This month The Mac Weekly ventured to the Walker Arts Center to see the exhibition titled Adiós Utopia: Dreams and Deceptions in Cuban Art Since 1950. The exhibition aims to teach viewers about Cuban history, and to express the ways in which artists on the island were shaped by their tumultuous pasts. Over 50 Cuban artists and designers created the more than 100 works of photography, painting, graphic design, video, installation and performance featured in the exhibition. It is the most comprehensive modern Cuban art show in the United States since 1944.
When walking through Galleries A, B and C, the viewer is immersed in a range of sound and color. As the exhibition features a wide variety of media, the artists’ styles provide the viewer with an insight into the dynamic range of experiences during and after Fidel Castro rose to power in 1959. Each gallery combines a range of media, organized by theme, to challenge the viewer’s understanding and ask the viewer to immerse themselves in the artist experience.
On the floor are a series of cinder blocks in the shape of the island of Cuba paired with blocks that read “El Bloqueo” (the blockade) that sit along the wall. In the next room, multiple countries’ flags hang overhead in grayscale. From the other side of the gallery, it seems as if the world is in black and white until a person walks passed the doorway.
When the viewer walks past the cinder blocks, through the first room in the exhibit, they are met with a multi-canvas painting installation titled Sin titulo, del la serie Etapa practica (Untitled, from the Practical Stage series) created by Glexis Novoa in 1989. Hues of reds, oranges and muddy browns fill the wall. From up close, it is difficult to pick out the depth of the canvases. Located in the gallery titled “The Imposition of Words: Discourse, Rhetoric, and Media Controls,” the piece is composed of nearly twenty components that hang symmetrically on the wall. The artist implements fragmented lettering perhaps to reflect how the censorship, rhetoric and language have defined Cuban identity.
In the final portion of the exhibition, a room titled “Lost Illusions and Inverted Utopia,” a lighthouse lies on its side, tucked in the corner in its own section. As the viewer walks into the gallery space, they can see the hollow cylindrical form with a spiral staircase in its interior. Viewers are not able to enter the structure as the window openings are too small and there is no doorway. The light from the top of the lighthouse, facing the corner of the room, rotates and illuminates the dim room. It casts shadows from the metal bars onto the walls and floor.
Faro tumbado (Felled Lighthouse) was constructed by a pair of artists called Los Carpinteros, consisting of Marco Antonio Castillo Valdés and Dagoberto Rodríguez Sánchez. Together they have been working as a Cuban artist collective since 1992, drawing “inspiration from the physical world” and creating installations and drawings that “negotiate the space between the functional and the nonfunctional.” The artists aim to respond to space and the intersection of art and society through humor. The piece was created in 2006 and is on loan from the American Fund for the Tate Gallery, courtesy of the Latin american Acquisitions Committee.
Overall, each of the 100 art pieces culminate to create a narrative of rebellion. By challenging the Cuban regime through art, all of the artists share an integral perspective of history that is often overlooked.
Adiós Utopia: Dreams and Deceptions in Cuban Art Since 1950 can be viewed at the Walker Arts Center in Minneapolis until March 18. General Admission is $15 for adults and $10 for students. Visit walkerart.org to find out more about Target Free Thursdays and tours for the exhibition.
by Sophia Alhadeff