Che Lovelace beats his own drum in modern art history.
Lovelace’s 2021 painting “Nyabinghi Drummers” has been added to the permanent collection of the Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA) in Los Angeles, California, United States. The San Fernando-born artist is the first creator from Trinidad and Tobago to be included in the museum’s world-renowned contemporary art collection.
Lovelace, 52, says his painting hanging in the halls of MOCA not only validates the consistency of his efforts over the past decade, but also indicates a new interest from international collectors in the artistic works of the region.
“The acquisition of my 2021 painting ‘Nyabinghi Drummers’ can be seen as recognition of the work I have done over the past decade. But it is also a testament to the fact that international art institutions and the art world in general are paying more attention to visual arts made in this region, ”Lovelace told the Kitcharee in an insightful online exchange Thursday night.
The son of famous author Earl Lovelace says he hopes this “growing interest” will bring more artists who live and work in the Caribbean into the “growing global conversation about the arts.”
“This current diversification that is happening in the art world, can be seen in contrast to the art world of about 20 years ago, when everything about art at a certain level was concentrated. only around the large traditional art centers of developed cities, such as New York, London and other European cities, ”he explained.
Look in the mirror of the Caribbean
As Caribbean art becomes much more visible than in recent decades, the increased interest in the region’s visual expressions may be less of an artistic endeavor and more of a new culture of self-exploration in developed countries. , Lovelace thought.
“There seems to be a lot more desire within developed countries to explore and recognize their own diverse populations, and as there is in the United States, to also recognize the communities that have created deep and important art. for many decades without serious recognition.
“So this trend has also led to a growing interest in other normally marginalized world cultures. In the art world, I would say that the interest is mainly expressed towards artists from the Caribbean diaspora, rather than artists who live and work in the Caribbean, which makes all the difference, ”he said. Explain.
Lovelace noted that many artists of Caribbean descent living outside the region not only create art about their heritage, but also works that reflect their daily experiences. Likewise, he explained, it’s just as important that Caribbean-based artists contribute to the global conversation.
“Of course, Caribbean diaspora art is important and an integral part of the Caribbean experience through migration, contributing to a global conversation while remaining firmly in place here in the Caribbean is much more of a challenge. In this sense, it gives even more meaning to the recognition of any artistic practice coming directly from this region.
“If an artist from Trinidad and Tobago only locates his creative ceiling in this country, then I think there is a self-imposed myopia that can affect the ultimate potential of the work a person does. With the world as connected as it is now, we need to take our efforts seriously; because the ceiling of our achievements is no longer limited by living on what appears to be a distant island. I’ve always considered this island to be my center… it’s just a matter of perspective.
Discover your own “douendom”
Lovelace attributes his global artistic perspective to the teachings imparted by his mentor, the late master artist LeRoy Clarke. Clarke, who died on July 27, was “still there with brutal honesty and encouragement,” Lovelace said.
“Leroy was a close friend, family friend and artistic mentor. I’ve always seen myself as a fiercely individual individual, at least in my head, but there’s no denying that artists feed off other artists. It has always been so, ”he revealed.
Lovelace said that as a young boy in the ’70s he was impressed by Clarke’s now famous Douens exhibition. As his artistic mind grew, Lovelace said he gained an even deeper appreciation for the true meanings of Clarke’s “strong geometric shapes, mighty pyramids, magical colors and canvas-like constructions”. .
“The older I got, the more I understood what he was talking about. He wanted us to see each other as big and as precious as possible. A great lesson he taught was to see our efforts as part of the efforts of mankind, not limited to these shores alone. If I’m honored enough to be connected to part of his heritage, it would be his insistence and seriousness about his artistic endeavors: it’s something that I adopted as part of my own way of being ” , did he declare.
Interestingly, Lovelace says the circumstances of the ongoing global Covid-19 pandemic have given greater opportunities to artists outside of traditional creative centers. With all of the interactions between artists and art galleries limited to online virtual meetings, artists located in remote locations had the same screen time with potential exhibitors as those living in the same city, a he declared.
“Whether someone in New York was visiting an artist on the street or visiting an artist here in Trinidad, we were using the same Zoom platform to talk about our work and share what we were doing. Such a situation certainly benefits large-scale countries which normally seem quite isolated and out of the conversation, ”Lovelace said.
Beyond the obvious changes in daily routine, the pandemic has also been a time of global soul-searching, Lovelace said.
“The change of pace was like holding a mirror in front of us, the whole world together, and maybe that’s a good thing. I feel like when I talk to people now, especially after the second longer lockdown, they mostly express a feeling that I have learned so much during that time.
“For many of us who live creative lives, despite everything, we kept on working. Creative work sometimes becomes your saving grace. I was really encouraged to see and listen to people who had to reinvent themselves, innovate and generally think differently in order to survive intact, ”he said.
Those uninterrupted hours of “stillness and stillness” complementing years of painting creation have already begun to reap tangible benefits for Lovelace.
Besides the inclusion of MOCA, he was also invited to participate in the Independent Art Fair in New York in September. He credits his continued working relationship with the Divers Small Fires (VSF) gallery in Los Angeles, which acted as its reservation agent in the United States.
“New York is a special place for me, because I’ve been traveling and looking at art since the early 90s. So having a bit of my own work, with hopefully a bit of momentum behind it. , looks like a stepping stone to get things done. Like I told my friends… it really feels like a fresh start, ”concluded Lovelace.