.

Blue Curry standing over his suitcase filled with objects to be used in his exhibition. (Photo the author)

What is your dream project I ask him?

“To sail and empty cruise-ship around the Caribbean as a sculpture. But I didn’t get funding for that yet. High conceptualism is not associated with the Caribbean at all so the project is a bit of a piss-take but I’m also quite serious about it,” he replies

I can see he is serious and I immediately get that he is an artist who is continually thinking and processing information — and most of all hyper-aware of the way in which people interact with meaning in objects. He gives me a peak inside his neatly packed suitcase that appears full of misplaced objects that are displaced and without origin. He smiles. I can see that they will soon offer his audience a challenge.

Blue Curry is on view November 11 – December 18, 2011 at Toomer Labzda Gallery (100a Forsyth Street, Lower East Side, Mahattan).

Claire Breukel is a South Africa-born contemporary art curator and writer. Her interest is in contemporary art that falls outside of conventional modes of exhibition, and often affiliated with “developing”...