Christopher Cozier

Christopher Cozier

Contemporary artist and critic from Trinidad. His artwork has covered multiple media, including performance art and video. Since 1989, he has written a number of texts about art for various academic journals and art catalogs. As a critic, he has contributed as a member of the editorial board of Small Axe: A Caribbean Journal of Criticism, a publication of Duke University; to SPAN, a publication in Suriname; the magazine BOMB; and Art in the Caribbean, by the New Beacon Press.

Christopher Cozier was born in Port of Spain, the capital of Trinidad and Tobago, in 1959. He studied graphic design at the John Donaldson Technical Institute on his native island and earned a BFA degree in painting from the Maryland Institute of Art in 1986. He earned his master’s degree at the Mason Gross School of the Arts at Rutgers University.

He has participated in the Havana Biennial, the Biennial of Cuenca, Ecuador, and the Triennial Poli/Gráfica in San Juan. His work has also been displayed at the Brooklyn Museum (Infinite Islands), the Stenersen Museum in Oslo, Norway (Equatorial Rhythms), the Chicago Cultural Centre (HereThereEverywhere), and the Bag Factory in Johannesburg, South Africa, among others.

One of his most impressive pieces, Tropical Night, consists of some 200 color drawings (each one measuring 9″ x 7″) fixed to a framework of paperclips. Tones of brown and sepia dominate in the totality of the piece. It has been displayed in the United States and England. In drawing, the artist has found a useful form of expression. As he has stated himself, “Drawing is my handwriting.”

In 2004, he won the Pollock-Krasner Foundation Grant. Three years later, he was named artist in residence at Dartmouth College. He worked as a researcher at the Academy of the University of Trinidad and Tobago and is also one of the administrators at Alice Yard, a space for experimental artistic creation in Port of Spain.

His series Migrate or Medal/Meddle addressed issues of colonialism, oppression, development and migration of Caribbean peoples. One of the drawings presents a naked man crouching down with his hands on the floor. Four Trinidad and Tobago flags emerge from the nape of his neck. The image has provoked various interpretations, including that the nude body is the scene of territorial and political struggles. Under this post-modern interpretation by the magazine Social Text, the nation humiliates the subject.

Cross Currents contains images of the 18th century, through which the artist reflects on the Caribbeanculture of today and its social injustices. One part presents an image of a runaway slave (titled “going north”). Another presents a black man in business dress, holding a briefcase (it is titled “and to think he was such a polite boy”). Both figures are in hurried movement, in contrast with the immobile white landowner in other images.

In 2006, Richard Fung, of Canada, directed a documentary titled Uncomfortable: the Art of Christopher Cozier, which simultaneously dissected Cozier’s artistic career and Trinidad society in the country’s post-independence period.

Author: Alejandro Carpio
Published: May 08, 2012.

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