'Fragments of Epic Memory' is an immersive encounter with the Caribbean and its diaspora that vividly intertwines past and present, memory and myth, and continuity and change, creating a testament to the enduring power of art to illuminate the complexities of personal experience.
From the streets of Jamaica to the shores of Trinidad and Tobago, Fragments of Epic Memory connects, contextualizes, and complicates historical depictions of the Caribbean region as a place for colonial profit and tourist pleasures. By combining historical and contemporary materials, the exhibition transforms stagnant and biased narratives into multifaceted and revelatory ways of understanding the regions history. Fragments of Epic Memory re-centers the narrative from the dynamic perspectives of the Caribbean diaspora.
Captivating contemporary works from leading artists of Caribbean descent are placed in dialogue with more than 100 photographs from the Art Gallery of Ontarios (AGO) Montgomery Collection of Caribbean Photographs, which document the emergence of photography alongside the unfolding of emancipation. The Montgomery Collection includes over 3,500 historical images from 34 countries, and primarily focuses on the aftermath of enslavement in the region. British emancipation in the Caribbean (1838) coincided almost exactly with the invention and proliferation of photographic technologies (1839), and this unique collection provides a visual archive of colonialism, evoking new ways to consider the region's histories and cultures.
Photographs, paintings, and video installations by a multigenerational group of artists such as Sandra Brewster, Vanley Burke, Christopher Cozier, Jeannette Ehlers, Nadia Huggins, Leasho Johnson, Ebony G. Patterson, Peter Dean Rickards, Anthony Smith, and Rodell Warner, engage with legacies of slavery, environmental decimation, and ongoing colonial power dynamics, ultimately platforming Caribbean perspectives. Each piece comes together in a multifaceted presentation of the Caribbean as a site of cultural exchange and self-determination. Fragments of Epic Memory is as much an exploration of what was lost as what has survived.
The exhibition title Fragments of Epic Memory comes from a Nobel address given by the Saint Lucian poet and writer Derek Walcott, says curator Anjuli Lebowitz. It has been incredibly influential in thinking about how such a vast region can be summarized or be connected when you have so many island nations with their own distinct cultures, and yet, are always grouped together. He talks about the fragments that have come together from all over the world to create the Caribbean into a whole.
Through these fragmented glimpses, we are reminded that our collective memory is an interwoven tapestry of existence, connecting us in ways seen and unseen.
Fragments of Epic Memory is curated by Julie Crooks, PhD, Curator, Arts of Global Africa and the Diaspora at the Art Gallery of Ontario. The Portland Museum of Arts presentation is organized by Anjuli Lebowitz, PhD, the Judy Glickman Lauder Associate Curator of Photography.
Portland Museum of Art
Fragments of Epic Memory
October 6th, 2023 through January 7th, 2024