I AM HERE: TRANSLATION OF MYSTIC SYMBOLS IN AN AGE OF NEW SUBJECTIVITY
On March 17, The Bass unveiled Charo Oquet’s I am here: Translation of Mystic Symbols in an Age of New Subjectivity, the next cycle winner of the museum’s New Monuments open artist call, a project supported by the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation through the museum’s Knight Art Commissions Program. Installed in Collins Park, Oquet’s temporary, site-specific monument will be on view through January 2023.
A Dominican-born and Miami-based interdisciplinary artist, Oquet is known for dynamic installations that incorporate idiomatic cultural practices from Afro-Caribbean religion and folk traditions. Drawing upon the images and rhythms of rituals and ceremonies from the Caribbean diaspora, Oquet moves across time and space by bringing these references into dialogue with contemporary urban culture.
I am here is fabricated from flat metal pieces and curved metal pipes, precisely cut and assembled into a four-sided sculpture. The work poses an interpretation of Miami’s intersectional history, submitting a creative offering to spark healing between communities. By combining symbols, iconography and references from across time and cultures, Oquet’s work evokes complex emotions and introspection inviting the viewer to reconfigure their own intuitions, desires, values and fantasies of communal exchange and relations.
In discussing her new work, Oquet said, “One of the great things this pandemic has highlighted is that all living things, including nature, are equally vulnerable to disease and therefore emphasizes our equality. I hope that I Am Here will evoke deep, conciliatory and healing thoughts. At the same time, I seek to create a space to think about how we can come together as a society where we are all equal and no matter what we look like or what we believe in, we can accept our differences because we are all here in this same world in this same time.”
The Bass is situated in Collins Park, a public park in Miami Beach, where there are presently four monuments that were commissioned by different groups at various times. Sitting atop stone plinths in the south side of the park, these existing monuments pay homage to Cuban epidemiologist Dr. Carlos Finlay, Venezuelan political leader Simón Bolívar, Nicaraguan scientist Dr. Luis Henry Debayle and Cuban writer Jose Martí. Amid an international debate on monuments and their legitimacy, New Monuments seeks to provide artists the opportunity to produce a new, temporary fifth monument.
“The Bass conceived of New Monuments as a way to elevate artistic voices in Miami,” said Silvia Karman Cubiñá, Executive Director and Chief Curator of The Bass. “For the next five years, we will be opening a space where artists can engage in the national conversation of redefining monuments and who or what they honor and represent.”
Building upon the question of “what is a monument” and engaging in current conversations, I am here will be the second work in the New Monuments series initiated by The Bass, inaugurated in 2020. For the next five years, this initiative will invite five artists to answer this question with a work of art that will be on view in Collins Park for approximately 10-12 months each. The next open call will be announced fall 2022.
ABOUT CHARO OQUET
Dominican-born, Miami-based interdisciplinary artist, Charo Oquet’s wide-reaching practice includes performance, sculpture, installation, painting, video and photography. As an art activist, she founded Edge Zones, a non-profit arts organization in Miami, FL; The Miami Performance Festival; and Zones Art Fair Miami. Oquet is the author of SuperMix, Wet 2, and Wet. She has exhibited at the Pavilion of Contemporary Art (PAC), Italy; Bass Museum of Art, Ft. Lauderdale Museum, MoCA N. Miami, Bass Museum, New Zealand National Gallery, Govett-Brewster Art Gallery, NZ, Museo de Arte Moderno, D.R., New Zealand National Museum, Wellington, Casal Solleric, Spain, Hollywood Arts and Culture Center, Nikolaj Kunsthal, Copenhagen, Denmark Ballhaus Naunynstraße, Berlin, Germany, Kunstnerne Hus, Oslo, Norway and M&M Projects, Puerto Rico. She is known for her dynamic installations, which incorporate idioms of popular Afro-Caribbean religions.
Orquet’s awards include Knight Arts Challenge ’19, MAP Fund ‘15, the Grand Prize in the Dominican Biennial, Museum of Modern Art of Santo Domingo ‘11; Florida State Artists Fellowship Award ‘14; South Florida Cultural Consortium Visual and Media Artists Fellowship, and the QE II Arts Council of N.Z. Artist Fellowship Award. Her work has been featured in notable publications, including Atlantica, Index, El Pais, Vogue China, The Miami Herald. Recent exhibitions include The XIII Havana Biennial, Havana, Cuba, Relational Undercurrents, Contemporary Art of the Caribbean Archipelago, Pacific Standard Time: LA/LA, Museum of Latin American Art Frost Art Museum, Miami, Fl, (travelling exhibition), 26 Biennial of Santo Domingo, Museum of Modern Art Santo Domingo. Oquet’s work is found in the permanent collections of the Centro Atlántico de Arte Moderno, (CAAM); Las Palmas, Spain; The Bass Museum; the Fort Lauderdale and Frost Museum of Florida; New Zealand National Museum, Wellington, N.Z.; Govett-Brewter Art Gallery, New Zealand; and the Modern Art Museum of Dominican Republic; The World Bank as well as in many important private collections. In 2002, the late Antonio Zaya published a book of her work.