Florida State University Assistant Professor of Art Cosmo Whyte‘s work is being showcased in Prospect 5 (P5), a citywide art exhibition that invites artists from around the globe to create projects in a variety of venues throughout New Orleans.
“Prospect 5 is an internationally prestigious art platform that takes place across numerous museums and galleries in the greater New Orleans area,” said Lilian Garcia Roig, professor and chair of FSU’s Department of Art. “Curators and art writers from across the country will be coming to see it, so it is very exciting and significant that Assistant Professor Whyte is being included at such an early point in his career.”
The exhibition, which occurs every three years, prompts youth, students and the public to discuss important topics and issues.
This year’s theme, “Yesterday we said tomorrow,” is inspired by local jazz musician Christian Scott aTunde Adjuah’s album and centers around “the unspoken present, the place where past and future come together, and where other courses of action become possible.”
Artists featured in P5 will explore how history informs the present while simultaneously contrasting newly commissioned art against the city’s historically significant pieces.
“As I was preparing for Prospect, I was thinking about what kind of connection I could bring from my experience growing up in Jamaica to showing my work in New Orleans as a dialogue,” Whyte said. “I was thinking about the tourism industry and service economies in both places, how there is a voyeuristic consumption of Black experiences like cultural dance and music.”
Whyte’s exhibition space is guarded by his introductory installation — “The Interlocutor,” a 7.7’ tall by 10’ wide hand-painted beaded curtain. Beyond the curtain contains the other works from Whyte’s presentation. Funding from a first-year experience award partially supported this installation.
“This is the biggest exhibition I have ever participated in,” Whyte said.
Whyte also worked with FSU’s Master Craftsman Studio on the project.
“We at the Master Craftsman Studio are thrilled to help a fellow artist streamline their process and better bring their vision to life,” said Maggie Jones, studio artist at Master Craftsman Studio.
“The Interlocutor” uses as its starting point the photograph “Limbo Dancer Thrills Thousands of Toronto Citizens during Caribana, 1967” by Canadian photojournalist Boris Spremo.
The photograph depicts a man performing the Limbo, a traditional Caribbean dance, during Canada’s Caribana, a Canadian celebration of Caribbean culture.
“I discovered this photograph during my research for this exhibition,” Whyte said. “It’s a very striking photograph of a limbo dancer in an intense contortion and thousands of people looking at him and taking photographs.”
Whyte said this photograph is particularly significant as it was the inaugural year for the Caribana celebration in Canada.
Whyte uses the image of the contorted dancer as a symbol for the contortion immigrants can feel as they are integrating themselves into a new country. Requiring the spectators at Prospect to enter through the curtain is part of the process of viewing his work.
“You are seeing this image of contortion, you have to walk through it, that has to be the context that you encounter the rest of the drawings,” said Whyte.
Whyte is also exhibiting a large triptych “Sketches of Character,” a large untitled drawing and 11-foot-high wall installation, “Flash Your Horn and Show Your Second Skin.”
Whyte acknowledged the importance of exhibiting with P5 at this point in his career and attributes its success to the support of Florida State University.
Whyte’s work is on display in the Prospect 5 show through Jan. 23, 2022.
For more information, visit https://www.prospect5.org/artists/cosmo-whyte.