Firelei Báez: the vast ocean of all possibilities (19°36'16.9"N 72°13'07.0"W, 41°30'32.3"N 81°36'41.7"W)
Who wrote the history of painting?
Firelei Báez, an American artist of Haitian and Dominican descent based in New York, is known for her large-scale paintings and immersive installations, like the one here. Báez’s work ties together subject matter mined from a wide breadth of diasporic narratives, or stories that evolve and travel like people across the globe. In doing so, Báez positions her work in critical conversation with the history of Western art, seen elsewhere in the Cleveland Museum of Art.
This installation is part of an ongoing series in which the artist reimagines the archaeological ruins of the Sans-Souci Palace in northern Haiti, underscoring its position as an enduring symbol of healing and resistance. The work’s painted surfaces are adorned with reproductions of traditional West African indigo printing (later used in the American South) and marine plants native to Caribbean waters. In this work, the ruins of the San-Souci Palace appear to travel through both time and place to burst through the gallery’s floor, dripping with brightly colored sea life and the pieces of modern urban waste that now carpet our ocean floors.
Commissioned by FRONT International: Cleveland Triennial for Contemporary Art, with support from the Kelvin and Eleanor Smith Foundation and James Cohan Gallery, New York.
FRONT exhibitions at the Cleveland Museum of Art are presented by Richard and Michelle Jeschelnig, with additional support from the Kelvin and Eleanor Smith Foundation, Fleischner Family Charitable Foundation, the Louise H. and David S. Ingalls Foundation, and the Consulate General of the Netherlands in New York.
The Cleveland Museum of Art is proud to partner with FRONT International. All exhibitions at the Cleveland Museum of Art are underwritten by the CMA Fund for Exhibitions. Major annual support is provided by the Womens Council of the Cleveland Museum of Art. Generous annual support is provided by an anonymous supporter, Dick Blum (deceased) and Harriet Warm, Dr. Ben H. and Julia Brouhard, Mr. and Mrs. Walter R. Chapman Jr., the Jeffery Wallace Ellis Trust in memory of Lloyd H. Ellis Jr., Leigh and Andy Fabens, Michael Frank in memory of Patricia Snyder, the Sam J. Frankino Foundation, Janice Hammond and Edward Hemmelgarn, Eva and Rudolf Linnebach, William S. and Margaret F. Lipscomb, Bill and Joyce Litzler, Carl and Lu Anne Morrison, Henry Ott-Hansen, Tim O’Brien and Breck Platner, Mr. and Mrs. Michael F. Resch, Anne H. Weil, and Claudia C. Woods and David A. Osage.