Cuban Art Outshines Politics, reports New York Times (source)
”Avril and Thalia on the rooftop, Havana, 2017,” Leysis Quesada Vera, from the exhibition CubaIs at the Annenberg Space for Photography.CreditCreditLeysis Quesada Vera
Cuba is like a giant Ping-Pong, caught in the cross hairs of United States foreign policy. One minute President Obama is relaxing restrictions, making it easier for tourists in the United States to visit the tiny island. Blink, and President Trump is rolling back some of the administration’s changes. Another blink, and the state department is advising Americans not to travel to Cuba after mysterious medical attacks on diplomats at the American Embassy in Havana.
With its politics in flux, Cuba may be more fascinating than ever for Americans already intrigued by its music, culture and art. The interest is evident from the number of Cuba-themed museum shows and exhibits around the United States, many of which have been held in tandem with Havana-based institutions.
Earlier this year, an exhibit at the American Museum of Natural History in New York was developed with members of the Cuban National Museum of Natural History, while another at the Bronx Museum was organized with curators from El Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes, in Havana.
El Museo del Barrio in New York has a retrospective through Nov. 5 of Belkis Ayón, the late Cuban visual artist who was first on view at the Fowler Museum in Los Angeles.
Olga Viso, executive director of the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis, attributed some of the heightened interest to the Obama administration policies, which made travel to the island easier. Fidel Castro’s death last November was also a factor for people who had boycotted the island during his regime.
“For many years from the ’50s to late ’80s, Cuba was a cultural center in Latin America,” said Iliana Cepero, professor of Latin American art and Cuban Culture at New York University and the New School. “This relationship has been so tense for so many decades. Cubans have been waiting for this moment for all these years.”
Both Ms. Viso and Ms. Cepero have curated Cuban-themed exhibitions. Ms. Viso was a developer of the Walker’s “Adiós Utopia: Dreams and Deceptions in Cuban Art Since 1950,” which focuses on artists who remained in Cuba after the revolution, and opens on Nov. 11. Ms. Cepero created “Cuba Is” at the Annenberg Space for Photography in Los Angeles, which runs through March 4.
The images in that show capture rarely seen communities in Cuba, “from the Cuban ‘1 percent’ — the incredibly rich living in ritzy enclaves hidden away from the population — and the underground world of the punk kids known as ‘frikis,’ ” Wallis Annenberg, the president, chairman, and chief executive of the Annenberg Foundation, said in an email. “We aimed to capture Cuba at this critical moment, when the island nation is on the cusp of great change.”