María Magdalena Campos-Pons: Sea and Self

Tuesday, September 3, 2019
through Friday, December 13, 2019
Douglass Library

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Center for Women in the Arts and Humanities

The Center for Women in the Arts and Humanities is pleased to announce that renowned artist María Magdalena Campos-Pons, Cornelius Vanderbilt Endowed Chair of Fine Arts, Vanderbilt University, has been named the 2019-20 Estelle Lebowitz Endowed Visiting Artist at Rutgers University. The Lebowitz program annually brings to the university community and general public the work and ideas of exceptional women artists through solo exhibitions, lectures, and short campus residencies.

Campos-Pons’ solo exhibition, Sea and Self, will be on view from September 3 to December 13, 2019, in the Mary H. Dana Women Artists Series Galleries, Douglass Library. The exhibit is curated by art historian and curator, Tatiana Flores, associate professor in the departments of Latino & Caribbean Studies and Art History, Rutgers University. To accompany the exhibition, CWAH will publish a comprehensive online catalog.

On Thursday, October 24 at 5 p.m. in the Mabel Smith Douglass Room, Douglass Library, there will be a reception in honor of Campos-Pons followed by an artist’s lecture from 5:30 to 6:30 p.m.

Sea and Self presents artworks produced by María Magdalena Campos-Pons (b. 1959, Matanzas, Cuba) from the late 1990s through the present which meditate on the sea, a constant theme in her work. The sea looms large in the Caribbean imaginary. Derek Walcott’s poem “The Sea Is History” (1977)—which is referenced in the title of an important recent exhibition which features Campos-Pons’ work—explains that for the descendants of African slaves brought to the Caribbean, the sea was the keeper of memory. Campos-Pons draws on this rich tradition in works such as She Always Knew of the Space In-Between (2019) which features drawings of the silhouettes of two African sculptures, but she also complicates it by making reference to the female gender, here and elsewhere. Works such as Nesting IV (2000), a panel of four large-scale Polaroids, position the artist as divided in half by the sea but remaining connected through locks of hair that unite the four parts of the composition. 

María Magdalena Campos-Pons’ work on the sea makes important contributions to art history, Caribbean Studies, and the environmental humanities. By repeatedly underscoring the ocean and thinking about it through cycles, she resists categories organized around national narratives that seek to place art in a linear continuum. Not only is the sea a site of loss and memory, a point Caribbean thinkers have often made, but it is also a mother and giver that is under threat. This exhibition will highlight how the artist intersects with emerging fields such as critical ocean studies and the blue humanities, celebrating her pioneering work and unique vision.

Campos-Pons’ works form part of over 30 museum collections, including the Newark Museum; the Smithsonian Institution; the Whitney Museum of American Art; the Art Institute of Chicago; the National Gallery of Canada; the Victoria and Albert Museum; The Museum of Modern Art, New York; the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston; the Pérez Art Museum Miami; and the Fogg Art Museum. She is represented by Gallery Wendi Norris in San Francisco, CA.

Douglass Library