September 12, 2009 through February 21, 2010
This exhibition is sponsored by the Hispanic Alliance.
Guest Curator Gail Gelburd, Ph.D., Professor of Art History at Eastern Connecticut State University
In 1939, the anthropologist Fernando Ortiz characterized Cuban culture as an ajiaco: a rich stew consisting of an array of ingredients cooked until a thick broth is formed. It is this synthesis that is the essence of Cuban art and the subject of the exhibition Ajiaco: Stirrings of the Cuban Soul.
Ajiaco seeks to interpret the diverse social dimensions of Cuban art in a global context through the exploration of its relationship with African, Asian, European, and Indigenous influences and belief systems. The art incorporates the tales of the Orisha of Africa, the calligraphy of Chinese Tao Te Ching, and the rituals of indigenous peoples. The formats change, the materials vary, but the mix remains constant in both Cuban and Cuban American art. Ajiaco: Stirrings of the Cuban Soul is not necessarily about one group however; it explores diaspora, embracing those aspects of Latin American culture that are sympathetic to all. In broader terms, this project addresses both the immigrant experience and the expression of cultural identity in a new place.
The curator, Dr. Gail Gelburd, writes, “Isolated and yet educated, restricted and yet heralded, the Cuban artist embodies the angst of their situation and yet embraces the loftiest of goals. Their syncretist tradition and heritage allows them to go beyond the monotheistic traditions in order to find the origins of their soul, the geist or inner spirit of their art.” Gelburd has been conducting research on Cuban art and artists for over fifteen years. She has regularly traveled to Cuba and has lectured there for the Havana Biennale, Havana University, and Casa Africa. Gelburd’s article “Cuba: The Art of Trading with the Enemy” appears in Art Journal in the Spring 2009 issue.
This exhibition consists of more than fifty objects, including paintings, works on paper, photographs, sculpture, installations, and audio works by 22 artists. Ajiaco: Stirrings of the Cuban Soul will feature such major figures in Cuban art as Wifredo Lam, Manuel Mendive, Jose Bedia and Sandra Ramos. The exhibition is tentatively scheduled to travel to two additional venues: the Chelsea Art Museum in New York City and the Paul and Lulu Hilliard University Art Museum at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette.
Also on view, and coordinating with Ajiaco, is an exhibition of work by Imna Arroyo, titled Ancestors of the Passage, which will explore the socio-cultural beliefs of Caribbean culture. Raised in Puerto Rico but educated in the United States, Arroyo has been on a quest to visualize her heritage. Like so many other Puerto Ricans, she is of African and Taino descent. Knowing little of those cultures, she journeyed to Cuba where she found a strong acceptance and recognition of that heritage. Arroyo’s work visualizes the Diaspora, the African Orishas, and the spirits of her marginalized ancestors. Her work serves as the catalyst for others of Latin American heritage to find the connections to their heritage in Cuba, which has preserved that culture and visualizes it in Ajiaco.