Curated by Judith Bettelheim
Organized by the San Francisco State University Fine Arts Gallery
AFROCUBA: Works on Paper, 1968-2003 is a groundbreaking exhibition of fifty-six prints and drawings by twenty-six artists from Havana and Santiago de Cuba. The artists in this exhibition represent a cross section of Cuban society, and their works exhibit a diverse range of subject matter, styles, and techniques, including lithographs, collographs, woodcuts, screen prints, and ink and crayon drawings. Organized thematically and following a loose chronological order, this exhibition is the first to focus on AfroCuban artists and themes through a historical-thematic lens—and the first time this work has been grouped together in a major exhibition outside of Cuba.
The exhibition features contributions by artist-members of Grupo Antillano, which evolved in the late 1970s and whose work underscores Cuba’s African heritage; artists who were sent to Africa, particularly Angola, either as combatants in revolutionary struggles or as cultural attachés; artists whose imagery is derived from AfroCuban religious expressions, including Santería; as well as artists whose works comment on Cuban politics and race and social relations today.
Included in AFROCUBA: Works on Paper, 1968-2003 are prints by Manuel Mendive, who first traveled to Africa in the early 1980s and whose artistic concerns address AfroCuban religious iconography. This section of the exhibition also contains a series of mural-size prints (collographs) produced in the 1990s by Belkis Ayón, who consistently deconstructed popular attitudes about the all-male, Havana-based Abakuá Society and inserted in her art her own AfroCuban female identity.
Of the more contemporary works on paper in the exhibition, artists cast a more critical eye on their country’s social, political, and economic conditions. This new generation’s aesthetic offerings range from takeoffs of 1950s-style movie posters (which celebrate fictional films starring the AfroCuban artist Elio Rodríguez and his wife), to the powerful, dark drawings of Juan Roberto Diago (inscribed with such acerbic commentaries as “My skin also is good” and “All Blacks do not drink coffee”), to Ibrahim Miranda, in whose Black Tears series, woodblock prints of distinctly rendered tears are printed over historic maps of Cuba and the transatlantic passage. As a group, and as a statement, this thirty-five-year chronicle of AfroCuban art testifies to the vitality and richness of work produced (and still being produced) on this nearby island.
The exhibition is curated by art historian Judith Bettelheim, Ph.D., author of two books and numerous articles about Caribbean art and culture. Dr. Bettelheim has worked in Cuba since 1985, and for this exhibition she interviewed numerous artists and collected work that attests to these artists’ involvement in AfroCuban culture.
VIEW Exhibition Catalog (San Francisco State University Gallery, 2005)
NUMBER OF WORKS:
February 2005 - February 2008
Indianapolis Museum of Art | Indianapolis, IN
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Lowe Art Museum | Coral Gables, FL
McColl Center for Art + Innovation | Charlotte, NC
Rafael Queneditt Morales, Elebwa (Eleggua), 1970
Juan Roberto Diago Durruthy, No me pises (Don't Step On Me), 2002
Thumbnail: Elio Rodriguez Valdes, The Temptation of the Joint Venture de la serie Las perlas de tu boca (from the series The Pearls of Your Mouth), 1995