Double Dutch – A Calendar of Conditioning

By in News on September 27, 2015

Photo by John Cox

Featuring artists: John Cox and Charles Campbell

Double Dutch brings together artists from the region to produce provocative bodies of work through collaboration and exchange.

The first project of its kind sanctioned by the National Art Gallery of The Bahamas, the project works against ideas of nationalism and the insularity of our creative environs by creating a safe space to explore regional culture and our creative acumen and sensibilities.

For the second iteration, the National Art Gallery of The Bahamas showcases work by Bahamian artist John Cox titled 126/73, which draws on Cox’s former project Filler that began in 2012 at Liquid Courage Gallery before traveling to VOLTANY in 2014. Alongside this is Jamaican artist Charles Campbell’s ongoing series Transporter 8, which was supported in the recently concluded Jamaica Biennale held earlier this year.

john-cox-popopstudios-nagb-charles-campbell-01Drawing upon aspects of equilibrium, mutability, elasticity and breath, Cox’s work tests how mass and volume relate to conditioning. His media – bicycle inner tubes – are filled with air, which Cox likens to ‘breath’, signifying the outpouring of life’s contents into spaces that are at times rigid, at times deformed or constrained. From the lifeless tubes, black blooms erupt and take shape, exploring the idea of breath as a symbol of life. Just like aging bodies, the tubes empty out and deflate over time, leading to wilting and collapse in some. Others remain full, explode violently or shift shape in other ways. The bulbous quality of 126/73 parallels a structural relationship between the body and the physical quality of the tubes and the space in which they exist.

There are qualities that link the structure and its relationship to mass and volume. The paring down and minimal quality of this installation points directly to release and surrender; the constant change and transformation is an expression of central issues in Cox’s work. Cox is at once an approximator of conditioning and averages – creating an aggregation of spatial configurations of space and objects, of proximity and comfort. By letting these conditions occupy a certain mass that is unregulated, there is a cohabitation and interference that creates irregularities. The title 126/73 is taken from one of Cox’s daily blood pressure readings, an entity always, at any given moment, in flux. One can easily read this composition as an impression of the body informed by the typology (representational qualities) of self-portraiture.

Campbell’s Transporter 8, a part of his ongoing The Transporter Project, inhabits the interstices of the artist’s aesthetic and political concerns. A ‘floating’ sphere sits amid a pool of black liquid surrounded by a prohibitive white border. A multi-faceted and complex work, the surface of the three-dimensional form is adorned with unexpected imagery. The repeated figure of a slave canoe marks the black metalic surface, referencing slavery and colonialism and suggesting notions of complicity, compromise and violence. It is both an object from an ungraspable past and unrealized future.

On a larger scale, the sculptural form points to Buckminster Fuller’s iconic geodesic dome and his notion of a rational utopia. Combining this with the heavily loaded political narrative of slavery the piece conjures the distortions inherent in our utopian projects and projections into the future. The object’s physical presence, its inscrutable attraction and beauty and the unknowable story woven about it’s metal facets work to both engage in and defy pre-existing narratives, using unexpected forms and relationships to contest linear notions of time and the certainty of meaning. The dome is meant to capture the viewer in a “forbidden zone”. The body of liquid creating a peculiar pull as well as stillness on the body. This juxtaposition creates an object of meditation, paralleling the contents of Cox’s 126/73. There is a sense of bodies being displace and or disembodied given the subject matter of both studies.

john-cox-popopstudios-nagb-charles-campbell-02John Cox is a Bahamian artist whose mixed-media works use familiar and ordinary objects to reference distant places and ideas. In addition to his art practice, Cox is also a major part of the Bahamian art scene whose contributions as an educator, curator, cultural activist and founder of Popopstudios International Center for the Visual Arts has helped grow and redefine art in The Bahamas. His work is found in the collections at the National Art Gallery of The Bahamas, The D’Aguilar Art Foundation, the Lynden Pindling International Airport and the Dawn Davies Collection. Cox is currently the Creative Director of The Current at Baha Mar.

Charles Campbell is a Jamaican-born multidisciplinary artist, writer and curator. His work has been exhibited widely including at the Havana Biennial, the Brooklyn Museum, the Art Museum of the Americas, the Santo Domingo Biennial, the Cuenca Biennial, Alice Yard, the Biennale d’art contemporain de la Martinique, Museo de Arte Contemporaneo, Puerto Rico, the Houston Museum of African American Culture, Rideau Hall, Ottawa, the Art Gallery of Mississauga and Duke University. His writing has been featured in numerous publications including The Sunday Gleaner, Frieze Magazine and ARC Magazine, a Caribbean arts journal. Campbell holds an MA in Fine Art from Goldsmiths College and currently lives and works in Canada.

Double Dutch supporters argue that the concept of bringing local and regional artists together to work with a group of ideas personal, political and otherwise is crucial to the development of a contemporary Caribbean identity. These artists are often divided linguistically and geographically, but united by common historical, economic or practice-based conditions. 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.

The National Art Gallery of The Bahamas is committed to engaging the history of Bahamian art and visual culture and supporting contemporary movements and experimental art practice through exhibitions, public programming, community and regional projects and partnerships, arts education, providing fellowships and grants, the establishment and support of an art library and the building of the national collection.

View more and read more on the NAGB website.

Double Dutch: A Calendar of Conditioning Artist Talk from NAGBahamas on Vimeo.

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