By Lydia Gil
NEW ORLEANS – The Crescent City is paying tribute to Cuban culture with the months-long “¡Sí Cuba!” initiative, a collaborative effort among New Orleans museums, universities, galleries and art organizations that will run from early January until late March.
The series of activities is being organized by Tulane University’s Newcomb Art Gallery, that institution’s Stone Center of Latin American Studies and the New Orleans Museum of Art.
Although “¡Sí Cuba!” will not officially get underway until next month, NOMA kicked off its participation in the venture on Dec. 18 with an exhibition of works by Cuban-born, New Orleans-based painter Luis Cruz Azaceta.
Miranda Lash, NOMA’s curator of modern and contemporary art, told Efe that the museum decided to inaugurate the exhibition, titled “Luis Cruz Azaceta: Swimming to Havana,” during the holiday season to add more luster to “¡Sí Cuba!”
The exhibition is made up of 10 recent works by the artist in which he shows the 90 miles of ocean separating Cuba and the United States to be an excruciatingly difficult barrier to overcome and one that thwarts the longings of Cubans on both sides, who are either eager to forge a better life in America or to return to their homeland.
With his paintings, which are both abstract and figurative, Cruz Azaceta hopes to inspire people to imagine their own journey, while also calling to mind the historical links between the cities of New Orleans and Havana.
Cruz Azaceta, a resident of New Orleans since 1992 who has not been back to Cuba since leaving as a teenager in 1960, uses his own experiences as inspiration for his work, which has also been displayed at world-famous venues such as New York’s Museum of Modern Art and the Smithsonian in Washington.
A second exhibition, a joint presentation of NOMA and the Newcomb Art Gallery titled “Polaridad Complementaria: Recent Works from Cuba,” will focus on recent artistic production on the communist-ruled island.
To be on display until March 14 and overseen by Havana’s Wifredo Lam Contemporary Art Center, the traveling exhibition features more than 50 paintings, drawings, sculptures, photographs, video and installation art by 27 contemporary Cuban artists, including Rene Peña, Luis Enrique Camejo, Ricardo Elias and Douglas Perez.
The exhibition will be inaugurated simultaneously on Jan. 16 at both NOMA and the Newcomb Art Gallery.
In connection with the exhibit, noted art historian Gerardo Mosquera will give a talk on Cuban art on Jan. 28.
The following day, Mosquera will join a panel of critics, art historians and artists for a discussion on that same subject, part of the Collecting Cuban Art symposium being hosted by Newcomb, NOMA, Tulane’s Cuban & Caribbean Studies Institute and the Tulane Center for Scholars.
Other participants in the panel discussion will include Ricardo Viera, Holly Block, Sandy Levinson, Daniel Cameron and prominent Cuban artist Antonio Eligio Fernandez, better known by his nickname “Tonel.”
Other New Orleans galleries and museums have also joined on to “Si Cuba” and will either host exhibitions of Cuban artists or highlight part of their collections that relate to the theme of the initiative.
They will include the Heriard-Cimino Gallery with an exhibition of the work of Cuban installation artist Jose Bedia; the Arthur Roger Gallery, which will display paintings, drawings and sculpture by Cruz Azaceta; the Jonathan Ferrara Gallery with a presentation of new works by Cuban artist Angel Delgado; and LeMieux Galleries, which will host an exhibit of drawings by Paul Ninas from his time in Cuba and the Caribbean in the 1930s.
Meanwhile, The Historic New Orleans Collection will focus on the historical and recent ties between Cuba and Louisiana with an exhibition of maps, documents and photographs titled “Louisiana and Cuba: Multiple Perspectives,” which will be on display from Jan. 19 to April 17.
A month-long series of Latin American films also will be shown as part of “¡Sí Cuba!” at the Zeitgeist Multi-disciplinary Arts Center from Feb. 19 to March 11. Special emphasis will be placed on the work of the late Cuban documentary filmmaker Santiago Alvarez. EFE