Cubans Rule Roost at Pan American's Diaspora-Themed Show

Categories: Art
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The Merger Inflacion
Courtesy Pan American Art Projects
Pan American Art Projects' new exhibit isn't your typical summer group show. At a time when most local galleries are dusting off their stock and having the ubiquitous fire sale to move brand merchandise, this Wynwood space is delivering a museum-quality show featuring top-drawer talent courtesy of Abelardo Mena, curator of international art for Havana's Museo de Bellas Artes.

Mena has organized "Uprooted/Transmigrations" to showcase a handsome collection of Pan American's holdings alongside works created specifically for the exhibit.The deftly curated show deals with themes of forced migration and includes works by artists from the United States, Cuba, Jamaica, Haiti, and Argentina.

On view are sculptures, paintings, installations, collages of varying sizes, and even interactive pieces. Mena has included some of Cuba's biggest names in the lineup, and their works are among the most compelling on display.


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Abel Barroso Dual Citizenship
Courtesy Pan American Art Projects

Abel Barroso's interactive installation, Dual Citizenship, is modeled after a carnival ring toss game. Isolated in Pan American's back room, the mixed-media piece combines printmaking and sculpture to deliver a scathing commentary on contemporary Cuban life.


The artist constructed a wooden outline of the world map and floated the continents on a platform that rises to the height of the spectator's hip. Wooden pegs sprout from varied locales on the map, and viewers are invited to test their hand-eye coordination by purchasing three rings for three bucks and trying their luck at landing two or more of the rings on the pegs. Winners receive one of 40 hand-crafted "passports" Barroso made for the show and strung up with clothespins on a cord behind the game. By including scores of countries in his game of possibilities and playing up the chance factor of where the tossed rings might land, Barroso adroitly underscores the role fortune plays in the plight of immigrants forced to flee their homelands.


Works by Kcho and Ernesto Javier Fernández Zalacain deal with the history of Cubans risking their lives crossing the Florida Straits to find freedom in the United States.

 

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Kcho this Kayak will poke your eyes out
Courtesy Pan American Art Projects

One of Kcho's sculptures offering a barbed take on the balsero phenomenon is a bristling kayak sprouting dozens of billfish spears from its center, giving the torpedo-shaped vessel the appearance of a torture device harking back to the Spanish Inquisition.


 

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Javier Fernandez Zalacain Dead End
Courtesy Pan American Art Projects

Fernández Zalacain's Dead End is a photographic light box that almost evokes a metronome of crashing waves. The black-and-white image depicts a young rafter, precariously perched on a craft cobbled from lashed oil drums and tires, undertaking a stormy sea crossing. The man stares glumly at the viewer while clutching a nearly empty water jug. At the bottom of the picture, a red neon sign reads, "Dead End." Fernández Zalacain seems to be commenting on Cuba's tortured history with the ocean -- the watery threshold from which first colonialism and later revolution washed upon the island's shores -- and the vessel used by his compatriots to flee their homeland.

 

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Tania Bruguera Estatistica
Courtesy Pan American Art Projects

Yet another Cuban who makes an impact is Tania Bruguera. At Pan American, she has a sensational wall-engulfing collage crafted from multihued swatches of human hair wrapped in fabric. Each snippet of hair is about the size of a wine bottle cork, and Bruguera collected thousands of them from her neighbors and friends in Cuba for the opus Estatística (Statistic). The labor-intensive piece was created between 1995 and 2000 and is an unusual feat marked by faith, says the artist, explaining that many Cubans are superstitious about properly discarding their nail clippings and hair.


These and other arresting works on display are potent reminders that the curator knows that when it comes to the topic of migration, his homeland remains a wellspring of inspiration for talent on both sides of the political divide. It also reflects Mena's keen eye for putting on a solid show untarnished by the party line.
 
"Uprooted/Transmigrations" Through July 31 at Pan American Art Projects, 2450 NW Second Ave., Miami; 305-573-2400; panamericanart.com. Tuesday through Friday 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. and Saturday noon to 6 p.m.

Look for the full review in this week's issue.


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Pan American Art Projects

2450 NW 2nd Ave., Miami, FL

Category: General

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