Miami Beach artist Charo Oquet has won the Bass Museum’s second “New Monuments” commission and will now create a temporary public sculpture in Collins Park, the green space in which the museum is located.
The work, a tiered, perforated, metallic altar-like form that, from certain angles, may resemble a face in profile, is titled I am here: Translation of Mystic Symbols in an Age of New Subjectivity and will be installed in the park in March 2022 and remain on view for ten to 12 months.
For Oquet, who comes from a Dominican background, the commission is an opportunity to connect with her immediate community as well as highlighting South Florida’s Caribbean communities.
“My work is very much about Afro Caribbean culture and religion, so I wanted that presence,” the artist says. “It’s called I am here — as in, we are here, we are present and we are visible.”
The Bass’s “New Monuments” initiative is framed as a response to recent debates about monuments, the people, communities and events they commemorate, and the people who have long been invisible in public monuments.
Those debates have been especially pitted in the southern US, including Florida, where many statues and monuments commemorating the confederacy still remain. A tally in the summer of 2020 found Florida had the tenth most confederate monuments of any state, with 62.
Amid these debates about the politics of monuments, Oquet sees her commission as an opportunity to simultaneously speak to her community — local Miami Beach residents and members of the city’s Caribbean diaspora — while also employing forms and symbols that will be recognizable to a much larger audience.
“It’s going to be very contemporary, but at the same time it’s going to have these archaic forms; this sacred visual language that is very old," she says. "So, even if you’re not into contemporary art, you’ll understand it.”
Oquet’s commission follows the inaugural “New Monuments” sculpture by Miami-based artist Najja Moon, Your Mommas Voice in the Back of Your Head (2021), which will remain on view in the park through January.