Courtesy of Carmel Buckley and Mark Harris

Carmel Buckley and Mark Harris: Sparrow Come Back Home

6 Dec 20165 Feb 2017

ICA Fox Reading Room

Entry with Day Membership

Sparrow Come Back Home by British artists Carmel Buckley and Mark Harris takes its title from a 1962 album by calypso singer Mighty Sparrow, which points out the irony of being appreciated only once he had left Trinidad for the US. Mighty Sparrow, born Slinger Francisco, began song writing and performing in the intensely competitive public arena of Trinidad Carnival in the early 1950s and although he has recently been seriously ill, Sparrow still performed during the 2014 Trinidad Carnival. His first vinyl LP, Calypso Carnival, was released in 1958, with his most recent work, Sparromania! released in 2011. His entire body of work has been collected, locating almost two hundred LPs and 12-inch singles from different Caribbean islands as well as in cities of the West Indian diaspora such as New York, Toronto and London. West Indians acclaimed Sparrow as among the most important calypsonians of the late twentieth-century for the humorous topicality and the lyrical and musical inventiveness of his songs. In spite of this acclaim, Sparrow, and calypso more generally, continues to be little understood and appreciated in comparison with other world music.

This exhibition shows representations of Sparrow’s records alongside an archive of printed material relating to his music, revealing the depth of calypso culture. Carmel Buckley and Mark Harris will install their work of 180 ceramic tiles, each approximately the size of an LP, depicting the front and back of record covers from Sparrow’s entire career. The images comprise of photo decals fired onto the tiles, fixing his music into a kind of permanent memorial.

The installation of tiles is accompanied by an archive of literature and photographs relating to calypso and Trinidadian social and political issues often addressed by these songs. Besides photographs, posters and records by rival calypsonians from the period, the archive includes poetry by John Agard, Kamau Brathwaite, Lasana Kwesi, Abdul Malik and Derek Walcott who have written powerfully about calypso, Carnival and steel drum music. There are works by Earl Lovelace whose remarkable 1979 novel Dragon Can’t Dance includes a portrayal of a calypso singer clearly based on Sparrow. Also included will be a 1963 book of Sparrow’s lyrics, One Hundred And Twenty Calpysoes to Remember, as well as Gordon Rohlehr’s key publication Calpypso & Society in Pre-Independent Trinidad along with sound and video components to the archive.

Images and extracts from Calypso Dreams courtesy of Geoffrey Dunn, calypso writer and filmmaker.

Carmel Buckley was born in Derby, England, lives and works in London and Cincinnati. She studied at Newcastle upon Tyne Polytechnic, Escuela de Bellas Arte, Madrid University, San Carlos Academy of Fine Arts in Mexico City and at the School of Visual Arts, New York as a Fulbright Fellow. She is currently Professor of Art at The Ohio State University. She has been the recipient of a New York Foundation for the Art Sculpture Award and an Ohio Arts Council Individual Artist Award. Recent solo exhibitions include The Weston Art Gallery, Cincinnati, OH (2009), Clay Street Press, Cincinnati, OH (2011), and The Center For Recent Drawing, London, England (2012), and Delaware Center for the Contemporary Arts (2014). Her work has been featured in exhibitions at Gallery North, Northumbria University, Newcastle upon Tyne, England (2005); at Carl Solway Gallery, Cincinnati, OH (2006); at E:vent Gallery, London, England (2009), and Sculpture Key West, Key West, FL (2011).

Mark Harris was born in Singapore, lives and works in London and Cincinnati. He teaches in Goldsmiths College Art Department, London, Mount Royal MFA, MICA, Baltimore and School of Art Professor, University of Cincinnati. Recent exhibitions include High Times, Welcome Collection, London, (2011); London Open, Whitechapel Gallery, (2012); Delaware Center for the Contemporary Arts (2014), Cherry & Lucic, Portland, OR, (2015); Contemporary Arts Center, Cincinnati (2015), Zephyr Gallery, Louisville (2016); Root Division, San Francisco (2016); Wave Pool, Cincinnati (2016). Received Warhol Foundation/Creative Capital Art Writers Grant, (2009). Recent published writing includes: Pipilotti Rist's Music (2009); Marcia Farquhar: Chelsea Hotel, March 14, 2008 (2009); A Local Culture: tradition and risk in Cincinnati, (PAFA, 2011); essay in West of Center, University of Minnesota Press, (2011); 'The Materiality of Water', Aesthetic Investigations, (2015); 'Another Minimalism', Art Monthly, (2016); 'What Strategies Enable Women Artists’ Self-Determination Today?,' C21 RECENT HISTORY, (2016) and 'Sharon Hayes,' Studio Voltaire, London, (2016).

Supported by The Ohio State University, College of Arts and Sciences and the University of Cincinnati.

The ICA Fox Reading Room is made possible by the generous support of the Edwin Fox Foundation.