Monday, February 25, 2013

Magic and Mystery from the Art of Guyana

Late last month, Carl Hazlewood treated New York art lovers to a sampling of work from his native Guyana.

Mr. Hazlewood , 60, arrived on American shores as a teenager and has been an artist and a curator all of his life.  He attended Pratt Institute in Brooklyn and went on to do his master thesis on Guyanese art.

“The thing about Guyana and the Caribbean in general is that because of its multi-ethnic character…there is a peculiar mix of vitality there,” said a soft-spoken Mr. Hazlewood, while standing amid his exhibition, which showcases paintings and sculptures from two dozen or more Guyanese artists.

While slightly smaller than Idaho, Guyana is the only English-speaking country in South America; its lingua franca was cemented by a British colonial past, filled with sugar plantations, forced African labor and the Indian indentured servants who were brought in after the abolition of slavery.

The country’s modern-day residents live gingerly side by side, says Mr. Hazlewood.“There are tensions between Indians and Blacks although everyone’s got something in them like myself.  I am black and have some Indian ancestry.”

Guyana is also the home of haunting but little-studied petro-glyphs, presumably made by the forebears of its vanishing Amerindian population. The glyphs make part of the name of Mr. Hazlewood’s exhibition called “Timehri Transitions: Expanding Concepts in Guyana Art,” which opened on Jan. 23 at the Wilmer Jennings Gallery at Kenkeleba in the East Village.

The rainforest imagery by Indo-Guyanese  author and painter Bernadette Persaud, encapsulate the past and the present that Mr. Hazlewood wants to expose. “Her work at a glance looks like the typical beautiful and lush landscape which is Guyana but she also understands the character for the post colonial situation where there is violence because of poverty,” said Mr. Hazlewood.

And on closer inspection, wispy -white- bullet trails and bleeding wounds mar the verdant beauty of Ms. Persaud’s creations.  All the while, seemingly, her forebears send hidden messages in the rays of the sun which curl into Arabic signs declaiming “there is no God but God” on their way down to the canopy.

Mr. Hazlewood’s  exhibit  deliberately showcases artists like  Arlington Weithers, whose paintings have a more global perspective. “Especially for black artist in America people tend to expect you comment on social and political subject matters [but] there are people that just want to expand their minds.”

Mr. Weithers uses computer generated images of earth overladen with thick strokes of red color and dramatic  vortex clouds – bringing to mind climate change and global warming.

Another artist,  Andrew Lyght  straddles the space between sculptures and paintings. Mr. Lyght’s work comes in the form of a deep blue oil drum on which he has engraved Timehri petro-glyps  which draw the eye.

On Feb. 17, any curious  New Yorker can speak to Mr. Lyght about the glyphs at a panel discussion  at the Gallery where all the artists will be present.

Against the backdrop of the peculiar and whim driven art world Mr. Hazlewood was surprised at the number of people who showed up  at the opening and the inquires he has been fielding since.

“So far I have been getting lots of calls about it.” However, he admits with a smile that no one has showed him the money yet.

“No sales – not yet, but we would love to have somebody buy something. Artists always need the money,” he said.

No comments:

Post a Comment