Q & A, Nine Contemporary Cuban Artists
November 30 – January 15, 2017
This exhibition of nine contemporary Cuban artists working in various media highlights artistic practices that reflect a polyvalent vision of Cuban reality today. Addressing their country’s national and political myths, they examine history, failed ideologies, corruption, censorship, and the manipulation of public opinion. Rather than a complacent view, Q & A, Nine Contemporary Cuban Artists emphasizes these artists’ critically aware point of view, acknowledging the existence of a line between art and political activism that they do not cross.
Deliberately eschewing familiar tropes, the exhibition provides us with an opportunity to examine the questions of how Cubans see themselves and how they think the world sees them. Organized by Havana-based curator Cristina Vives, Q & A includes the artists Alexandre Arrechea, Alejandro Campins, Javier Castro, Humberto Díaz, Fidel García, Alejandro González, Lorena Gutiérrez, Tony Labat, and Fernando Rodríguez, the majority of whom live and work in Cuba.
The exhibition features paintings, sculptures, photographs, and video installations. Alejandro Campins’s monumental, enigmatic paintings of abandoned sites mirror the changing urban and rural landscapes of his native land. His evocative large-scale canvases picture haunting mise-en-scènes of impermanence and lost identity. Humberto Díaz creates intricate installations that range from discreet interventions to ambitious immersive environments. He generates tension between the viewer and the space inhabited by the works, which can be both visually and spatially discomfiting. Díaz presents situations in which “the excess of power...generates an atmosphere of surveillance and control.” Lorena Gutiérrez’s site-specific installation considers white-collar embezzlement, while Alejandro González’s black-and-white photographs reenact specific moments of Cuban history, depicting the exacerbated dogmatism and bureaucratization of official mass meetings during Cuba’s Gray Five Year Period (1970–75). Power and control underlie the work of Fidel García, also known as T-10. Experimenting with old and new technologies, he bases his projects on the observation and analysis of the structures of a particular context—which he calls “the system”—that he later deconstructs, conceptually intervening in multiple “systems” in public space. His work Collectivization (2015) is a light installation of data graphs representing research into cases of public corruption in Cuba during the last twenty-five years. Driven by an anthropological gaze, Javier Castro’s video The Golden Age depicts children in one of Havana’s most marginal neighborhoods. He records “social performances,” the survival skills of Cubans in everyday life, recording what he encounters with as little intervention as possible.
Q & A: Nine Contemporary Cuban Artists was organized by the Inter-American Development Cultural Center in Washington, D.C., where a version of the exhibition opened in December, 2015.