Reviewed: “Outward Reach” at Art Museum of the Americas
To mark the golden jubilee of Jamaica’s independence, the Art Museum of the Americas has turned to an eclectic mix of photographers and visual artists who have one foot in Jamaica and another in the United States. Jacqueline Bishop offers a series of digital photomontages of crumbling estates mashed up with antique photographs, the best of which suggest a palpable ghostly presence. Cosmo Whyte’s “Heirloom” series features the dreadlocked artist wearing a charcoal pinstriped suit, his face obscured by layer upon layer of neckties that seemingly embody the pull of American affluence. Tal Rickards contributes an impressively dreamy image (middle) of a figure obscured by what looks like an amber-hued sandstorm, while Radcliffe Roye documents a dark and sweaty nightlife demimonde, most impressively in an image (bottom) of darkened figures speckled by green and red lights. But the standout is Andrea Chung. A video work (top) tweaks a late-1970s Jamaican tourist-promotion commercial that will be familiar to anyone between about 40 and 60 for its romantic imagery and soothing music (“Come back to Jamaica, your new island home”). Chung keeps the audio intact but excises each of the (black-skinned) characters, leaving blank voids that suggest the silhouettes of Kara Walker and which cleverly scrutinize tricky issues of of race and class; incongruously, the commercial’s music is more Mormon Tabernacle Choir than reggae, and the imagery includes polo, lavish dinner settings and ballroom dancing even though the country ranks in the bottom third of GDP per capita among countries in Latin America and the Caribbean. More subtle, but possibly more effective, is a series of works on paper in which Chung takes images of objects being carried on the island, such as bananas and baskets, but which reproduces the person carrying these objects only as an embossed outline—a concise statement on how vacationers to exotic foreign countries risk tuning out the people who actually live there.
The exhibition is on view 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday to Friday to Sept. 28 at the Art Museum of the Americas F Street Gallery, 1889 F St. NW.