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Afro-Caribbean Motifs of the Art Museum of the Americas Collection

HOURS
Tuesday-Sunday 10AM-5PM

LOCATION
OAS AMA | Art Museum of the Americas
201 18th Street NW
Washington, DC 20006

ADMISSION
Free

Please wear a well-fitting face mask and maintain six feet of distance from other visitors.  

This exhibition presents artworks of Afro-Caribbean artists core to the collection of the OAS Art Museum of the Americas, augmented by representations of African influence on the arts and culture of the hemisphere. From the mid-1940s through the early 1980s, the OAS art program was directed by Cuban-born art critic José Gómez Sicre, and numerous works accessioned into the art collection during that time period were acquired directly from the artists when they held exhibitions at the OAS Main Building Gallery, and since its founding in 1976, the present-day Art Museum of the Americas.

As early as 1947, Haitian artists of both studied and informal backgrounds were exhibiting at the OAS. The 1948 OAS exhibition Paintings from Haiti demonstrated a wide range of disciplines, and a series of woodcuts rendered by Haitians Gabriel Alix, Castera Bazile, Rigaud Benoit, Gabriel Leveque, and Luismond Merelus came into the OAS collection soon after. Sculptor Georges Liautaud exhibited The Crucifixion at the OAS in 1960, influenced by the nation’s metal cutout artists. In the outstanding Haitian Landscape, Joseph Jean-Gilles depicts idyllic scenes of village life and heavenly visions through earthly lives. Stan Burnside (Bahamas) incorporates “elemental and mystical symbolism rooted in his African heritage,“ as seen here in Old Time Religion. Jamaican Brother Everald Brown’s alignment with the Ethiopian (Coptic) Orthodox Church birthed more overtly religious subjects, while Kapo was a leader in Jamaica’s Zion Revival movement, imbuing his Solomon with reverence. Known for the dignity and racial pride of his subjects, fellow Jamaican Karl Parboosing’s self-portrait, completed near the end of his life, is no exception.

In Candido Portinari’s Return from the Fair, an Afro-Brazilian woman and five daughters revel among a rich evening tapestry. This piece was gifted to José Gómez Sicre from the artist, and in turn accessioned into the collection of the Pan American Union, now the AMA, as its first artwork. Another of the earliest works of the OAS art collection, Celeste Woss y Gil’s Tobacco Vendor (1938) depicts Dominican rural life and its working people. Emerging from the Havana School in the 1940s, Mario Carreño worked with a specifically Cuban vocabulary. Uruguayans Pedro Figari and Carlos Paez Vilaro painted scenes of working life bustling with activity and energy, the latter going on to paint the Roots of Peace mural at the OAS headquarters, addressing themes of peace, studiousness, sporting, and racial justice.

In contemporary times, the AMA has collected outstanding photographs from the likes of Domingo Batista (Dominican Republic), Ronnie Carrington (Barbados), Owen Minott (Jamaica), and Fausto Ortiz (Dominican Republic), all of whom offer glimpses into modern Afro-Caribbean lives. Patricia Kaersenhout (Suriname) examines feminism, sexuality, racism, and the history of slavery through the lens of the African Diaspora. Stanley Greaves’ (Guyana) Slave Stock and Whip (2018) speaks plainly to the enslavement of human beings and its brutal legacy.

These artworks offer an artistic component of the Organization of American States (OAS) Plan of Action for the Decade of Afro-Descendants in the Americas (2016-2025), in recognizing that people of African descent in the Americas are descendants of millions of Africans who were forcibly enslaved and transported as part of the inhumane transatlantic slave trade between the 15th and 19th centuries. This aims to promote awareness of the histories of people of African descent in the Americas and to ensure their fuller participation in social, economic, and political life, and mandates the annual commemoration of the International Day for the Remembrance of Victims of Slavery and the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade, while also fostering greater awareness and respect for the diversity of the heritage and culture of people of African descent and their contribution to the development of society. This richness of cultural heritage is as intrinsic to the arts of the hemisphere as it is to the social fabrics of its regions.  

Accessibility: This exhibition takes place on AMA’s second floor. The galleries are not wheelchair accessible. Restrooms are located on the second floor. There is a flight of winding stairs leading to the museum's second floor. For more information on accessibility, please contact 202 370 0147 or artmus@oas.org