FIRELEI BÁEZ: The Momentary, Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art, Bentonville, AR
In her largest sculptural installation to date, Firelei Báez invites visitors to traverse passageways and travel through time and space, engaging with streams of intervention and interconnectedness. In its second iteration, Báez’s sculpture revisits the centuries-long exchange of ideas and influence between Europe, the African continent, and the Americas, reclaiming and revisiting the Caribbean’s place in the story of Western world history through a presentation that the New York Times calls “history meets flamboyant fantasy.”
To breathe full and free: a declaration, a re-visioning, a correction (19º36’16.9”N 72º13’07.0’’W, 42º21’48.762’’N 71º1’59.628’’W, 36° 22′ 0.1848” N94° 12′ 8.64” W) reimagines the archeological ruins of the Sans-Souci Palace in Haiti, as if it were emerging from the Atlantic Ocean through the Momentary’s galleries. The longitudinal and latitudinal coordinates signify where the ruins are located, the location of ICA Watershed in Boston (where this work was first presented), and the location of the Momentary. The installation also features an immersive mural and hanging tarps that evoke both being underwater and the starry night sky. The monumental structure’s intricately painted architectural surfaces include symbols of healing and resistance, patterning drawn from West African indigo printing traditions (later used in the American South), and sea growths native to Caribbean waters, reconsidering the complex history of interaction between each of these sites.
Installation view of Firelei Báez, ,To breathe full and free: a declaration, a re-visioning, a correction (19°36'16.9"N72°13'07.0"W, 42° 21'48.762" N 71°1'59.628" W, 36° 22' 0.1848'' N94° 12' 8.64'' W), 2021. Installation view, ICA Watershed, 2021. Courtesy of the artist and James Cohan, New York. Photo by Chuck Choi.