Contemporary Cuban Art: History, Identity, and Materiality

from the collection of the Jordan Schnitzer Museum of Art

March 5 – May 22, 2022

Cuba has a diverse culture and complex history that is both fascinating and often misunderstood.  Paradox, dark humor, beauty, sadness, and vulnerability connect the works on view in the exhibition Contemporary Cuban Art.  Guest Curator Jill Hartz has conceptualized this exhibition through the lenses of history, identity, and materiality as a structure to draw visitors into their own paths of discovery of contemporary Cuban art.  Most of the Cuban artists, whose artworks are featured in the exhibition, have benefited from a free education and meticulous training from a young age.  Their extensive knowledge of Western art history and their honing of practice and technique have provided strong foundations for their individual visions and expression.  Artists who are still living in Cuba reflect the daily challenges of survival in their art, while those now living in the U.S. and elsewhere convey the tensions of their hybrid citizenship. Regardless of their current physical location, however, all of them are fully engaged in expressing their personal relationship with their homes and the world with honesty, intelligence, and determination.

Jill Hartz was the Executive Director of the Jordan Schnitzer Museum of Art from 2008 to 2019.  During her career, she had the good fortune to visit Cuba nine times over twenty years. She met many artists, curators, art historians, gallerists, and collectors on the island who have helped her to learn more about Cuban history and contemporary art.

 

Sponsored by U.S. Bank

 

IMAGE: Armando Marino, Untitled (Couch with legs/feet), from the “Herencia Colonial” Series, 2003, watercolor on paper, 40 x 60 inches, Collection of the Jordan Schnitzer Museum of Art, Gift of Linda and Irwin Berman, in memory of Linda. 

Slide Raúl Corrales, La atarraya, gelatin silver print, negative c. 1948; print 2003, 17 x 19-3/4 inches, Collection of the Jordan Schnitzer Museum of Art, Gift of Linda and Irwin Berman, in memory of Linda Slide María Magdalena Campos-Pons, Nesting, 2007, three Polaroid prints, 20 x 24 inches each, Collection of the Jordan Schnitzer Museum of Art, Jordan Schnitzer Acquisition Fund Purchase. Slide Ibrahim Miranda, Guantanamo, 2001, acrylic on canvas, 25 x 31-1/2 inches, Collection of the Jordan Schnitzer Museum of Art, Museum purchase. Slide OSPAAAL (Organization in Solidarity with the People of Asia, Africa & Latin America); artist Alfredo G. Rostgaard, Che silhouette with flowers from Che Portfolio: New Edition, first printed 1970, offset print on paper, 19 x 13-1/2 inches, Collection of the Jordan Schnitzer Museum of Art, Gift of Mark and Carolyn Foster. Slide Alejandro González Méndez, Conducta impropia (with green eyes), 2008, color photograph, 24 x 25 inches, Collection of the Jordan Schnitzer Museum of Art, General Acquisition Fund Purchase.

My work reflects on universal issues of identity, connectivity, and survival. Through a variety of mediums, I explore philosophical questions associated with isolation, individualism, and disjointed positions as originators of chaos. For the last few years, I have been fascinated by the expressive quality of paper, an unassuming material that I see as a metaphor for transformation and reinvention. Since my childhood, I have also been fascinated by the brain and its intricacies. The fact that some members of my family suffer from mental illnesses made me want to understand the mysteries of an organ that rules a great part of human behavior. My latest work, mostly using paper, associates the versatility of that material with the malleability of the brain.

-Elsa Mora
(From elsamora.net)

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Artworks

Fading

Elsa Mora (born in Cuba, 1970; lives in U.S.)

Fading, 2018
paper and glue

Collection of the Jordan Schnitzer Museum of Art
Museum Purchase with funds from the Ballinger Endowment Fund

Elsa Mora’s elaborate paper constructions comprise the series Fading, one of a group of works that explores the faculties of the brain, in this instance, consciousness. The series began while Mora, waiting in a doctor’s office while her son was treated for autism, needed something to do that would be both creative and helpful in dealing with the diagnosis.

“Fading is about consciousness (the quality of being aware), and more specifically about the fine line that we cross every day between consciousness and unconsciousness when we go to sleep. The gradation of colors is a visual representation of that state of appearing and disappearing, feeling and not feeling. An idea came to mind that consciousness could be seeing as a collection of small containers carrying everything that we know. I built the small paper “cups” as those containers. Making them had to be done one at a time by cutting circles and applying pressure on them with a metal tool that has a ball on one end, usually used for soft metal embossing.” – Elsa Mora

Perda do Sentido (Loss of Reason)

Elsa Mora (born in Cuba, 1970; lives in U.S.)

Perda do Sentido (Loss of Reason), 2000
archival digital photographs

Collection of the Jordan Schnitzer Museum of Art
Gift of Dr. and Mrs. Irwin R. Berman

Mora was a good friend of Belkis Ayon, an influential Cuban printmaker, and was shocked by her suicide. Mora retreated to her studio for solace and created this triptych to process the loss. In the series, Elsa Mora depicts herself as a character from one of Belkis Ayon’s prints. The choice of writing in Portuguese add an additional layer of mystery to a powerful tribute.

 

Belkis Ayón Manso (born in Cuba, 1967-99)

Intolerancia, 1998
collagraph, ed. 9/10

Collection of the Jordan Schnitzer Museum of Art
Gift of Norman Brown and Anne Cooling

Lagrima and La busqueda (Tear and The Search)

Lagrima and la Busqueda

Elsa Mora (born in Cuba, 1970; lives in U.S.)

Lagrima and La busqueda
(top: Tear; bottom:The Search)

2014
cut paper

Collection of the Jordan Schnitzer Museum of Art
Museum Purchase supported by John Fisher and Jennifer Caldwell

Videos

(Video Tour) Collecting Cuba: Selections from the Jordan Schnitzer Museum or Art
Schneider Museum of Art, April 2021

Creative Industries Discussion: Elsa Mora
Schneider Museum of Art, May 2021

Gallery Talk: Elsa Mora
Jordan Schnitzer Museum of Art, September 2018

Additional Resources


Toddler-Elementary

Let’s Explore Cuba (Bumba Books) by Walt K. Moon


Middle School

Creative Paper Crafts: 35 Cool, Customizable Projects for Crafty Kids by Lisa Glover


Adult

Paper Cutting: Contemporary Artists, Timeless Craft by Laura Heyenga, Rob Ryan, and Natalie Avella

Exhibition catalogue available in the BAM Store.

 

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