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Artists in and out of the Caribbean

In: New West Indian Guide / Nieuwe West-Indische Gids
Author:
Sally Price
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[First paragraph]Caribbean Art. VEERLE POUPEYE. London: Thames and Hudson, 1998. 224 pp. (Paper US$ 14.95)Transforming the Crown: African, Asian and Caribbean Artists in Britain, 1966-1996. MORA J. BEAUCHAMP-BYRD & M. FRANKLIN SIRMANS (eds.). New York: Caribbean Cultural Center, 1998. 177 pp. (Paper US$ 39.95,£31.95)"Caribbean" (like "Black British") culture is (as a Dutch colleague once said of postmodernism) a bit of a slippery fish. One of the books under review here presents the eclectic artistic productions of professional artists with Caribbean identities of varying sorts - some of them lifelong residents of the region (defined broadly to stretch from Belize and the Bahamas to Curacao and Cayenne), some born in the Caribbean but living elsewhere, and others from far-away parts of the world who have lingered or settled in the Caribbean. The other focuses on artists who trace their cultural heritage variously to Lebanon, France, Malaysia, Spain, China, England, Guyana, India, the Caribbean, the Netherlands, the Philippines, and the whole range of societies in West, East, and Central Africa, all of whom meet under a single ethnic label in galleries in New York and London. Clearly, the principles that vertebrate Caribbean Art and Transforming the Crown are built on the backs of ambiguities, misperceptions, ironies, and ethnocentric logics (not to mention their stronger variants, such as racism). Yet far from invalidating the enterprise, they offer an enlightening inroad to the social, cultural, economic, and political workings of artworlds that reflect globally orchestrated pasts of enormous complexity.

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