Artists put Cuba's painful history of suppression on display with new
Jordan Schnitzer Museum of Art will show pieces from 19 influential
Ryan Imondi | Scene Reporter
Published: Wednesday, March 30, 2011
Last week, while the majority of campus was on break, the Jordan
Schnitzer Museum of Art unveiled "Diaspora, Identity, and Race: Cuba Today."
The exhibition features new works from contemporary Cuban artists who
focus on issues of racism, homophobia and other problems occurring in
Cuban society that have been silenced by the Cuban government over the
last few decades.
Remaining on display until June 21, the exhibition's main purpose is to
give current Cuban artists a platform to express their feelings toward
the state of the country. After the Cuban revolution in 1959, the
government officially declared that issues of racism, sexism,
prostitution and poverty had all been solved. In reality, many of these
problems persisted. Because of the government's claims, many of these
topics were taboo to talk about. The art featured in the Schnitzer
exhibit is a representation of the artists' feelings and emotions of
growing up in a society where addressing such issues was strongly
"Only recently in the past 20 or 30 years have artists started to come
forward and discuss these issues openly in their work and sometimes to
very severe punishments," said Ashley Gibson, exhibit curator.
The exhibit combines quite a few different art forms, including
sculpture, video, paintings, photography and a few others to accurately
depict the feelings of the artists.
"Hopefully all this work sitting together can kind of inform some large
conversation about racism or other social issues," Gibson said. "While
it's definitely getting the word out there about what's going on in
Cuba, people can take this and kind of relate it to their own experiences."
Gibson, a University master's student with a contemporary art history
focus, started working on the exhibit in the fall. Working with the
executive director of the Schnitzer, Jill Hartz, Gibson was able to use
pre-existing art that was stored in the museum's collection, while also
bringing in a number of new pieces. There are a total of 28 pieces in
The exhibit takes pieces from as far back as 1990 but focuses on more
recently produced art — some as new as from 2010. A total of 19 artists,
all Cuban-born, are featured. Each artist brings a unique perspective to
the exhibit with some artists considered some of Cuba's most
influential, while others are relatively new aspiring artists.
Almost every artist in the exhibit is considered to be part of a
generation in Cuba that endured economic hardship brought on by the fall
of the Soviet Union. After Cuba lost roughly 80 percent of its trade
because of the fall of its powerful ally, the country's living
conditions dropped significantly. Many of the artists from this
generation created their art with little money and limited resources.
Most of the pieces on display project the strong emotional reaction to
the two decades that have followed that time period.
The exhibit is sponsored by The Americas in a Globalized World
Initiative and the Department of Romance Languages, along with the
Anyone interested in seeing "Cuba Today" or any other exhibit can
partake in a visit during the museum's free first Friday, April 1.