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Blue Curry does not like to intervene between the audiences experience of his artwork. His first solo exhibition in the USA opened last week at Toomer Labzda Gallery in the Lower East Side and it attracted the attention of a number of art professionals, a fashion magazine blog and curious passersby alike.
There is something fundamentally appealing in Curry’s sculptures — perhaps it is that we recognize the objects that he finds in charity shops, dollar stores and on the street, or perhaps it is our desire of the exotic evoked by the associations to the places and cultures these objects signify.
Now these semi-familiar objects, that once fulfilled a different role in our everyday lives, have been rendered functionally useless, made paradoxical and transformed to take on a new meaning. However this “new” meaning is unclear and in this way Curry creates an ambiguous and uncertain relationship to the object.
In keeping with Curry’s approach to facilitate an unmediated experience, I decided it would be most appropriate to ask art professionals to respond to his pieces directly, to help us get closer to understanding why we respond to the work the way we do, and how Blue Curry’s practice can be situated in identity (if at all) and within modes and mediums of art practice.
To ensure there are perspectives to address the diversity of possible topics, as well as insight in to the socio-political and geographical implications of Curry’s work, I invited curator Rocío Aranda-Alvarado from El Museo del Barrio, Trinidad-based artist and writer Christopher Cozier, Professor Patricia J. Saunders from the University of Miami, El Salvadoran artist Simon Vega who (like Curry) uses found and objects and objects from everyday life in his work and Holly Bynoe, editor of ARC Magazine that covers the creative culture to the Caribbean, to each respond, however they choose, to one selected sculptural object. Here are their perspectives.
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Rocío Aranda-Alvarado, curator at Manhattan’s El Museo del Barrio:
Like the interlaced pattern of the lampshade in the center of this work, Blue Curry’s objects present woven narratives that are the result of perception, coincidence and subjectivity. Blue is primarily interested in the viewer’s own relationship to each object and what his/her gaze might reveal.
At the top, the sphere covered with minute spiral shells alludes to the endless, circular motion of the sea and everything that is churned within its depths. Like an eccentric trophy, this object both challenges and re-inscribes assumptions about personal narrative, place and the legacy of history.
Christopher Cozier, artist and writer, Trinidad:
I am always a bit cautious when I encounter the work of Blue Curry. His work confounds and confronts, but with precise and strategic composure. Often there are no titles but the descriptions of works, whether a list of items conscripted into his conceptual arsenal or a account of an action, function as a series of sly commentaries — sometimes they may even be warnings.
I thought I knew these objects from middle class homes — items from our ongoing global consumer trade routes. The ordinary and the familiar are observed but not recognized in their new roles. Much of his work sits at the juncture of our sense of knowing and our expectations between cultures. His work re-stages these moments of exchange derived from a long history of people, from places like the Caribbean, moving between narratives — making visual mischief to expand our understanding of misunderstood shared histories.
I would not trust this object — just so — no matter how visually appealing or intriguing it appears to be.
Patricia J. Saunders, associate professor of English and Director, Caribbean Literary Studies at the University of Miami, Florida:
There is an interesting ambiguity in this image, one that is framed by its contents. I wonder about the relationship between the once iconic tool of resistance (the conch shell used to signal the start of slave rebellions) in its newly highly stylized ceramic, polished, glossy form and the decorative plant holder/ash tray beneath it. The glass object that covers the slide tray is suggestive because it “obscures” the slide tray beneath.
The viewer can only wonder about the contents of the tray, its history, origins — why is it covered? Why is the glossy conch shell (disguised in drag as a sexy “sea shell” in order to disguise its revolutionary history) the object on top of the ash tray/plant holder that covers the slide carousel? Is this a hierarchical structure? Is the shell there to distract us from what lies just beneath the surface? These questions, and certainly this image, provoke further thoughts about the relationship between visual cultures and the commodification of the Caribbean region.
Simon Vega, Artist, San Salvador, El Salvador:
This work immediately reminds me of modernist domestic decoration, a 1980s version of earlier art & furniture designs by Brancusi and Mies van der Rohe (respectively), but it also has a bit of clean, detailed Japanese feel to it, almost serious, that is until you hit the “elegant” flyswatters. Humorous.
The feelings that arise from this image are buzzing randomly, caught (like a fly) between questionable taste in serious decoration and the open comfortable freedom beyond the glass door.
Holly Bynoe, Editor of ARC Magazine, New York City:
Like some sort of trophy glistening from afar, a deeper interrogation allows you to see the absurdity of the sculptural construction. The disparate objects are propelled together in sparse and unbiased minimalism to bring out an ambiguous narrative.
Rather than following the certain obscurity, my thoughts are transported to the idea of constructing ambiguous narratives. These fables, dreams and persistent visions often enables one to hold on to things like sand in a bottle, a lost ball and the inner tube of a punctured tire, very much the fragments I collected as a child.
Blue Curry is on view until December 18 at Toomer Labzda Gallery (100a Forsyth Street, Lower East Side, Manhattan).