Biography

Lavar Munroe (born 1982, Nassau, Bahamas) creates multimedia works that explore the African Diaspora and its concepts. Munroe was born and grew up in the impoverished, stigmatized and often marginalized Grants Town community in Nassau, Bahamas. In 2004, he moved to the United States at the age of 21. His work functions as a reflection of the environment of Munroe’s upbringing, and draws from memory the crude graffiti on the walls that surrounded his street. The artist maps a personal journey of survival and trauma in a world of gang violence, drugs, murder, self-discovery, development and overcoming obstacles through self-determination. Though inspired by the past, Munroe’s loud, energetic and unapologetic visual language confronts contemporary society and the strained and difficult relationships between authority and people of the ghetto.

 

As well as tapping his own experiences, much of Munroe’s practice comprises research that is informed by critical investigation and theories surrounding mythology and literature. Referencing Joseph Cambell’s ‘The Hero’s Journey’, Elaine Brown’s book ‘The Condemnation of Little B’ and Stanley “Tookie” Williams’ memoir, ‘Blue Rage, Black Redemption’, Munroe explores a number of social stereotypes in order to critique and challenge disparities that cut across gender, race, class, and age.

 

Munroe unpacks his personal experiences of being an “exotic other” upon arriving in the United States for college by examining the 19th and 20th century phenomena of the “Human Zoo.” This references freak shows, circuses, world’s fairs, and ethnic exhibits in Western culture during the colonialist era, at which time the concept of being an “other” was developed. Munroe’s work explores these colonialist, exoticizing behaviors and philosophies of the past to further understand the hierarchies, prejudices, and racist ideals of today. His recent sculptures, works on paper, and works on canvas highlight the Human Zoo’s impact on the politics of representation in contemporary art and society.

 

Munroe’s large-scale works on canvas hover between painting and sculpture as a result of his varied media and also his destruction and rebuilding technique with the canvas. Embracing elements of assemblage and collage, Munroe stitches and glues composite pieces into a larger whole; through cutting, tearing, stitching, and stapling, Munroe points to the history of exploitation and cruelty that was and still is faced by underrepresented bodies within society.  The central motifs of these large-scale pieces are anthropomorphic figures that vacillate between the playful and the macabre. The exotic human “other” is often paired alongside wild beasts, simultaneously referencing the systematic representation of human difference occurring in conjunction with the Human Zoo. The reclamation of identity that Munroe addresses is realized in the physical representation of wounds being stitched and sewn together, as Munroe replicates to his canvases. Munroe’s rich, varied creations highlight his interest in history, anthropology, and sociology.

Munroe was a participant in Okwui Enwezor’s 56th Venice Biennale and Trevor Schoonmaker’s Prospect.4.  He recently had a Ten-Year Survey at the National Gallery of the Bahamas, which was accompanied by a monograph, Lavar Munroe: Son of the Soil, as well as a solo exhibition at the Meadows Art Museum in Shreveport, LA, Devil in the White City. In 2019 he will be included the Perez Art Museum Miami exhibition, The Other Side of Now, as well as Coffee, Rhum, Sugar, Gold: A Postcolonial Paradox, curated by Larry Ossei-Mensah and Dexter Wimberly at the Museum of the African Diaspora, San Francisco. In 2018 Munroe has been included in the following group exhibitions: Shifting Gaze: A Reconstruction of The Black & Hispanic Body in Contemporary Art, Mennello Museum of American Art (Orlando FL), African Metrópolis (Museo nazionale delle arti del XXI secolo, Rome), Off Biennale Cairo: Something Else (Cairo, Egypt), and Becoming American curated by Fionn Meade (Seattle, WA). His work was recently shown in Afriques Capitales at La Villette and the 2016 Dakar Biennale.

 

His works are in the Estate of Peggy Cooper Cafritz and are featured in Fired Up! Ready to Go!  Munroe is a Visiting Professor at Indiana University. He has a MFA from Washington University, St. Louis, a BA from Savannah College of Art and Design, and attended the Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture. He recently completed a residency at the Headlands Center for the Arts, Marin County, CA; is a Joan Mitchell Foundation Painting and Sculpture Grant awardee; and completed the Fountainhead Residency (Miami, FL). He lives and works in Indiana and the Bahamas.