27.06.2010
Repeating Islands

A review of the Cuban art exhibit at the Johannesburg Art Gallery

Chris von Christierson, who wrote the catalogue’s foreword, comments on the “imperfect liberation culture” in both the Cuban and South African identity. Armed with this phrase we go and taste what it is about Cuban art that we as South Africans can hold on to.

The exhibition, by prominent Cuban artists, is a mix of mediums, approaches and viewpoints, flowing across six rooms in the gallery. Everything from pre-colonial work to contemporary photographs and videos, political posters and spoofs on European political cartoons is here; one could almost say that there’s something for everyone.

Only … you may leave this complicated whirlwind of an exhibition feeling morose. The reflections on the struggle for identity are tinctured with horror and misery and an understanding of a sociopolitical promise that ended in disappointment.

However, all is not doom and gloom.

A couple of highlights add not only humour to the mix, but also intelligent reflection on one-liners. One of these is White Corner by 40-year-old Trinidad-born Alexandre Arrechea. It’s easy to look at and understand, but it grabs you by the heart and doesn’t let go.

Two brick walls meet, forming an outside corner. Each has a video of a black man with big hair (actually, the artist) projected on it. One man is armed with a club, the other with a machete. They stealthily approach one another, but are foiled by the corner. They never meet, they cannot, but they continue a kind of dance, always ready to smash each other’s brains out. The simple brilliance of the piece offers an astute reflection on internecine warfare and distrust.

Yoan Capote’s interactive El Beso (The Kiss) deserves engagement. Comprising a row of slightly larger-than-life noses cast in different media, it comes with an expectation: you must “kiss” them. Or, rather, you are induced to smell them: each has an inner pad with a distinctive odour. But in order to smell it, you have to come very close to it, tantamount to the Inuit nose-kiss.

Full article at: Repeating Islands

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Exhibition view at Johannesburg Art Gallery (JAG), 2010.
Exhibition view at Johannesburg Art Gallery (JAG), 2010.
Exhibition view at Johannesburg Art Gallery (JAG), 2010.

A review of the Cuban art exhibit at the Johannesburg Art Gallery

By June 1, 2010Collection, Exhibition

Author federico

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