The first project of its kind sanctioned by the National Art Gallery of The Bahamas to bring artists from the region together, the launch of the Double Dutch project is inarguably historic. The project presents a challenge with a set of conditions through which a provocative body of work is produced around collaboration and exchange. Double Dutch supporters argue that the concept of bringing local and regional artists—who are often divided linguistically and geographically, but united by common historical, economic or practice-based conditions—together to work with a group of ideas personal, political and otherwise is crucial to the development of a contemporary Caribbean identity.
In this instance, Bahamian-born, London-based artist Blue Curry, and Bermudian artist James Cooper have been selected for the first iteration of Double Dutch. The artists are familiar with each other’s work – they worked together at Liquid Courage Gallery in 2014 for Transforming Spaces. Under the exhibition, After the Flood, Cooper, Curry along with Heino Schmid borrowed and expanded the idea of Le Corbusier’s Museum of Unlimited Growth. Continuing the trajectory, the two will now present an interrelated body of work at the National Art Gallery of The Bahamas in a show titled 50|50.
The project riffs on the classic jump-rope game of the same name. Double dutch is played with two separate ropes turning in opposite directions by two different rope turners. There may be one or more jumpers. To be successful at the game, the jumpers and turners must find synchronization, consider actions, balance and each other’s momentum. Energies are shared, and something emergent and spontaneous is created. Taking this very practical approach of using adaptable measures developed through their ongoing discourse, Cooper and Curry will advance their visual dialogue and explore their relationship to conceptualism, tropicality, exoticism and minimalism.
Cooper’s series of 50 digital images explores his relationship to photography and its inherent evolution and flexibility. His contribution attempts to find a balance between the representational qualities of photography and abstraction. Moving beyond the obvious seductive qualities of the tropical and the sublime, Cooper’s practice involves a critique of the familiar and the ability to recognize aspects of our human nature that often obscure. His practice involves deep observations and making linkages technically with color, fractures and the illogical to make sense of the indefinable nature of our existences.
Cooper’s approach to assemblage and installation works in tandem with the nature and temporal qualities of our lived experiences. Increasingly we find ourselves in a world overburdened by stimuli, the definable and logical. Cooper’s notion of the transitory and its relationship to the humanity is evident within his gaze and builds on the biology of how one processes the content of spaces. His aesthetic has strong connections to how objects, photographs and emptiness are repurposed deliberately to create new meaning and visualities that combine certain anxieties to knowing and meaning.
A landscape is a landscape, yet, it is something else. It can enact and take on various symbols and meanings – and their opposites – when these vistas are cut up, disorganized and or contrary. There is an aspect to Cooper’s work that is intentionally ‘low tech’ or unfinished, in that whatever is produced is never finite and always a work in progress. His practice, while focused on medium specificity, desires to keep craftsmanship subordinate to ideas. The tropes and visuals exploited can feel disjointed and disparate while still retaining intimacy and a ‘searching’, adding to a part of our visual lexicon.
Blue Curry’s presentation of a series of 50 untitled works will rework industrially-produced objects designed for mass consumption. By repurposing hair combs, the artist creates a typology of a new object on display and shown in repetition, as if forming a collection of a new cultural artefact. This critical approach fetishizing commercial objects is now a central component of the artist’s practice.
Curry’s recent solo show, Souvenir, which was held at VITRINE Gallery in London, gained coverage by Dr. Marsha Pearce, who wrote: "Curry’s souvenir is, therefore, a radical combination and newly configured assemblage that resists quick and easy consumption; one that invites our eyes to travel across imbricated territories of the familiar and the foreign; the known and unknown; the unremarkable and the surprising.”
Not surprisingly however, his practice involves a great deal of scavenging; the hair combs have been culled and bought in markets across Barbados, India and the United Kingdom. By disturbing the natural function of the combs, the new objects subvert the intention structurally and functionally. This interruption is seen by some as a crafted space for to consider how the region has been advertised, sold and ingested from the outside. With this reductionism at play, the image of what the Caribbean is projected as, becomes emptied and exhausted, left bearing little theoretical and historical currency. The objects created by Curry’s examination and perception weave new narratives that open up the familiar to coincidence and structure to play and accident, provoking various readings, thereby honouring the region’s complex legacies.
Curry’s practice is invested and interested in the idea of creating a culture and questioning the type of culture or cultures that can be created when places that market themselves for tourism are crippled by self-awareness. Unable to think beyond economic needs facilitated and demanded by the tourism industry, this unconscious behavior and pathology places the signs of nationhood, identity and sovereignty as secondary markers of sentience.
Together both artists seek to tap into an open space governed by exchange and furthered by the nature of the themes central to their practices. They work to investigate new typologies, the importance of pleasure/play and visual languages that offer rupture and give pause to our contemporary moment.
Double Dutch is sensitive to the economy of space and scale as well as the feasibility of transportation and mobility through the region. For this reason, the project attempts to create and maintain ties throughout the Caribbean with the National Art Gallery of The Bahamas as pilot and conduit. 50/50 opens on June 2, 2015 and runs through July 27.
James Cooper (b. Bermuda, 1965) is an artist living and working in Bermuda. He works primarily with photographs, often manipulating the exhibited print, blurring the boundaries between sculpture, installation and photography. Cooper has exhibited widely in the US, Norway, Jamaica, Italy, Canada, Martinique, the United Kingdom and Haiti. His photographic work has also been supported by several major art publications including, Juxtapose, Vice, Dear Dave, Colors and ARC.
In 2013, Robert and Christopher Publishers an imprint publishing house based in Trinidad and Tobago first monograph ‘Pictures from Paradise’ featured a portfolio on Cooper's work, which was then turned into an exhibition of the same name. The show traveled to Toronto in 2014 as a part of the Scotiabank CONTACT Photography Festival. Cooper is also a part of the Fungus Art Collective with Russell de Moura; together they presented their first collaborative project at the Ghetto Biennial in Port au Prince, Haiti in 2013.
Blue Curry (b. Bahamas, 1974) is a London-based artist who works primarily in sculpture and installation. Using an idiosyncratic language of commonplace objects, he engages with themes of exoticism, tourism and cultural commodification. Curry obtained an MFA in fine art at Goldsmiths College in 2009 and has shown extensively. He participated in the Liverpool, SITE Santa Fe and Jamaica Biennials, as well as in group shows at P.P.O.W Gallery, New York; The Art Museum of the Americas, Washington DC; the Fondation Clément, Martinique and the V&A Museum, London. In 2011 he had his first institutional solo show at the Nassauischer Kunstverein (NKV), Germany and was recently selected for the Studio Voltaire Open in London curated by Cory Arcangel and Hanne Mugaas.
See images from the show and opening here: