To get to the two sole paintings in Firelei Báez’s spectacular installation one must enter an enchanted garden. For her recent exhibition at James Cohan, the Dominican-born artist has re-imagined the gallery space into a nocturnal lagoon overflowing with tropical birdsong, lush plants, and flowery scents. Yet underneath the breathtaking show of nature lurks a far more uncomfortable truth. Intersecting themes of Caribbean colonialism, black female empowerment, migration, and socio-political rationales of black resistance have always provided the scaffolding that supports most of Báez’s oeuvre. They are apparent in the material strategies and conceptual blueprints that underlie this exhibition. Here, Báez imagines the visitor as an accidental tourist to a Caribbean island whose lush tropical climate masks the difficult post-colonial reverberation that lead many of their countries’ best and brightest to seek opportunities elsewhere – a dilemma emblematic of the blue tarp of migrants and disaster shelters that makes up the exhibition’s night sky. The two female portraits that face each other in the center of the room are stunning. Framed by tropical plants, they remind of retablos, which are small devotional depictions of Catholic saints used in home altars throughout Latin America. Both women are wearing bright tignons, the headdress that free and slave women were forced to wrap around their hair and that they instead turned into stylish symbols of resistance. Graceful and poised, with skin a fluid mélange of vibrant color, they are representative of resplendent mythical Yoruba goddesses whose striking gaze is challenging the legacy of history through the empowerment of the black female experience. At James Cohan through June 16.