A Caribbean-Style Blast from the Past

Whenever I peruse the DMA’s photography collections in the archives, I find something unique in history that catches my eye. Sprinkle a bit of research on top, and voilà . . . I’ve uncovered something for Uncrated!

This time my interest was sparked when I saw this photo of a palm tree in the galleries. And my curiosity grew when I spied a Carmen Miranda-esque basket of fruit and oversize seashells next to it.

Gulf Caribbean International Art Exhibition, June 3–July 13, 1956
Southern Methodist University, Hamon Arts Library, Bywaters Special Collections Gift of Dr. Richard Bywaters and Mrs. Jerry Bywaters Cochran

The palm tree, and the other Caribbean-type accoutrements, added to the atmosphere of the DMFA’s installation of the Gulf Caribbean International Art Exhibition in 1956. The exhibition was organized by the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston to celebrate the work of contemporary artists living in the areas surrounding the Gulf of Mexico and the Caribbean Sea: Colombia, Costa Rica, Cuba, Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Guatemala, Haiti, Honduras, Jamaica, Mexico, Nicaragua, Panama, Puerto Rico, Surinam, Trinidad, Venezuela, Alabama, Florida, Louisiana, Mississippi, and Texas. The exhibition was large, with over 160 works, including paintings, sculpture, and ceramics.

Gulf Caribbean International Art Exhibition, June 3–July 13, 1956
Southern Methodist University, Hamon Arts Library, Bywaters Special Collections Gift of Dr. Richard Bywaters and Mrs. Jerry Bywaters Cochran

It was also sponsored by Brown & Root, Inc., a heavy engineering and construction company, which allowed for ten purchase prizes for MFA Houston. Prizes were awarded to six foreign and four American artists. The three top $1,000 prizes went to Alejandro Obregon of Colombia; Cundo Bermudez of Havana, Cuba; and Seymour Fogel of Austin, Texas (“Foreigners Take Over Art Prizes,” Dallas Morning News, April 5, 1956).

Gulf Caribbean International Art Exhibition, June 3–July 13, 1956
Southern Methodist University, Hamon Arts Library, Bywaters Special Collections Gift of Dr. Richard Bywaters and Mrs. Jerry Bywaters Cochran

The DMFA installation of the exhibition, which traveled to four other venues after it closed in Dallas, was considered to be “as invigorating a treat that has come our way in many seasons. There is creative taste in its selection (and creative display)” (“Collection Has Talent to Spare,” Dallas Morning News, June 3, 1956). The author of the article continues the compliment: “the uniformly high level of quality in the paintings [is] matched for a change in the sculpture and ceramic entries with favorites hard to come by.” The exhibition would be remembered and noted as one of the most important exhibitions of 1956 in both Seventy-five Years of Art in Dallas (1978) by Jerry Bywaters and Now / Then / Again: Contemporary Art in Dallas 1949-1989 (1989) by Richard R. Brettell.

Gulf Caribbean International Art Exhibition, June 3–July 13, 1956
Southern Methodist University, Hamon Arts Library, Bywaters Special Collections Gift of Dr. Richard Bywaters and Mrs. Jerry Bywaters Cochran

I hope you have found this 1956 visit to the Gulf and Caribbean eye-catching and interesting as well.

Hillary Bober is the Archivist at the DMA. 

 

 


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