MDC Museum of Art + Design

A visitor contemplates works by Jack Whitten, Glenn Ligon, and Theaster Gates within the exhibition, Where the Oceans Meet. Image by Elvis Suarez.

Where the Oceans Meet

May 26, 2019 - January 12, 2020

We often imagine that globalization and technology bring us closer and make us more connected, yet borders increasingly divide us. Where the Oceans Meet engages two key figures who devoted their work to thinking through borders, both physical and ideological: the Cuban painter, scholar, and ethnographer Lydia Cabrera (1899–1991) and the Martinican philosopher, poet, and literary critic Édouard Glissant (1928–2011).

Cabrera’s research approached the languages, religions, myths, and cosmologies of Afro-Cubans without class prejudice or cultural hierarchies. Focusing on social relationships rather than academic theory, her ethnographic studies allowed for a rich space of contamination between fiction and reality, literature and testimony. Glissant similarly operated between theory and poetry to explore the pain historically endured by Caribbean communities, and how cultures are simultaneously sustained and transformed by collisions with other languages, identities, spaces, histories, and knowledge systems. He imagined the archipelago and the drift of the oceans as modeling “a new region of the world,” in which people relate to each other without attempting to disavow the opacity of the encounter.

In dialogue with the ideas of Cabrera and Glissant, the artists in this exhibition grapple with some of today’s most urgent and transcultural issues: diaspora, race, gender, memory, history, ritual, violence, and hospitality.

In addition to a selection of archival materials related to Cabrera and Glissant, Where the Oceans Meet includes works by Navild and Sosa, Etel Adnan, Carlos Alfonzo, Kader Attia, Belkis Ayón, Yto Barrada, Daniel Boyd, Tania Bruguera, Sebastián Calfuqueo Aliste, Agustín Cárdenas, Maya Deren, Manthia Diawara, Melvin Edwards, Juan Francisco Elso, Öyvind Fahlström, Simone Fattal, Theaster Gates, Andrea Geyer, Sylvie Glissant, Dominique Gonzalez-Foerster, Felix Gonzalez-Torres, Koo Jeong A, Wifredo Lam, Glenn Ligon, Lani Maestro, Roberto Matta, Julie Mehretu, Ana Mendieta, The Otolith Group, Amelia Pelaez, André Pierre, Walid Raad, Raqs Media Collective, Anri Sala, Antonio Seguí, Elena Tejada-Herrera, Pierre Verger, Jack Whitten, and Andros Zins-Browne.

The exhibition is curated by Hans Ulrich Obrist, Asad Raza, Gabriela Rangel, and Rina Carvajal.