Alvaro Barrington

GARVEY 1: BIRTH -The Quiet Storm

Nicola Vassell
138 Tenth Avenue
New York
Sep 10th 2021 — Oct 30th 2021

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We are all of us linked by blood, by kinship, by choice. “GARVEY 1: BIRTH — THE QUIET STORM,” comprising paintings on wood, concrete, and burlap, is Alvaro Barrington’s first exhibition in a quartet dedicated to Marcus Garvey, the Jamaican activist, theorist, publisher, and writer. Garvey, who passed away in 1940, was the Pan-Africanist founder of the international Universal Negro Improvement Association and African Communities League. Like Garvey, Barrington is of Caribbean descent and charted migratory paths between the Caribbean, Latin America, the United States, and England. Barrington’s mark-making weaves the two men’s lives together, proclaiming a bond across space and time, and speaking into existence a dream of fraternity.

The exhibition’s opening salvo is the 10-foot canvas U the Wettest (2021). The title is spelled out in peeling, uppercase letters alongside a pair of drums within a rough wooden frame. A drum player in a dappled shirt, their face scrubbed out, is surrounded by gushing jets of water. The drums and water introduce the theme of maritime migration in the Caribbean. Similarly, motifs of banana leaves and hibiscus flowers dot the exhibition.

Barrington employs text as wayposts both within works and across the display. The oil- and acrylic-on-burlap work What’s Next (2021) renders the words in Gothic type, set upon a leaf against a bicolored background. It’s hung at the edge of a wall, goading the viewer to turn the corner, where one finds a rebus of small paintings spanning a hall. Held in thick, painted frames, they depict abstract suns, skies, and seas. Most of the paintings are displayed in a straight line, but there’s no clear order to view them; one appends the bottom of the line, and another hangs solitary on the opposite wall. Located in a hallway connecting the front and back gallery, where a viewer both enters and exits, they offer a sense of both beginning and ending between two encounters. As such, the work suggests an atemporality—or a scrambled temporality—bridging two figures who were never on the earth together, but who traveled the same places and dreamed similar dreams. —Lisa Yin Zhang

Alvaro Barrington, 1916-228, 2021. Mixed media on burlap paper in artist's wooden frame, 11 1/2 x 14 3/4 x 1 7/8 inches. Courtesy of the artist and Nicola Vassell Gallery Photo Credit: Adam Reich Photography,